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Their Big Fat Gypsy Dream

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By Emily C. Laskowski, Photos by April Pizana

Perhaps you’ve tuned to their show, Junk Gypsy, on HGTV. Perhaps you’ve bartered over a shabby-but-chic relic at the Junk Gypsy Co. World Headquarters in Round Top, Texas. Or perhaps you Googled their names after realizing they designed the countryas- all-get-out wedding for the No-Longer- Married-As-All-Get-Out Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton. It doesn’t really matter how, when or why you discovered the rowdy, rough-riding duo of Amie Sikes and Jolie Sikes. All that matters, much like the trash-turned-treasure these two sisters live and breathe, is what you found.

“I’ll never forget the day I left my 9-to-5 in Austin,” remembers Amie Sikes, the sister with the wild mane of golden curls. “I was 24 or 25, and my dad had driven down from East Texas to help me haul back my belongings, and I was giddy, over the moon!”

More than 15 years ago, Amie Sikes and her younger sister, Jolie, transformed their (self-admitted) borderline hoarding habits into the rugged home-décor brand known as the Junk Gypsy Co. Raised riding horses and building forts in the Piney Woods of East Texas in the small town of Overton (population 2,554) by their entrepreneurial parents, the Sikes sisters seemed destined to ramble and roam.

“I think that out-in-the-wild childhood is really what helped forge so much creativity and never-say-die attitudes in both of them,” says their mother, Janie Sikes. “I was never in favor of their corporate jobs. As a matter of fact, I was devastated when Amie told me she was going to go to law school. I knew that neither one of them were made for the 9-to-5 corporate life.”

However, both sisters made big-city plans, hustling and bustling through jobs after graduating from college before realizing Mom was right. It was time, as Merle Haggard faithfully crooned, for the big city to turn them loose and set them free. “I remember thinking that I was never going to be back in that cubicle again. Those days of waiting for the clock to strike 5 were done,” Amie Sikes says.

“I remember driving down the highway exhilarated, but for what, I wasn’t sure. I had basically no plan of attack and no idea exactly what to do next. But I knew how to roll up my sleeves and work, and nothing or no one was going to stand in the way of the ‘big dream.’ So, I sailed down the road into the unknown and never looked back.”

Jolie Sikes departed her Houston job in a cloud of dust just as thick, and hitched up with her sister on the road. Together, they traveled across Texas in search of something, picking up and packing away plenty of roadside relics along the way.

“The first few years of the business, the name wasn’t Junk Gypsy,” Amie Sikes says. “But in those few years, the idea, and the alter ego of us and the brand, was building. We just didn’t totally realize it. I truly think that the first time we ever set foot in Round Top and Warrenton [the unincorporated community just south of Round Top on State Highway 237]for the Texas Antiques Week is when Junk Gypsy was really born. I think that’s when all the stars aligned and Junk Gypsy was set in motion.”

By 2001, Amie Sikes and Jolie Sikes had put down roots in Round Top, the antiquing heaven conveniently perched just 65 miles east of Austin, as the crow flies, or between 75 and 95 miles, as the pickup drives.

“Round Top is our utopia and our Mayberry while at the same time being our inspiration,” Jolie Sikes says. “The world kind of comes to Round Top and then leaves every six months. We love the rolling hills, the cattle grazing on the back roads, and the fellowship of the area. It’s the place we never realized we were supposed to be, the place Junk Gypsy was supposed to be all along, in the sprawling metropolis of 90 people. And I don’t think it’s changed that much. There’s more publicity, but at the end of the weekend, the visitors leave and Round Top goes right back to being that place where the local mercantile lets you run a tab. The gas station still has full service, pie is served a la mode and neighbors are neighbors in every sense of the word.”

As the sisters put down roots in Round Top, they also cultivated Junk Gypsy’s rebellious spirit and contagious design philosophy.

“We are what we preach, for sure,” Jolie Sikes says. “We are junkers to the core and basically never throw anything away, much to the dismay of other less junky people in our life. There’s really a fine line between junking and hoarding, right? Both of us have homes adorned with every crazy fleamarket treasure you can imagine. We still stop on the curbside to pick up discarded chairs, old bikes and any other broken treasures, sometimes while on our way to a fancy dinner somewhere, but we are never say die when it comes to junk.”

It wasn’t long before the sisters, who specialized in canvassing mountains of trash for pieces of treasure, found themselves at the top of another heap, one that put them in popular demand for partnerships, for television deals and from celebrity clientele.

“There’s been so many things that have exceeded our expectations at this point,” Amie Sikes says. “Ten years ago, when we became friends with one of our mentors and idols, Rachel Ashwell of Shabby Chic, we didn’t think anything could top that. And truly, I still consider it one of the grandest moments ever. Now, we’re great friends, stay at each other’s houses, text at 2 a.m. and consult each other on everything. But also things like doing Miranda Lambert’s tour bus, wedding, Airstream and the Guns n’ Wings logo are still pretty dang cool. Miranda’s new album cover was shot at our place in Round Top in front of our store. So, yeah, sometimes you think it’s pretty surreal. Also, the day that Billie Joe Armstrong’s wife called us about doing an Airstream for him is still crazy hard to believe. Or the day PBteen walked in our store and asked us to partner with them on a collaboration.”

This October alone, the sisters launched two exclusive bedroom collections with PBteen, Pottery Barn’s teenage brand, set out on a tour for their recently released book, Junk Gypsy, and closed out Texas Antiques Week in Round Top.

“What’s truly bigger than all of those things are the stories that we hear from customers and fans every day of the way Junk Gypsy has changed their life on some level, how it’s more like a movement to them than a business and how thankful they are for what it’s meant to them and their family,” Amie Sikes says. “Those are the things that keep us going every single day. Those are the people who beckon to us when the going gets tough, and we know that not for one minute, not one single second, would we ever consider selling the soul of Junk Gypsy, because we are just lucky to be along for the ride.”

The ride has been a successful one, with the sisters adding passengers to their gypsy wagon that keep the business and brand rollin’ on like an 18-wheeler.

“Our business works because we are all on the same team,” Amie Sikes says. “Every day, we are fighting the good fight together, as a family. There’s really not that many hard-and-fast rules. Some people bring their kids to work. Others take certain days off and work different hours. We all just trust that everyone is pulling their weight. If they’re not, the crew figures it out and they get voted off the island. We don’t stop to decide who has what title or who does what. We just make it happen. Our manager might be doing an interview one moment, a photo shoot the next and then plunging a toilet after that. We’re not just a team; we’re a family. And at the end of the day, that’s the most important thing.”

While family is the most important thing to Amie Sikes and Jolie Sikes, what does that mean for all the other “things”: the things they collect, stash, accumulate, amass as Central Texas’ most unyielding junkyard hounds?

“Other than my daughter, Indie, the one thing that I can’t live without is my collection of old ocean oil paintings,” says Amie Sikes when asked which item in her house she could never leave behind. “My cast-iron skillets,” Jolie Sikes answers, “because my dad gave them to me. They have a history and they are timeless. They represent an art and a science.”

There’s nothing new in the sisters’ precious handme- down items. There’s no adhesive gunk left from a price tag or the potential for airline miles with a credit-card purchase. They’re just good and old.

“I think what you miss out on with new stuff is the story,” Jolie Sikes says. “Every dent, ding and crack tells a story. For me, there’s no other way. Perfection isn’t part of our story. We prefer things that have lived life, things that were loved and then moved on to another phase. That’s where we come in, giving good junk a good home.”

The old adage “A house is not a home” might need to be re-needlepointed on a pillow to include “without good junk” if it’s to reside with either of these junk gypsies. It’s safe to say gleam and gloss will not set their souls afire, unless maybe it’s from a drill bit glistening over yonder.

“We believe everything in your home should be something you love,” Amie Sikes says. “Your home should be your escape, your happy place, the place where all your adventures speak to you, not a place that looks like a magazine or a TV show tells you it should look, but what truly speaks to you. After all, it’s the place you go home to every night, so make it what you want it to be. There’s no right or wrong. Most importantly, we believe in a place where you can put your boots up on the coffee table.”

Wandering helped steer the sisters to Round Top. Wondering helped them forge the world of Junk Gypsy. Now, Amie and Jolie Sikes aren’t worrying too much about where their wandering and wondering ways will take them next.

“The goal for Junk Gypsy is the goal for the Sikes family,” Jolie Sikes says. “If it’s not good for the family, it’s not good for Junk Gypsy. There really isn’t a defining line between the two. At this point, though, we’re really not sure whether we created Junk Gypsy or Junk Gypsy created us. And, as for the next big goal, I don’t know. We’re just hell-bent on living the good life and selling some junk while we’re at it. Seems to have worked out so far.”

THE SIKES SISTERS Q&A

What is your most treasured possession?
Amie: Ocean oil paintings
Jolie: An American flag that used to hang in my parents’ restaurant in Overton, Texas

What Thanksgiving tradition do you hope to continue for generations?
Amie: Our Arkansas farm tradition with our dad’s whole family.
Jolie: The gathering of the entire Sikes family at our cabin on the Little River beats any Black Friday shopping event. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. And, oh yeah, Aunt Alice’s homemade yeast rise rolls.

Describe yourself in three words.
Amie: Messy, messy, messy, or messy, dreamer, realist
Jolie: Restless daydreamer, night thinker, biscuit lover, has trouble following instructions

Describe your sister in three words.
Amie: Biscuits, biscuits, biscuits, or biscuit eater, dreamer, crazy heart
Jolie: Determined, dreamer, hot mess (Wait, that’s four!)

Who would be your dream client?
Amie: Dwight Yoakam
Jolie: Sandra Bullock (I like to call her Sandy because her besties call her Sandy.)

 

ROAD-TRIP READING

Junk Gypsy: Designing a Life at the Crossroads of Wonder & Wander by Amie Sikes and Jolie Sikes, $25, available at junkgypsybook.com and gypsyville.com.

Calendar alert: Nov. 15, book signing at the Texas Conference for Women, Austin Convention Center, 500 E. Cesar Chavez St.

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