Two 20-somethings who grew up in the flea market business are on a mission to educate fellow Millennials about mid-century furniture, objets d’art and interior design.
Pennsylvania natives Bryce Detweiler, 26, and Chad Forman, 24, have been taking their van dubbed the “Dust Shuttle” — a mobile antiques store — on an inaugural trip around the U.S. this summer for a two-month journey buying, selling and educating. Their trek has included stops in Bismarck, North Dakota; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Chicago, Illinois; Cleveland, Ohio; and New York City.
The pair met while students at West Chester University, later entering (and winning) a film contest and performing music together.
On the final leg of their trip, they sat down with Antique Trader via Zoom from Sioux City, Iowa.
Detweiler entered the flea market scene during his freshman year in high school, buying and selling alongside mentor Fred Irving. Forman began working flea markets in the third grade to help support his family, cultivating a specialty in rocks, fossils, minerals and Tibetan antiques. He learned as he went, aided by his mentor, Mark Fleishman.
Detweiler has run his business for 11 years, with the Dust Shuttle being the duo’s first official joint business venture. They began their trip out of Pennsylvania on June 16 on what became a 61-day trip through National Parks, small towns and big cities, staying with friends and family along the way. Forman noted he is more the “wingman," as the shuttle enterprise was Detweiler’s idea.
Both men said what keeps them interested in this endeavor is stumbling across pieces they’ve never seen before.
Detweiler enjoys Art Deco, Colonial and mid-century furnishings, while Forman looks for fossils, guitars and Tibetan-made items. Their trip proved fruitful, with the pair securing an array of furniture, 1970s Tiki, 1970s Italian Space Age furniture, artwork, glass, ceramics, and more.
The trip across America had its fair share of ups, downs and serendipitous moments.
“It all has been weird, logistical problems that we had to figure out how to solve on the fly,” Detweiler noted.
The journey began in Media, Pennsylvania with a jaunt down the coast to Florida, with the goal of reaching Las Vegas by the Fourth of July.
“We were on track, but as we were leaving Florida our van broke down in Tallahassee, and we were stranded there 10 days, couldn’t work, couldn’t do anything,” Detweiler explained.
On July 2, the Dust Shuttle was back in business, with the guys driving straight through two nights to reach Sin City by the fourth. They next trekked through the desert, stopping in Utah and Arizona. Detweiler explained that by the time they’d reached Phoenix, they needed to secure additional space for stashing all their finds. They rented a storage unit, signing up for a one-month free trial offer.
“A month later, we found a shipper to send it all back east to our warehouse in Media,” he said. “And he (the shipper) picked it up before the billing cycle reset, so we got the storage unit for free basically.”
From Phoenix, they made their way to San Diego, and up the coast to Seattle. They stopped in Montana, traveled through North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Chicago and Cleveland — destination Pennsylvania — then on to New York City to deliver some sold items.
Their buying strategy consisted of one of them driving the van while the other searched for items to purchase in the city they were headed to, scoping out auctions, estate sales, Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist.
Many items were then sold on the road through their Instagram account, and shipped via a Greyhound bus.
Detweiler said his favorite stop was in Los Angeles, where they stayed with Forman’s uncle. With the Dust Shuttle hard to navigate through the congested streets of the City of Angels, they spent some time right in his uncle’s neighborhood and happened upon a man selling high-end items in his front yard.
“He was a retired music label executive who now does set dressings and flea markets for fun, so his entire house was filled with Mid-Century Modern pottery and furniture and I filled the entire van off that stop,” Detweiler noted.
Posting regular updates about their sojourn has resulted in a social media following.
“Something we found is that the Dust Shuttle idea is like a younger generation of ‘American Pickers,’” Detweiler said. “We’re hearing people our age either don’t have the money or interest, but what I found on the trip is we met so many young people in their mid-20s, people reaching out to us and calling us to talk about interior design and vintage furniture. When they’re designing their homes they want to spend their money wisely. It seems that young people are lacking access to this information.”
The pair is in the process of starting a YouTube channel that will specialize in mid-century furniture.
“There’s not much education available online about mid-century furniture, or furniture in general,” Forman added.
The final step is to sort through the items housed in their warehouse.
The Dust Shuttle will again roll out at the end of 2021. They’ll leave Pennsylvania and spend two weeks in Florida. Detweiler said he will be the primary driving force of the Dust Shuttle while Forman applies for medical school.
For more information, Detweiler may be reached at: 717-576-0778 and firstname.lastname@example.org.