A&E’s reality series Storage Wars: New York star Courtney Wagner is the fiery, no-holds-barred half of the “Brooklyn Hipsters.” She co-owns C&C Pop-Up Shop with her long-time feisty friend, Candy Olsen.
Bred as a California Girl, Courtney’s bold move to the big apple evolved her into a true-blue New Yorker with an attitude. Boys, don’t be fooled by her vintage style and high heels at auctions for she’s tough as nails and will hammer you right out the door!
Courtney was gracious enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions for OnlineStorageAuctions.com
Courtney Wagner Interview
A. YL was a great place to grow up! I have fond teenage memories of No Doubt (rock band), Disneyland, shopping malls, and you can’t beat the Orange County weather.
My sisters and I were raised in a typical suburban household. We were raised by parents that encouraged play. I remember turning our entryway into a hotel lobby and checking the other kids from the neighborhood into the “hotel.” I was the hotel manager (naturally) while my sisters had to be the maids. We played a lot but also fought a ton, as siblings do. My middle sister took my pencil box to school once then lied to my parents about it. I don’t think I’ve felt that level of rage since.
As I got older, in an adolescent attempt to find my own way, I remember getting in trouble for hanging out with my high school friends in the Taco Bell parking lot past curfew. I wanted to hang out with the cool kids (who’s parents had later curfews) and my mom thought I was doing drugs. Just say no to seven layer burritos kids.
Q. Who was the greatest influence in your life growing up?
A. Definitely my Mom. She infected me with a thrill of the hunt virus early on. I’ve been thrift shopping and flea marketing my whole life, hunting for bargains and great finds.
Q. What was your childhood dream?
A. I grew up singing in choir and acting in school plays. I wanted to live life as a theater gypsy. I’m still a gypsy in a lot of ways.
A. I graduated with a Theater degree. I’m a total theater nerd. My college years were spent singing and dancing with people that I am still really close with today.
I also had a great job in the costume shop while at college and that’s where I really developed my love for vintage clothing, sewing, and designing.
Q. What was it like to work four years at Jazz at Lincoln Center?
A. I was hired to assist in the wardrobe department. We got to dress musicians and celebrities for shows and photo shoots. One of my favorite stories was when Willie Nelson performed. The house photographer got on the Nelson’s tour bus and after about five minutes he came back and said he swore he saw Jimi Hendricks in the elevator (laughs).
Q. What was it like to work four years at the American Folk Art Museum?
I moved positions quite a bit while I was there. I started out working in the photography department, ran the museum’s social media for a while, and then ran their special events department.
I learned skills that I use daily for our company C&C. Photoshop and social media background is a big part of what C&C does. It’s probably the most unexpected and the best job I’ve ever had.
Q. Why did you move from California to New York?
A. I visited New York once in college and it was like, “I need to move here.” When you grow up in the suburbs, a big city is like a foreign country – magical, strange, and attractive. I also felt a strong need to be on my own and figure shit out for myself. I learned more about life in my first four years in New York, than I ever will again (moved here over a decade ago). It was hard. I cried a lot. But I have met amazing, creative, talented people in New York that I would never have met anywhere else.
Q. How different is life on the west coast compared to life on the east coast?
A. The OC and NYC could NOT be more different. It never snows in Southern California. They don’t have blackouts, bomb threats, rich liberal mayors, and Lena Dunham (American female actor/director who lives in NYC). Generally New Yorkers appear to be more curious. We ask a lot of questions. We aren’t as used to “givens.”
A. Candy and I had been buying and selling vintage merchandise together for about a year before the Storage Wars folks found us. That was our introduction to the New York storage auctions scene. Our business was a lot cleaner prior to that (laughs).
Q. How did you meet Candy?
A. I met her performing at the Hollywood Bowl about a decade ago. We did two shows together over two summers. We were re-introduced by a mutual friend, Matt, who knew we both had a love of vintage collecting. When I saw Candy again, I was like – Wait a minute, I know you! I went home and dug up an old picture of us posing together backstage. Life is so fun when things like that happen.
Storage Wars: New York
Q. How did you get cast on the show?
A. Candy and I were buying and selling vintage merchandise mostly to lighten the loads of our personal closets but also as a creative outlet. Apparently the show was having trouble finding women in the auction scene. Matt who knew the Storage Wars folks recommended us. It was pretty much out of nowhere. All of a sudden we were having beers and walking around Brooklyn with the director and the cinematographer. The right time and the right place, I guess.
Q. When did you first become a vintage fashionista?
A. I fell in love with vintage the first time I put on a costume for a play in high school. On show nights I got to look different than everyone else at school. Did my hair different. Wore darker lipstick. It’s very empowering to be different. Plus the boys were all of a sudden like, Oh, you look good in that! Which didn’t hurt.
A. We found a Tiffany Glass desk set. The monetary value was only about $1,800 but we got to meet the owner of Macklowe Gallery in midtown and they have some of the most collectible Tiffany Glass pieces in the world.
Q. What surprised you most about working on a reality television series?
A. It was a LOT more work then I had anticipated. I thought we’d be spending half of our time filming and half of our time selling. It didn’t really pan out that way. Juggling the shooting schedule and the storage facilities schedules took up about 80% of our time. That said, I loved every minute of filming. Candy and I laugh a lot together. We were able to visit some really special places in New York that we wouldn’t have ventured to otherwise.
A. We’ve mostly been doing markets like the Brooklyn Flea, Artists and Fleas, and the Brooklyn Night Bazaar. These are big, funky flea markets full of creative and crafty vendors.
The idea behind the POP-UP is that we can show up anywhere and curate a mini-boutique for the night or even for a week. We have popped up out of the van on occasion but mostly with organized events where permitting isn’t up to us. We’ve also been lucky enough to be invited to Pop-Up at bars and restaurants.
Q. You sell your merchandise in the 5 boroughs in New York; where is that exactly?
A. The five boroughs include Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, Staten Island, and the Bronx. It’s basically the five HUGE hoods that make up New York City.
A. Mike: He is pretty savvy when it comes to buying lockers but not the most savvy when it comes to selling merch. But he is a hustler with a heart of gold. He has helped C&C out of some tight spots and has been there to lend a hand when we need it.
JoeP: He is definitely a mystery. We’ve been working with him for over a year now and I’m still not quite sure what he does with his merchandise.
Tad: He is probably the smartest and most creative of the bunch. He and Chris run a very specialized business with great furniture pieces, which may cloud their auction buying at times.
Chris: He is a mess (laughs). He’s also very talented and creative but is so easily distracted. It’s a wonder he and Tad get anything accomplished at the auctions.
Candy: It’s hard to put her into a phrase or sentence because she’s so much more than that. She has been the best wife (this is a joke but we seriously spend more time together than with anyone else), friend, business partner, and collaborator anyone could ask for. She’s creative, fun, fucking driven, and the most stylish person I know. We’ve had a year full of hurdles but I can’t think of anyone else I’d want to run around the track with.
Q. How different is buying rooms than rummaging through flea markets and thrift stores?
A. Buying storage rooms is not for the faint of heart. It’s a LOT of WORK. It involves a lot of moving and you come across some pretty foul things. But with a partner like Candy, it can also be great fun and you can acquire a lot of merchandise without spending a lot.
A. Good question… I can’t remember which one of us named it. We are both more easily recognized when we’re with the Banana Van. As a matter of fact, I never get recognized on my block and just the other day I was loading up the van near my house (in my PJ’s and without makeup – ugh) and some guy was like – You’re on that show! I recognized the van! There’s no hiding in the Batmobile… or the Banana Van in our case.
Q. How would you describe the show?
A. Without bias, I think it’s the best thing on television (laughs). It’s difficult for me to judge since I’m watching a show full of people I know. I think it’s pretty entertaining and can be super informative. It’s definitely a glimpse into our day-to-day business. It’s just a glimpse, but it’s certainly all true.
Courtney enjoys interacting with her fans through social media networks. Please “Like” her Facebook page at Courtney Wagner: https://www.facebook.com/CourtneyLynnWagner or “Follow” her on Twitter @WaggleNYC.
A. We met in 2004 (by the way, I had to ask him that because I am horrible with dates). I was bartending in midtown east at the time. He came in with a bunch of friends for a birthday party. He stood at the bar drinking Guinness all night while we made fun of his friends singing karaoke. It was so romantic.
Q. What was it like for your family and friends when they saw you on that first episode?
A. The initial reaction from my husband and some friends was – Well, they’ve certainly captured the real you! Which was a compliment, I think? It’s fun for my family on the west coast to watch. They get to see a part of my New York life that they would otherwise not be able to see.
A. Blossom (TV Show ’91-’95) was the first real fashion influence I can remember, if you can believe it. My mother actually made me a tie skirt and I actually WORE it. I didn’t have many friends in middle school.
When I was in high school I couldn’t afford to dress like the cool kids so I dressed more creatively out of obligation than by choice. That ended up forming the person I am today, for certain. As a matter of fact, in Brooklyn the stranger you dress, the better. It’s a really fun trend that I am SO into right now.
Q. How do you relax from it all?
A. Oh, I’m a huge fan of alcohol. Wine can do wonders after a stressful day. I picked up this hobby from my father. There’s always a box of wine at the Wagner house. As a family obligation, I continue on with this tradition.
Q. What are your hobbies?
A. I craft, a lot! I love to make things with my hands and try new Do-It-Yourself techniques. I’m a big fan of making costumes.
Q. What mottos do you live by?
A. YOLO! (You Only Live Once.) Just kidding. Not really. Also, at the moment I’m stuck on this idea that my path in life thus far has been like a tree that has branched out in several different directions but has always remained connected at the root. Not so much a motto, but something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.
Q. What’s your best attribute?
A. Hopefully my sense of humor.
Q. What’s your worst attribute?
A. I can be stubborn and forgetful.
A. I want to travel more. I’ve traveled a lot but am dying to visit Japan and go back to Italy. I’d like to drive across country and pick (find good deals). I’ve done the drive with my sisters to sight-see; but I’d love to get in the Banana Van with Candy and shop our way west.
Q. How would you like to be remembered?
A. As a good friend.
Courtney says what’s in her heart and feels what’s within her soul.
She is Fierce! She is Fun! She is Feminen-nomenal!
Check your local listing on A&E channel for episodes of Storage Wars: New York.
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