Friends of Linda Page sometimes tease her about the inside of her house. It's a bit different from her business.
Page owns Linda Page's Thieves Market, a used furniture and "junque" store that is jammed full of stuff. Since 1964, the rustic, drafty building, which long ago was a lumber warehouse and sawmill, has been a Mount Pleasant landmark for generations of people heading along Ben Sawyer Boulevard to and from the beach on Sullivan's Island.
But in contrast to her business home, Page's house is sparsely furnished.
"When you're the keeper and seller of the stuff, you don't have a lot at home. I am a minimalist.
My house echoes when I go down the hallways," says Page, who admits to having four plates, four place settings of silverware and four cups in her house.
"I spend all day in chaos and clutter. I don't need that at home."
That's just one example of how Page, overflowing with personality and confidence, surprises you.
Though she wasn't born here, Page is pure Lowcountry. She loves it so much that she revels in the heavy, humid air, perfumed by the pluff mud of the marsh, on hot summer evenings. She doesn't resent the growth and change in an East Cooper area that some think is increasingly more sterile and corporate, a landscape dominated by big chains, such as the Publix that is an easy stone's throw from the porch of Page's Thieves Market.
Part of the reason she's embraced change is that she's evolved herself.
Ten years ago, after a lifetime of attending auctions with her father, Carl, and other family members, Page became an official auctioneer. That business, conducted both in the "barn" behind Page's and off-site, is thriving as baby boomers are moving their parents into smaller homes and nursing facilities and don't want or need their furniture.
She's continued to broaden her skills and now can auction real estate. At 48, she also is embracing technology.
"I never had a computer until four years ago. Now, half of my day is spent on the computer," says Page. "At the same time, we're selling things in person at an auction in the barn, we're also selling things on eBay. ... Sure, we're based out of an old barn where the roof leaks sometimes and it's cold and drafty in the winter, but I want to offer you any technology that will help you sell your stuff."
Where are the geese?
Like those who lived in Mount Pleasant long before the population boom of the 1990s, Page has witnessed major changes.
But any lament she might have over the community losing its small-town qualities is balanced with the benefits of change and prosperity.
"We have a wonderful community, which is why people come here. Growth and change are good for the community," says Page, pointing to the relatively new Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge ("I don't miss the old bridges at all," she says) and new schools. Still, it's hard not to link the woman with her buildings, which are emblematic of old Mount Pleasant.
The main building, which used to be a lumber warehouse, is rustic and open. It has a long, rickety porch along the front and a metal roof. The building is not practical to heat. On a cold day, the only warm place is by a wood-burning stove.
A smaller building in the back, which used to be a sawmill, serves as an auction house. A U-shaped dirt driveway separates the two buildings, where an assortment of cats hangs out.
One symbol of Page's, however, is gone — the result of the change taking place in Mount Pleasant.
A flock of "domesticated" geese used to assemble around Page's. A pond next door was their home, but the flock often wandered around the property, even to the edge of Ben Sawyer Boulevard.
But when a new Publix was being designed, the pond had to go. Page found a home for the geese in Awendaw and enlisted the help of volunteers to capture and relocate the fish and turtles from the pond.
As much as she misses being welcomed each morning by the hissing and honking geese, she harbors no animosity toward Publix. "I have people who say they don't shop at Publix out of protest because of (what happened) to the geese and the pond. I think that's silly," says Page. "I shop at Publix, but I prefer Piggly Wiggly. I really like the music they play."
The future of Page's
Page has a 10-year lease option with the property's owners, the Simmons family, but there's no telling how long the old barn may last. It survived Hurricane Hugo, but even Page wonders what the next big one might do.
She used to worry about it. Not anymore.
Page exudes confidence that her fate is no longer tied to the retail sales of Page's. Half of her business comes from the auctions now. Within two years, it may be the entire business. Her children are grown; Andrew and Audrey Parker, ages 27 and 20, respectively, are part of the family business.
Plus, she's made some "good decisions in real estate" and now owns Page's Okra Grill, the former Billy's Back Home restaurant on Coleman Boulevard. Her brother, Tony, and his two daughters run it.
Page loves her job and life. Her eyes sparkle when she talks about the anticipation of another adventure every time the phone rings.
Every day is new and different. Even though she's not into stuff, she loves seeing other people's treasures.
"We (she and her crew at Page's) would make a great reality TV show," says Page, noting that they just finished packing up a collection of 300 Barbie dolls in a FROG (finished room over garage) for auction. Later in the day she was going to check out a baseball card collection for someone in bankruptcy.
Besides the excitement of her job, she also feels a sense of duty.
"We are the ultimate recyclers," says Page.
"It's so cool to take old stuff and get it to people who want it again. We allow it to be re-loved."
As well-suited as she is as an auctioneer, she has other dreams as well — such as running for a local political office or serving on the planning commission. She adds, "I'd also like to write a book one day."