BUZZ: Pop-up market in the country

The Crooked Queen opens only four times per year. That, combined with charm, is how they pack in a crowd.


Missy Cayley and Nina Skic run The Crooked Queen, which attracts shoppers from all over the state to their infrequent sales

When Missy Cayley and Nina Skic opened their first makeshift shop in the fall of 2014 at Skic’s farm property in Merrill, the two had no idea what to expect. Would anyone come to shop their collection of found objects?

Today the Crooked Queen sees droves of people who drive from all over the state for their four-times-per-year sales.

The duo will be nearing their 20th sale this weekend, May 4-6 at the farmhouse, N1764 High Ridge Road, Merrill. The first couple of days will be packed with shoppers browsing a converted old chicken coup and grain storage building among other buildings that make up the Crooked Queen shop.

The set up is perfect for Cayley, a school counselor at Wausau East, and Skic, a lunch server at Merrill High School. It allows them to pursue their dreams of running a shop, in a unique setting, while still working their day jobs.

They had no idea whether it would work. “I remember we were like, oh my gosh, this is nerve-wracking, what if we put all this work in and I wonder if people will come?” Cayley says. “They did.”

And the next time, more came. And the next time, even more. The first day of the sale is always chaotic, Cayley says. “It’s just jam-packed with people,” Cayley says. “It’s like this massively fun chaos.”

What do they do in between sales? Build up the merchandise. Skic and Cayley go to estate sales, garage sales and even dig through free items on the side of the road, looking for something that can be restored or resurfaced. “My kids could die,” Cayley jokes. They often duck their heads while she digs through old junk to find that perfect piece.

It’s dirty work sometimes. Someone once referred them to a woman who was selling her dad’s barn. Cayley and Skic were allowed to go through and look for something they could use before the barn was sold. Turns out the old milkcans and benches were perfect items to sell at the shop. They found an old chicken roost that would make a great display for the store. Only one problem. “It was in this gross old barn and we had to scale these boards,” Cayley recalls. “It was 90 degrees and we were trying to get this roost unstuck.”

It’s not uncommon to find treasures in old buildings. Sometimes Cayley will stop at a yard sale and say, “But what do you have in that old barn over there?”

The payoff for all that work: Their store attracts visitors from all over the state. One group of ladies comes from Milwaukee to their sales.

Their families get involved, helping with such things as directing traffic and serving hot cider in the fall. May’s market will have live music too. “It’s really an experience,” Cayley says. “People come from all over.”

The infrequency of the sales, held in spring, fall, November and December, builds up demand. You only get so many chances to shop there, and if you see something you want, you need to grab it then, because it probably won’t be there the next time.

The Crooked Queen’s next sale is 4-7 pm Thursday, 4-7 pm Friday and 10 am-5 pm Saturday at N1764 High Ridge Road in Merrill. Contact The Crooked Queen at [email protected].