“American Pickers” attract attention in Wichita and Kiowa County

Mike Wolfe of “American Pickers” playing with Cash, left, and Charlie while visiting Jill Eller’s house in Greensburg.

UPDATED – There were some “American Pickers” sightings in Wichita over the Fourth of July weekend, but it looks like the cast and crew did more hanging out here than picking for their TV show.

“Well that really disappoints me,” said Grant Rine, a physician who owns Old Town Architectural Salvage where picker Frank Fritz stopped in.

“I was hoping they had found some treasure trove around Wichita that would bring them back some day,” Rine said.

Fritz and picking partner Mike Wolfe’s show follows them around the country as they buy antiques for resale. The two spent time in Kiowa County on Sunday and Monday shooting for a future show before wrapping up their Kansas trip.

“We have a small community, and it was nice of them to kind of … come down to reality and take pictures with all of us normal people,” said Victor Mejia, manager of the 54 Truck Stop in Mullinville.

He said others who have passed through, such as professional sports teams, have not been as friendly.

“They’re too good for us,” Mejia said of the ball players. Fritz and Wolfe and their crew “were pretty nice. They hugged everybody.”

Greensburg resident Jill Eller, who owns Kiowa Supply in Mullinville, played hostess for the visitors on Sunday.

“We just invited them to chill for a while,” Eller said. “It was just a little relaxation after a hot day.”

Her geodesic dome home, which she built following the tornado that devastated Greensburg, attracts attention from lots of out-of-town film crews.

“We just like to speak about being green and the things you can do,” Eller said.

“We’ve had the Weather Channel at our house,” she said. Last week, Eller said, a TV crew from California came and “played shuffleboard until about 2 in the morning. We had a big time.”

Wolfe and the crew were treated to dips and dessert at Eller’s house, but Fritz didn’t come.

“Frank, I think, was tired,” Eller said.

She said Wolfe and the crew are “just genuinely people like us except they’re very busy and on the road a lot.”

Eller said she watched one of the “American Pickers” vans drive past her shop several times on Monday.

“They didn’t have any followers, so I guess they’re doing OK.”

Before Wolfe left her home, Eller said he gave her 78-year-old mother, Hazel Thomas, a kiss and a hug.

“He just said, ‘I’m very blessed to be here,’ and that was very nice.”

Fellow Greensburg resident Matt Deighton had a similar experience.

“You know, I’ve been involved with a lot of those,” he said of visiting production crews. “I’m going to tell you this crew was first class. … You could just feel a true, genuine American picker person in them, you know?”

Fritz and Wolfe helped Deighton price numerous items he has in storage that he’s hoping to sell for some friends.

“They were just happy to do it.”

Rine, an “American Pickers” viewer, wishes he could have met Fritz when he wandered in while “just out bumming around.”

The salvage shop near First and St. Francis was supposed to be closed on the Fourth, but an employee had some work to do and asked Rine if he could open the business.

Rine said he sometimes finds himself “drooling” on what Fritz and Wolfe choose not to buy on their show.

“I get irritated when they pass stuff up that I think would make them more money.”

Rine wonders if there’s not more to the buys than what the show lets viewers see.

“I figure they probably go back and buy half that stuff afterwards.”

He also wonders at the people whose doors the men knock on since so many of them act like they’ve never heard of Fritz or Wolfe or the show.

“Well, these guys are American institutions by now,” Rine said. “There’s hardly anybody who doesn’t know Mike and Frank by now.”

Rine said Fritz came close to buying a pair of 1930s Buick signs in his shop, but there was a logistics issue for him getting them home.

Rine said the pickers don’t normally buy from antique shops, nor did Fritz try to sell Rine’s shop anything.

“I was hoping,” said Rine, who said he collects “all kinds of oddities and weird stuff” like the “American Pickers” do.

He thinks it would be worthwhile for them to return to Wichita to do some picking.

“There’s a lot to choose from in this area, believe me,” Rine said. “A lot of guys have just as much junk piled up in their barns … and warehouses and garages as any of those that you see on TV.”