Firefighter flea market picker © Greg Hawk 015
Firefighter flea market picker © Greg Hawk 015

Flea Market Portrait – Captain Hawk: A Firefighter & antiques picker

Greg Hawk, owner of VISN -Vintage, Industrial, Salvaged & Natural, is firmly rooted in Arizona but texted me from 2000 miles due East, just one stop on his most recent cross-country antique and industrial “picking” trip’s.  “Truck broke down… just adds to the story.  Finding some cool things.”

Pictures began to pop up on my phone. A pile of rusty metal gears, a heap of cork bottle stoppers and glass vials, a woodworking table that was pitted and gnarled by decades of use.  I grinned. I love people who are passionate; especially ones who seek to renew and reinvent what others throw away, abandon or would otherwise call “old crap”.

By day, Greg is a Firefighter for one of the largest metropolitan departments in the Southwest, a Hazardous Materials Captain and Technical Rescue Technician, a specialist with a penchant for teaching advanced Chemistry to his HazMat co-workers who started “junking” as a hobby when he found medical artifacts for his classes.

From unique and ancient apothecary bottles and scales to industrial style lamps, fans, and furniture, Captain Hawk spends most if not all of his off-duty time seeking out the unusual, meeting fellow collectors, or “pickers” and “junkers” and hunting for treasures he can restore, refurbish and then even more quickly, re-sell them to a growing list of interior designers, friends and assorted buyers throughout the world who follow his escapades on Instagram @HawkSalvage.

When Greg isn’t commanding a heavy rescue team for a multi-vehicle freeway crash or donning a HazMat Class-A PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) Breaking-Bad style suit for overturned tankers with highly explosive chemical cargo, or flying in helicopters to assist his department on rescuing lost hikers who dehydrate and fall unconscious, he goes “picking”.  His most recent trip was a 6458-mile journey across the US.

While the trip was a success, there were a few annoying setbacks, even for a Firefighter who is trained to prepare for the worst-case scenario, “I lost my debit card briefly when it got eaten by the ATM, had a flat on the freeway, got stuck in Ohio, and the truck gave out completely and I waited for a part to be overnighted in Colorado, but it was hands-down the most “epic journey” I’ve taken since I started collecting and selling.”

Starting from his home base of Arizona, Hawk traversed 15 states in a mere 3 weeks heading up to the furthest point of Virginia and Maryland and looping up North to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and over to Michigan and down through Nebraska and lastly, Iowa, Colorado and his home state of New Mexico before returning home to Arizona with a truck cabin, bed and towed trailer worth of finds. A three-foot industrial thermostat, 1900’s era street signs, 160 pounds cast iron fireplace mantelpiece and 1950’s era wooden bleacher seats, and several dozen smaller finds such as colored glass bottle stoppers and funnels that he safely packed and carefully stacked in the back of his truck.

From free-style picking on farms to one-on-one meetings with collectors.  “As much as I want to say it’s about the things I find, it’s also about the people I meet.”  Hawk has a growing number of followers on Instagram and posts almost daily, not bad for a full-time Fireman who still considers “picking” his hobby.

Greg asked for help on Insta, “I think I might shoot up to Ohio and then up to the Detroit area.  Does anybody have any favorite places they would want to share?” Having a network of fans follow you throughout your cross-country journey, Hawk’s Instagram posts were peppered with tags and recommendations from friends and fans… some he has followed but never met. He connected with Steve Heintz and Jason Waldron the duo behind @TimeWarpLLC in Saint Clair Shores, Michigan where he “was able to grab a few cool items” and meet “…super cool dudes with great stuff.” 

Some collectors, however, were harder to coax into buying a part of their collection.  While visiting a known collector named Pat, he offered to walk her dog, Mr. Booze, during a thunderstorm and downpour, in order to get her to sell a few coveted items. Did she sell it?  Hawk featured Pat in a picture, sitting calmly on her staircase, behind her, a collection of medicinal bottles and a sly smile across her face where Hawk wrote in the caption,  #tough, and #hardsell and later, #goodday and #thankyou.

Follow Greg at @HawkSalvage. You’ll also find him at Space #96 at Junk in the Trunk Vintage Market September 16, 17 and 18th at WestWorld, 16601 N Pima Road in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Note: This weekend is especially important in the US and for American citizens around the world, as it marks the 15th anniversary of 9/11 and the attacks on the world trade center and the pentagon, where a total of 343 firefighters lost their lives.