They tried to keep a low profile, said construction company owner and downtown building owner and renovator Mike Bird.
But the crew and antique hunters from History Channel’s “American Pickers” couldn’t stay incognito for long.
Bird said he was in his building at First and Wright streets in La Salle, working on renovations to the ballroom when they figured it out.
“One of my workers was like, ‘No way! Now Way! It’s Mike from ‘American Pickers,’” Bird said.
They went outside, found one of the antique-hunters’ vans outside of the historic Herrcke Hardware building and later found Mike Wolfe from the show getting something to eat at Obee’s, a local favorite sub shop, with Judy Hubbard, wife of the owner of Herrcke’s.
The staff had the show logos on the vans covered under white paper for much of the day as they went about their business, setting up for taping. By nightfall Saturday, about 40 people crowded the sidewalk near the vans and store, with many people peering in the windows or asking for autographs or photos with the cable TV personalities.
Bird said, being a friend of Hubbard’s and a loyal customer while restoring the building next door, he was allowed into Herrcke’s to watch some of the proceedings.
In the popular show, the stars of the show, who go just by Mike and Frank (Fritz) during the programs, ride together in a van and sometimes roll up to barns in the woods or properties with interesting items outside, and knock on the door. At times, they follow some clues and find collectors who might be willing to show and sell a few items, ranging from old advertising signs to old cars, motorcycle parts and bicycles.
Sometimes, they get a tip and follow up on it, as was the case with Herrcke Hardware, the family business that operated in the same building since the 1920s. A store which, during its lengthy going-out-of-business sale last year, often had unused, unusual items on the shelves, such as baseball bats from the 1950s, hockey sticks from the 1960s, mid-century fishing and hunting equipment, children’s toys and oddities, such as Roy Rogers flashlights.
Hubbard said he would need clearance from a program producer before talking to the media. Bird said his understanding is the show could air four to six months from now.
Without giving away any secrets from the show, Bird confirmed that Hubbard differed from some of the folks the “Pickers” encounter who show no willingness to part with antiques.
Bird has followed the show and figured it was scripted, and the parties struck deals before the cameras rolled.
“It wasn’t scripted at all,” Bird said.
The stars of the show crack jokes almost nonstop — Mike more than Frank. And when it comes time to negotiate a price, that happens live on tape, Bird said. He also said more deals appear to go down than wind up in the programs — the TV “Pickers” from LeClaire, Iowa near the Quad Cities have a real-life buying-and-selling business.
Bird also said Wolfe complimented him on saving a big old building and creating retail space and said he is in the middle of a similar project in Iowa. He said Wolfe repeatedly urged him to have a neon sign made for his building in La Salle, too, in order to complete the look.
Bird was glad to see the cast and crew patronizing some of the dining establishments in downtown La Salle as well.
A fixture in La Salle for more than 120 years
In 1897 Bill Hubbard’s great-grandfather, Robert T. Herrcke, purchased the hardware stock of Harry A. and Howard G. Gibbs in La Salle and began running a hardware store at 627 First St. Herrcke Hardware remained there for 28 years before building the store at 431-435 First St., where it operated for 93 years. Back at the original hardware site at 627 First St., Hair’s Whats Happening salon has operated for 22 years.
Source: NewsTribune article on Herrcke’s closing, by Jeff Dankert, June 2018