Make no mistake: Half of the "American Pickers" is from Davenport, Iowa — born and raised.

When Frank Fritz is away from his hometown, digging in barns for the History Channel, he regularly gets star treatment.

"We'll pull into some small towns, and there will be a couple hundred people waiting for us, because somebody leaked that we were coming," Fritz said. "I haven't gotten used to the autographs. I'm just a guy from Davenport. I was born at St. Luke's Hospital (now Genesis). I still drive my car. I still live in my house. I'm still in the phone book."

But it would seem the celebrity that has accompanied his starring role on "American Pickers" has been overlooked by his hometown.

"It feels like my city has pretty much turned its back on me," the 49-year-old said. "The Quad-Cities has a few people who have done something special. Look at (Living Lands & Waters') Chad Pregracke. I went to his premier at the Adler when his pilot episode aired (the show was not picked up). I was happy to promote him. I like to help people.

"But no one in Davenport ever asks."

Fritz acknowledges part of the oversight has to do with a misunderstanding about who he is. On "American Pickers," Fritz and co-star Mike Wolfe are portrayed as a pair of pickers with a home base in LeClaire. In fact, many scenes from the show include shots at Antique Archaeology in LeClaire.

But a quick search of the Web quickly reveals the truth: Fritz has nothing to do with Antique Archaeology or LeClaire. The service-garage-turned-antique-shop belongs solely to Wolfe, and it always has. When Wolfe expanded Antique Archaeology to a rambling warehouse in Nashville a couple of years ago, he did so without his on-air partner.

And now Fritz is launching his own expansion.

"I couldn't open a place in Davenport, because it's too close to LeClaire," he said.

Instead, he is settling in with a longtime friend who owns several old buildings, occupying nearly an entire city block, in Savanna, Ill.

"This seemed like a good fit for me, because it's a motorcycle community," he said of the town about 60 miles up the Mississippi River from the Quad-Cities. "There's also a lot of people on their way to Galena (Ill.)."

During a two-hour tour of the former opera house, department store and social club that house Frank Fritz Finds, the so-called "Bearded Charmer" talked about the four seasons of "American Pickers," shared his hopes for Savanna and disclosed some behind-the-scenes truths about himself and his TV show.

Another partnership

Fritz and Jerry Gendreau have been friends for 30 years, and it made sense that the pair would go into business together.

Gendreau has several biker-related storefronts and the space to go with them, and Fritz has name recognition and inventory.

"You can come in here and get food, soda, a cocktail, hear some music and shop," Fritz said of the bar/restaurant/antique shops that begin at Savanna's Main and Madison streets. "You can buy things here that you've seen on the show. Probably 85 percent of my stuff here comes from the show, although not all of it was seen on the show."

Gendreau said the weekday "sleepiness" of the small town of about 3,000 people in Carroll County transforms into a hopping destination for motorcycles and antique hunters on the weekends, especially in the summer. It is not unusual, he said, to get 5,000 visitors in one good-weather weekend.

"Frank's show has given a whole new life to antiques," Gendreau said. "It's been real good on junk in general. And Frank, this guy really knows motorcycles. He has the knowledge."

When it comes to his picks, Fritz keeps a mental library of everything. He said he rarely buys anything substantial without first having a buyer in mind.

"I used to sell mostly on the Internet," he said. "I also have a Rolodex right here (tapping on the side of his head)."

He stores in his memory 25 years worth of information he has collected while buying and selling.

"You can pretty much ask me anything," he said. "The first year of the Barbie was 1959. G.I. Joe was 1961. I have a lot of these useless stats. That's one reason I like to talk to people and share all of this stuff. It's also the reason my prices are so good. Everybody can get in at my place, and you can take home a little piece of the show."

The seemingly unlimited amount of square feet in the Savanna stores gives Fritz all the space he needs to display his finds. The only challenge is getting the foot traffic of serious buyers and not just the bikers he connects with because of his passion for motorcycles.

"Savanna is like a mini-Sturgis," said Gendreau's wife, Vicki. "It's a nice little ride."

But bikers are not likely to make or break Frank Fritz Finds.

"They can't haul much on their bikes," Fritz said. "They buy some smalls, and they'll pick up T-shirts. There's definitely something for everybody here. What I want is to give people a decent deal and have them come back. I'm happy to make a little bit of money."

Season five

Reality TV has taken its share of criticism for, among other things, being less than real.

But Fritz said the most important part of his show, meeting people and picking their property, is straight up.

"The camera guys get there ahead of us, and they'll take a look around and get an idea of what's there," he said. "They'll call and say, 'This is great!' Or, they'll say, 'There's nothing here.' They're usually wrong.

"But when you see us walk into a barn or somebody's house, we are meeting those people for the first time."

As much as he loves the pursuit of junk, the real treasure for Fritz is getting to know strangers on the road.

"The best part is meeting the people," he said. "It's not the stuff. Believe it or not, not everybody has cable. A lot of the people have never seen the show."

The self-professed "facts man" has learned to mix his experience with his work ethic, which began with a 24-year stint at Per-Mar. Decades of moonlighting as a picker resulted in a clear understanding of what will sell and, as importantly, what won't.

"Repurposing is very popular right now," he said. "Remember the old Mr. Microwave Repair? Now people buy a microwave for 40 bucks and, when it dies, they throw it out. But I think that disposable society mentality can't last. The trend today is to repurpose — to find a use for the old. I think it's great."

With Fritz, conversations almost always manage to circle back to motorcycles. He sheepishly admitted to having not only a substantial collection of bikes but also thousands of motorcycle-related toys.

"I don't love stuff to death, though," he said. "I will part with motorcycles. If I've enjoyed stuff for a while, I'm willing to let it go down the road and let somebody else enjoy it."

Frank Fritz's future

For even a casual viewer of "American Pickers," it takes a few minutes to adjust to having Fritz's familiar mannerisms up close.

The tilt of the head, the talking with his hands and the lowering of his voice to near-gravel are as present in person as they are on the show.

"What you see is what you get," he reminded. "Like I said, I'm a simple guy."

And he said he is grateful to have kept his feet on the ground while his career has soared.

"When it ends, and it will end, I don't have far to fall," he said.

And that is one reason he laments the lack of involvement in his community: He wants to help promote his hometown before his fame fades.

Joe Taylor, executive director of the Quad-Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he is sure no one meant to snub Fritz.

"From my perspective, I have been under the impression he and Mike are very, very busy," he said. "If the head of the Quad-Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau doesn't know Frank is available, who does? I also thought, because of the way the pickers are portrayed by the History Channel, that they are from LeClaire.

"I am going to personally reach out to Frank."

Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba said he is a fan of "American Pickers," but he also thought Fritz was from LeClaire.

"I vaguely recall someone telling me they thought he was from Davenport, but I guess I just believed what the show said, which is that they're both LeClaire guys," he said. "We thought his business was in LeClaire, and we don't want to steal from our neighbors. I'll reach out to him now."

Taylor also said he understands why Fritz chose a retail location for Frank Fritz Finds that is some distance from his hometown.

"Great River Road in Savanna is ideal for him," he said. "Savanna could be the next LeClaire."

Many in LeClaire are well aware what a popular cable TV show can do for a small town. In fact, merchants and their tourism group organized a summer event entirely around the "American Pickers" in 2010 and 2011.

"We've really worked the Pickers," said Donna Walley, the town's former head of tourism, who also owns Aunt Hattie's Fanciful Emporium. "Both years we did Pickers Weekend, people came from all over the country and, actually, from outside the country, too. The guys were very generous to give us their time, but they're so busy now.

"They're still riding high."

(38) comments

JohnSDaddario

Thanks for writing about Homegrown Picker pines that is a great article story you have written here. No doubt picking the property is not an easy way but if you have experience in the real estate markets you can do good things for your display but to find the property for the other people in your surroundings. The better way is to have the Sedona AZ real estate property that will help you to have the best sites to live but for the commercial point of view The Quad-Cities are good.

JFWilder
JFWilder

Geez..all you people complaining that Frank is whiny....look at yourselves! Saying Frank has done nothing for the QC...well....for one, people like me will stop by LeClaire and Savanna and go out of their way to do so while driving across the country. I'm going 200 miles out of my way to go through your area. Sounds like you all are a bunch of snobs to me and feel shut out of the fame they have brought. Wow....bit the hand that feeds you some tourists.....good job!. So...say Frank is cheap....but would you give away stuff you traveled all over to find...call me when you want to do that. Don't tell me none of you have gone to a yard sale and tried to finagle your way into paying a nickle for something that has a price of two bucks on it. Yeah...that's you!!! I know....I've kicked you off my property for being such a jerk too. I will make sure I spend not one thin dime anywhere except those two store locations....so none of you sniveling complainers get the benefit of having a source for entertainment right on your doorstep.

Mewsician

Great job as always, Barb. But please, Frank, no - DON'T work hard to do too much promoting of your home town. As a former resident now stuck in California because of my spouse's job, I dream every day of getting back to the little slice of heaven that is the QCs. The prospect of it being gobbled up by greedy real estate hunters and all the rest makes me weep. I know your intentions are honorable, but believe me when I tell you that urbanization and gentrification might sound good to business leaders, but it won't be popular with the locals once the damage is done to their beautiful community. Enjoy your fame and fortune while it lasts, but look forward to retiring in the peace and quiet of Davenport as it is today!

tulip

Barb Ickes... do you and your headline writer owe Frank an apology? Barb's style of writing is "whiney" and many times her words have made me cringe with embarrassment for her. Leading questions and biased reporting are the norm. She should not be allowed to do reporting. I'd keep her only on the opinion page.
As for Frank, I've met him and he is a decent kind guy. I don't think he was quoted correctly. Out of context quotes and misquotes are a journalist's mistake not a interviewee's character flaws.

daytripper

Is there some clause in the contract with the American pickers show, that keeps frank fritz from having a shop in Davenport, Iowa, or LeClaire Iowa.....or is it Mike Wolf, wanting to control everything, then people get all screwdriver up, and start picking on Frank Fritz.....What is the real story

candy

May, I remind Mooner it was Frank's own words that said that Davenport has "turned it's back on him" and he "likes to help but noone has asked him". My question was How does he want to help and if it his choice to make an impact then he has to personally reach out to make that happen. A lot people become involved in an organization because of it's impact on their lives or the lives of other's. He has to exaimine his own "values" and go forward.

mooner

Does anyone on here have a positive suggestion on what Frank is supposed to do to give back to his community? Is there anyone out there who wants to partener with him to help the community? Another thing that I found funny is the tone in the article of LaClaire vs Davenport. To an outsider it just seems so funny to me because it is all one and the same, all about a couple miles between the two cities. Also I do not think Frank has snubbed Davenport by opening a store in Savannah. The Great River Road is there which is a tourist attraction, a good business move. I wonder how you all would have reacted had he opened Finds in Galena? Anyhow I hope Frank, Mike and Danielle make boatlods of cash from their fame. Very few make a living preserving America's history and most never make more than a meager living if that. I for one being born and bread in Iowa and now residing in Michigan am proud of them regardless if they have any involvement in their repective communities. I am proud of their fame, admire their work, and down the road when the TV cameras are gone... they will still be pick'n. That speaks volumes on who they really are, good Iowans.

JM1

Frank may be the nicest person in the world but, as another poster alluded to, the article paints him as an attention seeking whiner. Maybe he really is. I don't know, I've never met him and I've never seen a full episode of the show.
That being said, maybe he could start a local foundation that awards academic scholarships for history-related college majors. Sometimes it's best to say 'thank you' to the area that gave you the tools and experiences that allowed you to flourish professionally and personally.

mooner

JM1 Thats a great suggestion.

pta mom

I've seen Frank around town and too want to give him his privacy. I have heard only good things from people I know who have had interactions with him.

WestEndGirl77
WestEndGirl77

I do believe that people in Iowa continue to be nice and respectful, mooner. I've traveled across the country and am thankful to come home to Iowa. In fact, it took my husband some time to adjust when he moved here and couldn't understand why people were so friendly and neighbors looked out for each other. Perhaps the reporter misconstrued some of Mr. Fritz's responses, nonetheless the article paints him as a whiner and friendly or not, who likes whiners? I appreciate that he shares his story about Crohn's however again, he has done nothing for our community, and it sounds like he wants a pat on the back. For what? I think it's awesome to see someone become successful, but to whine because the community doesn't embrace him? Perhaps he should've reached out to let the community know he cares. I would say this article did nothing for the guy's reputation or community image.

mooner

Davenporters, By the way, I failed to mention this in my previous post. Do you all know that Frank has Crohn's disease? Crohn's disease is a dibilitating disease of the the digistenal tract. There is no know cause or no know cure. The reason that I know this is that Frank was in my news letter from the Crohn's and Collitus Foundation, I belong to the Crohn's foundation because my son has almost died twice from the disease and I am a member of the foundation. My son has had this horrible disease for over half his life. my son is twentyfour. Crohn's is a horrible disease where you have flu like symptoms constantly and never know when the disease will flair up. How would like to schedule an event or appearance and attend thst event and all of the sudden have a flair up and have to be pleasent to each and everyone you meet and all the while you have symptoms of severe flu? How pleasant would you be scheduling an event and the all of the sudden being stricken with severe abdominal cramping and pain? We all have had severe flu. Think about it..Walk a mile in his shoes. Mike's brother had to take his place on a few picks, I am assuming it was because of Frank's disease. No one wants to admit that they aren't "normal" Frank was courageous enough to be an insperation to all the children at the foundation to admit that he has the disease to let those kids know that there is hope, and you too can be on TV someday... "walk a mile in the man's shoes before you judge him". Some see him as self absorbed, to me he burried his pride to be an inspiration to those kids and he is an example of of what selflessness means. Hate on him all you like, but his maker is proud of him.

mooner

Davenporters,
I grew up in Davenport, born at Mercy Hospital and moved to Michigan at 16. Just so you know, you can take the boy out of Iowa but you can't take Iowa out of the boy. I too pick, collect and sell antiques. I took a vacation last fall and drove the Great River Road from southern Iowa to the Minnesota broder. Everywhere I went the prices were top dollar for any item and I mean any item. On day three, I was pondering the view at Mississippi Palisades State Park punched in "antique stores" in my I-phone and low and behold there was an antique store right down the road in Savannah five minutes away. It was called the "Pullman Opera House" on my phone so I was a little skepticle at first but had nothing to lose. I pulled up and the building that had Pullman Opera House written on it and below that was "Frank Fritz's Finds". It was a weekday and the only people I saw was ZZ top, three biker dudes drinking and they were nice and said hey. I walk inside and after a minute a twenty something woman appeared behind the bar. I asked her what was for sale and she said "everything". Immediate smile appeared on my face. So I wandered around and exactly what Frank said in the article was so true, his prices were awesome, fair, and worthy of interest. I ended up buying a great tobacco cutter for $65 bucks. Crappier ones at ALL the other stores I visited were going for $100.00 plus. Celebrity doesn't mean anything to me, we are all human, good deals do. I will hit "Finds" again this fall and spend my hard earned dollars on hotels, food and drink because his store and bring my liitle bit of change to your neck of the woods. Think about that.
The other point I want to make here is after reading the comments on this article it totally disturbed me. Davenport, you have a guy who is nation wide. Frank is right to a degree, he wants the community to get something out of his status. Sure, he may have come across as arrogant in the bar or whatever, but when people assume things, their perception of the situation can be skewed a bit. MY real question is when did the people of eastern Iowa and wesern Illinois become such a hateful jellous people? I grew up in Iowa. Everyone nodded when your eyes met when passing a stranger on the sidewalk. Simple respect for your fellow man ruled. What happened to simple respect in Davenport? Everyone had value in the community I remember. Respect was missing when I moved to Detroit. It was immediate, noticeable, racist hate was everywhere. Flash forward to 2013, So I see haters are everywhere in this world now... but I thought respect for one another was born in Iowa? I want to ask all the Frank haters on here in the comment section one question... would you say the same thing that you wrote to Frank's face? I doubt it and you want to know why? It is so easy to hide behind a keyboard and trash on someone you have never personally interacted with. My hope is that you would guard your words well if you met the man face to face... and confirm my faith that there may just be a little tiny bit of respect for one another left in Iowa.

Hottoddy

Charging for Autographs and always seemed so jealous of Danielle & Mike. Even during the Pickers weekend they held the Twilight because Frank was taking his own sweet time acting like a star. The Pickers could be great for everyone, bringing in tourism for all the Quad Cities and only Mr. Whiney could mess it up for all. He's had his shop in Savanah for years. So now he's acting like it's a new venture. He owns a farm outside of LeClaire and declare's that Davenport snubs him. Franks a big boy and should have called the mayor of Davenport, if this is where he wants his recognition from Davenport,. Pickers have made him a millionaire and he's still stomping his feet and whining. What a big baby!

Dallas

This is the QC Times, what do you expect, facts, truths? Sounds like most here have an envy for Mr. Fritz.

VEGAS

This guy is a complete phony and a sniveling one at that. Anyone who watches this b.s. on television needs therapy. I would like to buy this cry baby for what he is really worth and sell him for what he thinks he is worth, now there is profit margin. He makes a real man look good.

Hottoddy

Enjoyed this comment. Made me snicker!

candy

Bottom line -If Frank wants to "help" Davenport or the community then he has to take responsibility to contact others to assert his willingness to be involved .
No one should be have to reach out to him, he is an adult.

Jack S

wow............this is a rough crowd !.........I agree with QCA........." I'm willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. It sounds to me as if the questions by the reporter could have been leading and then the answers misconstrued."
......................and in the title.......".pines for recognition" ?!? .....ah com'on.......I'll bet Mr Fritz didn't get to proof-read this.............I've got some family members who deal with Frank on a somewhat regular basis and they have no problems what so ever.............

Fishman

A short story about meeting Frank at the HyVee: We are in line with 8 or 10 others, Frank was next to last in line. Most of us recognized him and essentially left him alone, respecting his privacy while recognizing his celebrity. The last guy in line is kind of looking him over, then says: "Hey, don't I know you from somewhere?" Everybody in line starts cracking up. The guy is looking really perplexed now. I say: He's a TV star! He's the Picker guy!

You had to be there--it was pretty funny to see.

citylaughs

Frank! I see you once in a while at Walgreen or HyVee and I have not approached you because I just assumed a lot of people bug you. Next time I see you, I'm going to say hello.
Congrats on your success!

QCA

I'm willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. It sounds to me as if the questions by the reporter could have been leading and then the answers misconstrued.

tethsojh

This guy is a joke. He expects his community to do more for him? He doesn't do anything to help make his community a better place. Walking around with a false sense of entitlement, charging people for his autograph certainly isn't helping. I wouldn't consider him much of a celebrity either. And moving his 'business' to Savannah as opposed to Davenport for any reason, makes this article barely worth reading. Find some real news about people that matter, QC Times.

J695

Right, what a joke. I guess he wants the city of Davenport to throw him a party.

Family man

Davenport should disown Frank big head Fritz. Acting like we owe him something is ridiculous.

JMHO

I remember seeing Frank at the Bix celebration. He had a table where he was charging to sign autographs. I thought that was a bit much. I stopped in to Antique Archeology a year or two ago. Met Mike and Danielle. Both were super friendly, and didn't act like they were above me or anyone else. Had a nice conversation with them, and got a great picture with Danielle.

WestEndGirl77
WestEndGirl77

Mr. Fritz, are you daring to put yourself in the same category as Mr. Pregracke? What have you done that is minutely close to what he has? Do you donate to any charitable causes or work to make 'your hometown' better in any way? Why would you think you deserve to be treated as a star when all you do is drive around the country looking at people's garbage to make money from. This article is comical because it sounds like you are a whiney little man who wants to believe he's someone much more than he actually is. As for respect, I'm with the other posters, you get what you give. Get over yourself or do some good for our community, then perhaps you will be treated as the star YOU want to believe you are.

RhodaM

I knew Frank through business too. It doesn't surprise me that he is branching off, I don't think loyalty and confidentially is in Frank's vocabulary. I didn't trust him then and I wouldn't trust him now.

donjuan463

I worked for a local fire extinguisher company years ago. He worked for Per-Mar, and would bring in extinguishers that needed testing because his employer didn't have the equipment to do their own work. He would make small talk, and always somehow managed to worm his way to the front office in what appeared to everyone there as an attempt to get the inside scoop on who our customers were. Just always struck me as a swindler type of guy, always out for an extra buck at someones expense, when he didn't have it coming to him to begin with!

Just4kixx

This Fritz guy is so into himself since he became a self-proclaimed star. He feels his hometown has forsaken him...boo hoo boo hoo. What a crybaby. He has the audacity to compare his low rent for profit no way reality show to the non profit work of Chad Pregracke and all Chad has done with his Living Lands & Waters.
Chad does real life good work and this redneck Fritz guy is only into the non reality show for the money. Please, keep your worthless trash in Savannah with the biker bars and perhaps you will find someone there who wants to listen to your whining and crying.

LugNut

I agree that he is arrogant. I have seen him at several local bars, and he acts like some big time superstar.

senor citizen

TLC, THe History Channel and others have lowered the bar on education, their original intent, to the point where it's easier to skip them on the remote rather than than watch a second of their shows.

Brad Riedell
Brad Riedell

I have meant mr fritz on a couple occasions and everytime he has this sense of arrogance. He acted as if he had no time to make small talk maybe it was the young female he was trying to hit on. I do not agree with his quote of saying that davenport has turned its back on him. I think it is the other way around. He has a mild recognition factor and now acts as if he is too good to hold a conversation with the general public. I think it is his attitude that causes him to be treated in the way he is. Another instance that really made me dislike him was when my girlfriends daughter saw him out in about and was starstruck. When she said hello he acted like he couldnt give her the time of day. Sir if you want respect then you yourself should have some for others.

Family man

Sounds like he has a need for recognition. Get over yourself you egomaniac.

JS824

Shows like this, pawn stars, swamp people, american restoration, have continued the dumbing down of the history channel.

Taney

When I had cable, I watched the show primarily because of Fritz. I find his personality more entertaining. No offense to Wolfe. Both are great at what they do.

candy

I am proud of both gentleman's success as it reminds all of us of why the U.S .is a great country. I do remember that at one of the QC times large garage sale events, held at the Expo center Mr Fritz made an official appearance. I was a participant at that event and also knew a "friend" who was at the time a paid employee of the Quad Cities Times. The Times employee had told me in confidence that the QC Times was in negotiations with Mr. Fritz over the "contract" for his role in the event. Until the "negotiations" were complete the QC Times was unable to advertise his participation. Unfortunately it was not until the last week or so before that his involvement was made public. The QC Times had already had already devoted a lot of promotional resources to help make the event a success.

The purpose of the event was the Times " News in Education" program which provides newspapers to schools. I don't know why the negotiations had stalled. Perhaps because Mr. Fritz's role at the event promoted "The Pickers" and the "Times" photographed him at different garage sale booths and he provided autographs to the public and maybe "the show" required fees to be paid. I also do wish him continued success if he can earn more money from public appearances and promotions as a result of the show.

My question is what exactly he is offering Davenport and the Community? If his purpose is for the "greater good" than perhaps he should choose one event in the community to devout his time and energy. Perhaps the Humility of Mary programs or Habitat for Humanity. Organizations that don't have many funds for promotion but are well recognized for their great work.

Mr Fritz , if you are wanting to give back to the community, research different organizations and reach out to them. The challenge is yours!


Hereandhere

The show would not have succeeded without the "odd couple" casting. And the reality of tv reality is editing and the cutaway shots that feature LeClaire. Mike was known to many as a passionate small business owner in Davenport and LeClaire even before the show. Happy that Frank has a place to be found because the impression always came across as both were very busy, like able and approachable guys from Iowa.

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