Look out “American Pickers” lovers. A new junk-loving Iowa couple may soon take over your TV screens.

Spencer and Emma Hicks, of Dixon, Iowa, have filmed a soon-to-air pilot with a major network. It’s due out later this year.

In July, camera crews spent a few days filming the couple, who recently spent 10 months renovating their farmhouse just outside of Dixon. But the series wouldn’t focus on home-flipping, like HGTV’s popular offering, “Fixer Upper,” Emma said.

If the show gets picked up, it would follow Spencer and Emma, as well as their three kids, who are 7, 4 and 1, on their “picking” adventures throughout Iowa and the Midwest.

More details are under wraps for now. But you don’t have to wait to see what the couple is up to.

Emma, a 26-year-old picker and entrepreneur, is hosting her second ticketed arts and crafts fair, coined Iowa Gathering, next weekend in DeWitt.

“It’s more than a shopping experience,” she said, adding that festivities include live music, food and drink vendors and kids' activities. “It’s a way to bring creative people together and connect people. It can really be a breath of fresh air.”

From junk to treasures

At 20, Emma had a young daughter and a garage full of junk collected from auctions and yard sales around the Midwest.

Collecting was a habit learned from her childhood, when she’d spend nearly every weekend at auctions with her mother.

At the time, she and Spencer, her then-boyfriend, were living in Cedar Falls, where he was playing football and studying at University of Northern Iowa. Emma considered working as  bartender to make extra money, but Spencer advised against it. “It’s not a good idea in a college town,” he said.

So, Emma began selling the junk she had picked, restored and “upcycled,” via a Facebook page. A few months later, business had grown enough for her to open a store, called Stew, in a commercial garage space she found on Craigslist.

“There was no business plan behind it,” she said. “I just dove in.”

Last year, when Emma and Spencer moved to the Quad-City area, she left Stew behind. In its place, she launched an online boutique and blog with a similar mission of “unburying old treasures and bringing them back to life.” It's named Main+Second after the intersection in Calamus, where her mother’s tavern, Steffen’s Tap, is located.

The mother of three has also begun planning events, including the upcoming Iowa Gathering. She hopes to host more events like it throughout the state. Emma is also planning a retreat for creatives, what she’s calling Camp Climb, set for August.

“There’s something about being out on back-country roads with friends and family and kind of doing something for yourself,” she said. “If I crave less hustle and bustle, then other people have to crave it too.”

Next HGTV stars?

When Emma brings home her garage sale finds, her husband sometimes wonders, ‘What is she going to do with that?’

But, Spencer has learned by now not to question her vision.

“It always turns into something great,” he said. “She has proved time and time again that she knows what she’s doing.”

That goes for their bid for TV stardom. Producers first approached her at the Vintage & Made Fair in Des Moines.

A crew then shot a five-minute segment, or "sizzle" pitching Spencer and Emma's story to the network. Then came shooting the pilot.

At July’s Iowa Gathering, camera crews filmed Emma while she sold items from her own booth and managed the other 15-20 participating vendors.

Spencer, who works as a sales representative for P&K Midwest, a John Deere dealership, and coaches football at North Scott High School, is the so-called “manual labor” part of the equation.

“She dreams it,” he said. “And I make it happen.”

“Her confidence is one of the most attractive features about her,” Spencer said. “It’s awesome to watch her do her thing,”


Amanda Hancock is a reporter covering food, arts and entertainment in the Quad-Cities (and beyond).