Old Soul

Written by Teresa Dennard.

Ashley Harris and Love Junk

She describes herself as an “old soul” and prefers styles of the 40s and 50s rather than something new and modernistic. In her home the only new pieces she has are a king sized bed and a dresser. She grew up watching her mother and grandmother paint and would sit beside them in Grandfather’s House, a local studio, during their painting classes.  She never really had much interest in painting.

Ashley Hightower Harris’s love for second-hand “stuff” began out of necessity. She married Josh Harris who was on active duty in the Army, and for eight years they lived the military life. Originally stationed in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, they did a lot of moving. The next duty station was Colorado Springs. Josh was deployed twice to Afghanistan and each time he left, Ashley and their two children, Jaycee and Jaxton, moved back to Beckville. “Every time you move to a new duty station,” tells Ashley, “you’re only allowed a certain amount of furniture to take with you. We’d always have to get rid of things and then purchase more when we got to the next stop. I learned to visit the local Goodwill stores and resale and thrift shops to buy hand-me-down furniture, which I’d take home and paint. I did that for years just to be able to have a nightstand or a bed.”

In 2012, Josh finished with military duty and the family moved to their hometown of Beckville where family and life-long friends welcomed them. Unfortunately this was a time when the oilfield was declining and jobs were scarce. It was a weekly struggle just to pay the bills and they had to lean on their family for help. Ashley’s mother, Laurie, had a birthday coming up. “Mother always loved rocking chairs, so I bought one for $20 from a friend and painted it to make it special. Mother posted a photo of it on Facebook and everybody went nuts.” Her friends were commenting how beautiful the chair was and where did she buy it. 

Calls began coming in from people wanting Ashley to finish a piece of furniture for them. “My dad told me he would give me $500 to buy some furniture to paint and sell it. A friend from Beckville suggested I start a Facebook page and advertise, and I thought, that’s insane. Nobody is going to buy this…it’s just silly. I came up with the name Love Junk and it fit me perfectly. I remember the first night after getting a page started, I sat there with my cell phone just watching “Like” after “Like” and it was the people from Beckville I’d always known.” The only goal Ashley had the first month was to be able to buy groceries and put gas in her car without having to take away from Josh’s check. She just wanted to make enough to stay afloat.

She started out working in her dad’s shop, using his tools and working every day of the week painting furniture for her new customers. The business exploded. They couldn’t even take a family vacation because Ashley was working so much. It was a family affair—dad was repairing the furniture, mom was priming it, she was painting it, her brother was sealing it and Josh was making the phone calls. In August, 2014, Ashley and Josh were able to build a home with the added income Love Junk provides, plus build a shop of their own. Ashley originally promised Josh she would only use a small corner of the 30 X 40 shop, but now it’s all hers. “Every tool that Josh worked hard to buy is either pink or orange or has silver paint on it. At this point it pays the bills, so he doesn’t care what color his tools are! Love Junk has turned our lives around.”

One of her most exciting accomplishments was getting noticed by a Hollywood production company who was filming in Shreveport. They saw a furniture set she posted on Facebook and wanted it to use in the film. “They called and said we’re sending our production assembly crew to pick it up. This huge moving truck pulled in our driveway, two men came out and had me sign all this paperwork to have credits on the movie, then handed me a check. How did that happen?”

Recently, Ashley has started a new venture with longtime friend, Blair Giddens McGuire. Blair called to say she and her husband had purchased the old bank building in downtown Beckville and had the idea to do a spot where local people could “come-together”. Ashley knew of a store in Longview that is a type of vendor’s market all under one roof and she approached Blair with the idea of creating the same thing with local women.

“I’ve come across so many ladies who have amazing talent that isn’t showcased in any way. They can sew, monogram, paint--the options are endless.” The building was built in 1918 as a bank and was later opened as a library by Ms. Ruby Smith, Ms. Jane Cammack, and Ms. Sally Dawson. The building has all the aspects of what is popular in buildings these days—high ceilings, open space, exposed brick walls, tin ceilings. Ashley and Blair plan to keep as much of the original building in tact as possible.

The bottom floor will be filled with vendor spaces with most of those areas already under contract. “There’s such a broad range of talent. Amanda Howell is an amazing photographer, but she started making kid’s capes and clothing and she’ll be one of our vendors. Others we’ll have include custom monogramming, body scrubs, jewelry, Lip Sense, Advocare, Beckville sports apparel. I try to look at it as a mother—what would draw me to come downtown and that’s the kinds of things we want to have.” Also downstairs is the original bank vault, thus the name of the new venture, The Vault. Plans are in the works to create a children’s play area inside the vault.

The top floor is the entire size of the bank. “I remember walking up the stairs, and as soon as I got head level with the floor so I could see everything, I imagined having receptions, baby showers, bridal showers, kids dances. It is magical up there. The windows are beautiful. In the future, maybe in the fall, once the business gets up and running, we will repair the second floor and rent it out to the community.”

“When I started this business, we were so broke--we had nothing but each other. I’m not going to say I’m cheap, but I am. There are just things to spend money on and then there’s not. My dad always taught me the value of money and hard work. I sit back at the end of the day and say, ‘Thank you, God.’ I don’t know what I did to deserve this.

For info about vendor spots for The Vault, or her Love Junk furniture and interior design, contact Ashley through her Facebook page--www.facebook.com/LoveJunkTexas