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‘Pickers’ episode in Derby airs Monday

January 30, 2019

DERBY — More than a century of Italian family history will be on display Monday night during an episode of “American Pickers” filmed last summer in a former downtown market.

The show follows “pickers” Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz as they scour properties across the country to find valuable antiques in places like junkyards, garages, barns and basements — then haggle with the owners over a fair purchase price.

Stratford resident Matt Catalano said the pair struck paydirt in their hunt at a former Italian grocery store once run by his great-great uncle, Antonio Voccia, in a converted barn on Derby’s Hawkins Street dating back to the late 1800s.

The neighborhood was once a vibrant Italian enclave in downtown Derby, with some vestiges still intact, like Altimari’s Little Italy nearby on Elizabeth Street.

Catalano said someone forwarded him an ad the show put in the Connecticut Post saying they would be filming in the area. He replied with a note saying he was a fan and that the former store still contained a treasure trove of potential finds.

The store closed in 1954, but Catalano’s great aunts lived in a space above the former store until last year, when his last surviving aunt died.

“They never touched anything, so basically everything in the house goes back to the 1880s, just about,” Catalano said. “It was a very unique space. Basically the store became their basement.”

“I said ‘This is a honey hole.’ The store is literally as it was the day it closed,” Catalano said. “On the counter there was a New York Post from Oct. 22, 1954 just sitting there, pristine. The place was a buried time capsule.”

The pickers showed up one day in late June — and filmed for 16 hours, Catalano said.

While he can’t yet talk specifically about the bargains he struck with Wolfe and Fritz, he said the two pickers “were blown away by a lot of the stuff.”

“They could have bought more, in my opinion,” Catalano joked. “At one point, they accused me of being too agreeable. I said ‘Look around, I’m not keeping this stuff for another 100 years.’ ”

“We had a great time. They were great guys, the crew was great and we had a lot of fun,” he said.

Derby Mayor Rich Dziekan said he stopped by the shoot to introduce himself and thank the pickers for showcasing a part of the city’s history.

The city helped the production crew with logistics, he said.

“They called up and we coordinated to get a place for them to park their vehicles,” Dziekan said. “They wanted to keep it low-key.”

Catalano said the filming process was pretty straightforward.

“What you see (on the show) is what it is,” Catalano said. “By and large they just run tape and it’s happening. It was a 16-hour day and they took a ton of film. I’m just dying to see how it got cut into a half-hour.”

The episode, titled “A Picker’s Dozen,” is scheduled to air at 9 p.m. on the History Channel.

ethan.fry@hearstmediact.com

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