Alice and Leonard Whiteaker opened Whiteaker’s Concrete in 1976, along a road nestled within the mountains of Tennessee. Prior, they were dealing antiques and hitting all the local estate sales, auctions, flea markets, and yard sales. They collected just about anything antique, but their business was in concrete lawn ornaments. The lawn jockey, the birdbath, the life-size deer statue grazing on the yard, these have been sold by the Whiteaker family for over 40 years. Leonard passed away in 2002 and Alice in 2016, both enjoying their passion until the very end. Now, their son, Ricky, keeps the business open.
“This is how I was brought up and taught,” Ricky says. “But I enjoy it. I really do. Whatever you enjoy, I think you do a lot better at it. You gotta follow your heart. When I was in school, I could care less about history. Now, I absolutely love it.”
“We had some friends into this, and they started this here a long time ago with just a few things,” Ricky explains. “It just kind of started from there. When they got out of it, we started going to different places for them and it just grew and grew. My mom and dad started all this. They have since passed away. But we have been in business for 41 years.”
Ricky made a promise to his mother before she died to never sell her personal collection of antique finds, her treasures. He has remained true to his word and keeps her collection displayed amongst the property for those passing by to enjoy and for himself to be reminded of his childhood growing up here within the family business. This is where he too gained an appreciation for the quality of vintage craftsmanship and collecting of Americana.
“My mom always collected antiques and the older stuff,” he says. “All her stuff is not for sale. All this older stuff was hers. A lot of this stuff on the porch is really old. We used to use that butler monkey. We used to use him to hold business cards in his hand. We would open that shop and sell collectibles, but now it is just storage for my mom’s collection.”
One item from his mother’s collection was too large to fit in the house. It sits along the roadside, attracting second and third glances for anyone passing by.
“That old rooster is huge,” Ricky says. “It looks smaller from a distance. People try to buy it all the time. But it is more like a sign, something to draw attention, and believe you me, people call all the time about it. There was a woman who had a chicken place in Manchester, and she said she had one of these big roosters. She wanted to buy this one because her and her husband got a divorce and he got the rooster in the divorce. I guess he just done it for meanness because she kept the restaurant. A lot of people notice this thing. People, if they don’t know the name, will just tell others, ‘Go to where the giant rooster is at.’ You can see it from way down the road. This is the only spot it has ever been in. It has been here for maybe 25 years now.”