Catch and release

Home + Garden

September 1, 2020



Vintage-furniture lovers score one-of-a-kind finds at The Chinoiserie Squirrel.

by Whitley Adkins

It all started around 2008 with The Potato Sack warehouse sale, where Linda Kincheloe was a vendor. Nell Wilson and Martha Serenius founded the home-furnishings and accessories market at an old potato-chip factory on Morehead Street, not far from Bank of America Stadium. 

Nell and Martha retired from operating the sale after the building was sold. Potato Sack vendors were looking for another place to continue doing what they loved. So, in 2018, Kincheloe went hunting for her own warehouse to establish The Chinoiserie Squirrel. The NoDa pop-up market has become wildly popular among vintage-furnishings enthusiasts and is a treasure trove for shoppers seeking unique finds for the home. 

Chinoiserie Squirrel founder Linda Kincheloe and her white Suburban, known to vendors as “Snowflake”

“All my girlfriends play bridge, and I say, “Just drop me at a Salvation Army!” says Kincheloe of her passion for seeking vintage items. “‘Catch and release’ is my mantra. I love to find one-of-a-kind things, then let someone else enjoy them. Oftentimes, somebody just needs to put a little loving into it, and they’ve got a really, really great piece.” 

Kincheloe discusses the inspiration behind the name and what shoppers can expect to find at The Chinoiserie Squirrel. 

Comments have been edited for length and clarity.

How did The Chinoiserie Squirrel name come to be, and what does it mean? 

I was traveling in Europe with my sister-in-law when it came to me. The word “chinoiserie” means a European interpretation of Asian design. This particular style is sophisticated — think pictures with faux bamboo, gilded frames, anything with fretwork. It is a style that I personally love and have in my own dining room. Our parents and your grandmother and mine had it in their homes, and it is popular again. 

My girlfriends and I have always been squirrel girls — we are always on the hunt. Squirrel was my nickname. I was on a girlfriends’ weekend at Graceland once, and my friend had extensions clipped in her hair. They were sticking out all wild, and I said, “You look like you have a squirrel’s tail coming out the back of your hair!”

That’s when my friend nicknamed me Squirrel. 

How did you determine the location? 

I found a big old warehouse on North Davidson Street, so I contacted the vendors from The Potato Sack sale to see if they wanted to get back together again, and everyone did. We operated the sale in that building for about a year, but then we lost parking there because of a bridge being built over 25th Street. Then, I just got lucky and found the current Squirrel. The building used to be a coffee roaster and is actually set up perfectly for our various booths. 

When can people shop the Squirrel? 

The Squirrel is open the last Thursday, Friday and Saturday of every month, which is similar to the way the Metrolina Flea Market was set up. We have shoppers that come regularly from Raleigh, Columbia and Charleston. They are coming to Charlotte for the Squirrel and then hitting Slate, Cotswold MarketPlace and other shops while they are here. 

What can shoppers expect to find?

We have a very diverse range of previously enjoyed things, but we are selective about the merchandise we sell. We have about 20 vendors, all different types — it’s such a mixed bag. Whatever it is, it really just has to be a “one of a.” That’s what we call one of a kind at the Squirrel. You won’t find any rubber chickens. Also, we try really hard to keep the costs as low as possible. We don’t take credit cards, because we don’t want to have to charge additional fees. We take checks, cash and Venmo. 

How has The Chinoiserie Squirrel handled operations during
the pandemic?

We were moving right before the coronavirus hit. We used to have a sip-and-shop party the night before the first day. We had to stop doing that, but now we are shopping with masks and evolving through it all.

What if someone wants to become a vendor?

We do have a waiting list. We are very focused on making sure that the stuff vendors have fits in with the overall uniqueness of our operation. We are very fortunate that once vendors start with us, they don’t want to leave.  SP

The Chinoiserie Squirrel is located at 2113 North Davidson St. Follow on Instagram @chinoiserie_squirrel for sale dates and announcements.

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