NEW MILFORD – Merton Larmore III has spent a lifetime looking for trinkets and treasures, but it wasn’t until his drywall business dried up in the Great Recession that he turned to collecting as a career.
It was after decades of drywall, sheetrock and painting that Larmore, who goes by Mert, met a woman on the Connecticut resale circuit who would become his partner in business and in life – Dawn Larmore.
Together in recent years they have built Litchfield County Pickers into a business that sees more than 1,000 bargain hunters and collectors every weekend.
The pickers are based out of a white house just off the Big Y’s parking lot. Their business is in an 18-mile stretch of Route 7 from New Milford to Kent that has become a picker’s paradise, lined with consignment stores, flea markets and antique shops.
Industrious and kind, Dawn Larmore, who has a soft-spoken voice, takes care of everything inside the store and she juggles it all. She’ll drop anything to answer a customer’s question or ring up a sale.
“Litchfield County Pickers offers area residents a much-needed service,” said Kevin Bielmeier, New Milford’s economic development director. “With no predetermined value threshold, Mert and Dawn’s team will come to your home, take all of your items off your hands; try to sell it for you and donate what they can’t sell.”
Frank Weddell, an estate renovator and landscaper from Sherman, who is also a member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, has been shopping at Litchfield County Pickers since it opened. He “picks” for himself and shops for many of his clients who are renovating their old farmhouses, estates and gardens “that have seen better days.”
“I stop in every week looking to see the new things that are coming in,” he said.
Old and new dressers, glassware, dinnerware, artwork, records and lighting are among the top sellers.
Dawn Larmore, a former banker and a buyer for a national retail store, found herself sick of corporate America about the same time Mert’s painting business dried up. She often worried about layoffs as the banking industry slowed so she turned to running estate sales throughout Litchfield County as a new source of income.
“I would visit her weekly estate sale looking to collect and buy mostly tools,” Mert Larmore said. “We just hit it off and clicked. I then started helping her with estate sales. I needed to find another way to earn a living because the building industry was dead.”
They have been married nearly six years.
“Once I married my wife, she made me sell all my stuff,” he said. “This is when I really started making decent money from the things that I was collecting all my life.”
The Larmore’s soon learned they weren’t the only ones trying to stay afloat. More and more people were losing jobs, facing foreclosure and looking out of state for better paying jobs.
“With their dreams shattered, we made what they were going through more digestible. We were in demand because of the bad economy,” Mert Larmore said.
Their first location was on Route 202, but after six months they outgrew the space. One might think the couple has followed after American Pickers, a popular television show, but Mert Larmore said they’ve never even seen an episode. Their picking is really less precise than on the show where its hosts seek out specific treasures during trips across the country.
Most of Litchfield County Pickers inventory comes from estates. They liquidate one to two estates per week. “We take all contents out of a house for consignment, and we don’t ‘cherry pick’ and take only the high-priced pieces,” Dawn Larmore said. “Then, we bring everything back to the store, research the items and try to get market value for our clients.”
A year ago Terri Freeman’s New Milford home went into foreclosure. Her husband had died and she was raising a teenage son.
“Essentially, I consigned my whole house and storage unit to Mert and Dawn,” she said. “They made what was a very excruciating and desperate situation more bearable. They are familiar with the value of goods and how much they can be sold for.”
Mert Larmore, an affable man with friendly eyes, is the first to greet customers outside pointing them to the tons of gardening items, lawn furniture, mowers, planters, bikes and all kinds of tools – lots of tools – which is something he knows all about. When he seals a deal, he’ll carry anything to the customer’s car.
Anna and Nick Wiciak, a couple in their midthirties, who moved to New Milford from Queens, first discovered Litchfield County Pickers three years ago.
They moved from a 700 square foot apartment to a 2,700 square foot house and needed a lot of furniture. They found tables, chairs, sofas, a grand piano and even a century-old chandelier.
Her most favorite piece is a coffee table made of forged steel and reclaimed wood that was handcrafted in Indonesia. “I thought it was a steal at $150,” she said. “I love mixing old with new.”
Mert Larmore said he loves his new way of life. “I get the most satisfaction from helping out the elderly who don’t have the capability to get rid of stuff on their own,” he said. “They know that when I take what they’ve collected over a lifetime it’s not going to go into the dumpster or a landfill, which would break their hearts.”
Litchfield County Pickers Hours: The store is open from 10 am to 5 pm, Tuesday through Friday, and 9 am to 5 pm, Saturday and Sunday. Weather dependent, the outside is open on weekends and major holidays.
Address: 7 Kent Road, Route 7, New Milford, (In front of the Big Y plaza.)
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Article and photos are by Alicia Sakal. This feature originally appeared online on July 15, 2017 and on the Business front page in the July 16, 2017 edition of Republican-American, a regional daily newspaper in 36 towns and cities in Litchfield County and Greater Waterbury, Connecticut.