High Desert, High Style
Originally published in the Summer 2019 issue of SPOKE+BLOSSOM
Entering High Desert Authentiques in Downtown Grand Junction, many assume that owners Fred Grinnan and Missy Burns travel to bigger cities to source the shop’s vintage wares. “People say, you can’t be finding this around here,” Grinnan notes of their assortment of furniture, fixtures, art, jewelry, clothing and miscellany. “But people came here in the 60s and 70s. They retired here after the boom in California in the 50s and 60s. They wanted out of California, so they came here. It was cheap and didn’t snow a lot.”
He should know. Originally from West Virginia, Grinnan migrated to Colorado as a river guide and, after passing a dozen years in Summit County, settled in the Grand Valley for its temperate climate. It was also a convenient home base for his job repping outdoor and bike gear throughout Colorado, Utah and New Mexico. While traveling for work, Grinnan kept an eye out for items of interest, vending them at shops in Grand Junction and Fruita.
A short, post-high school internship at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater made a lasting impression on Grinnan’s sensibilities. Of midcentury design and quality construction, he says, “It was always in the back of my mind. I recognized these things, but I didn’t know why. Now [modern furniture] is popping up in every commercial and TV show. There’s always one little piece of midcentury furniture.”
For Grinnan, an item’s appeal isn’t necessarily about its trendiness or even provenance. Rather, his purchases are guided by fine construction and timelessness. “It’s more of a sense of quality than a sense of what it actually is,” he explains. “I buy a lot of things that I’m like, this is really neat. It’s made out of really nice materials. I’ll figure out what it is later.”
Needing more space for his growing stockpile of inventory, Grinnan opened High Desert Authentiques in August of 2018. It was a natural next step, given Grinnan’s lifelong interest in ceramics, architecture and design — as well as his knack for repair and refinishing pieces that have seen better days.
Now focused on the Western Slope, Grinnan finds his merchandise through happenchance, downsizes, digging around in old barns and estate sales. “I meet some really interesting people,” he says. “It’s a shame, because a lot of people you ‘meet’ after they’re gone. It sounds corny, but you find a bunch of stuff about this person and their life, and it’s interesting. But it’s sad that you don’t get to meet them in real life.”
Fortunately, plenty of fascinating living people come his way as well, attracted to his eclectic collection. “It’s an interesting crowd,” Grinnan says of his customers. “I’m finding there’s a lot of really good craftsman and people who build interesting things around town — guitars, trailers, world-class cellos, furniture, metal stuff ... Hobbyists come in here for dials and knobs and pieces and parts. You never know.”