Secondhand News: Stay classic, Hyattsville. This is me signing off.
By Lauren Flynn Kelly
By the time you read this, Hyattsville, I’ll no longer be a resident. I know, I know — how could I leave!? This was where I purchased my first home, sent my two children to grammar school, met scores of interesting friends and neighbors, and had the opportunity to write a column dedicated to efforts by locals who share my love of thrifting and repurposing. For my final column, I leave you with a somewhat rambling good-bye letter, highlighting some of the various businesses and happenings I’ve profiled over the years and a few of the good people I’ve encountered.
My very first “Secondhand News” column was about the opening of Sarah’s Treasures, a thrift store located at 5307 Baltimore Avenue. While the shop didn’t stay for long, the location eventually became home to another woman-owned business, Three Little Birds Sewing Co. When owner Katie Blattner was in her former location near Vigilante Coffee Co., I easily connected with her and will always be grateful for her afternoon gab sessions, evening sewing classes and kindness to my children. I was especially impressed with her ability to thrive and adapt to the needs of the community during the pandemic, offering online classes and sharing funny unboxing videos of new merchandise.
During the aforementioned pandemic, I profiled how other businesses adapted with online orders and curbside pickups. I had previously profiled Red Onion Records when it relocated from D.C. to Hyattsville, and I know I’m not the only one who hit it off with shop owner Josh Harkavy while picking up records from him in a parking lot. When the shop reopened, Josh and I would frequently meet to discuss the latest show we were binge-watching (“White Lotus,” “Physical” and “Yellowjackets,” to name a few). Then came the occasional TV watch party or firepit hang with his wife, Alyssa, who I also befriended while taking online yoga classes with fellow Hyattsville Life & Times (HL&T) columnist Julia Gaspar-Bates. It’s nice to know you can still make new friends as an adult.
Not every moment was rosy, though. I’ll never forget the time I tried to cover furloughed residents actively cleaning out their closets during a government shutdown and getting accused of “predatory journalism” by a Hyattsville Barter & Trade Facebook group user. That piece didn’t make it into the print edition, but you can still find the online version. Turns out I was onto something: The Washington Post published a similar article a week later.
When the pandemic hit, people not only started purging their closets but some turned it into a business venture. For instance, the HL&T was approached by a local who’d started a thrifty home design business and helped clients adjust to life in shutdown by reorganizing their home offices and creating relaxing getaway dens. I scheduled the interview via Zoom and learned halfway through the meeting that Denise J. Hart — creator of the Furaha design method — was practically in my backyard. We’d never had the chance to meet until then and laughed that we could wave to each other during the call. The next day, she showed up with homemade cookies that my daughters ate before I could! Now, that’s how you thank a volunteer newspaper columnist.
I’ve also used this column to share my own struggles with overstuffed closets. In December 2021, I wrote about the conundrum of Christmas shopping when my kids already have so many toys they’re not using, and I praised the merits of giving handmade gifts and edible treats.
Two months later, in a column that my husband said made him better understand how my brain works, I wrote ”Confessions of a self-proclaimed recluttering expert.” It told the story of one woman’s quest to declutter and clean out her attic in a month while facing (or perhaps seeking out) multiple distractions.
While I haven’t received much feedback from readers over the years, my neighbor Daphne Coles texted me immediately after she read the recluttering piece, saying she saw something of herself in there and LOL’d at every word. Thank you, Daphne. You and your family have been wonderful neighbors, and I regret not having profiled your love of thrifting in this column. I did, however, get to speak with Daphne’s late father, David Driskell, for another one of my favorite articles, ”Art on the front lawn? That’s ‘classic Hyattsville.’” He told me about the origin of his sprawling front yard’s renowned bottle tree, while another neighbor, Joel Martin, recalled making a mosquito sculpture out of used car parts and shovels.
The lawn art feature was inspired by something funny my real estate agent, Dylan Hanna, had said when we were first looking at homes in Hyattsville. Fast forward 10 years, and Dylan has just sold my house for me. While on a summer visit to the New Jersey beach where my aging father lives, I had a moment of clarity and a sudden urge to search nearby properties on Zillow. The next thing I knew, I was bidding on a historic home in Toms River, N.J. It was an impulsive life decision, but I was following a gut instinct, and it forced me to finally clear out the dreaded attic and purge my closets. Trust me, there’s still plenty sitting in a storage space, but we’ll get to it. This fall, I’m looking forward to exploring the thrift stores and architectural salvage yards of Ocean County, saving a different watershed (Barnegat Bay), perhaps telling the stories of other local people, and, of course, celebrating Halloween.
And you, Hyattsville, keep putting art on your lawn, exchanging your unwanted items, supporting small businesses, and stay classic!