News » Strokes & Plugs

American picker

Hoarding can be fun



- BECAUSE STUFF EXISTS :  Mike Taylor recently opened Ontology as an outlet for his passion for antiques and vintage wares. -  - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • BECAUSE STUFF EXISTS : Mike Taylor recently opened Ontology as an outlet for his passion for antiques and vintage wares.

I had my garage, dining room, and two bedrooms packed to the ceiling with stuff,” Mike Taylor said. “I couldn’t even get to most of it.”

Taylor, owner of Ontology, could easily be featured in an episode of Hoarders, a show that profiles people with an inability to restrain themselves from filling their home with mass amounts of junk. But his keen eye for unique vintage items, paired with his ability to distinguish treasure from trash, has allowed him to thrive in the niche industry of antique sales.

Ontology (which Taylor says translates to “stuff exists”) is located under the same roof as Retro-Fit on the corner of Monterey and Morro streets in downtown San Luis Obispo. The store showcases moderately priced antiques and modern “stuff” that Taylor acquired over the years living as a garage-sale pilferer—what’s commonly referred to as a  “picker.” Unlike other local vintage stores, where items seem to be limited to a certain genre, Ontology has a particular randomness reminiscent of an old-fashioned swap meet.

“When looking around here, you can tell there is no definite theme … just anything and everything,” Taylor said.

Browsers strolling through Ontology will notice the arrangement is just as non-linear and spontaneous as the items themselves. Various odds and ends line the walls; elegant shelves and chairs are littered with candles, books, and figurines. A rusty birdcage, housing two porcelain white birds, rests on top of a table near a vintage vacuum that seems as if it’s begging not to be overlooked among the sprawl of knickknacks that surround it. A black and white poster of a pig wearing a bow tie, scrawled with German writing, hangs on the wall next to a County of San Luis Obispo Park Ranger map from the ’50s, a sight that further disorients the senses.

Before opening Ontology, Taylor installed and repaired rain gutters for more than a decade. He confessed he had a great boss and enjoyed his job, but it required a level of physical labor that took a toll on him. After he punched the clock at the end of an exhausting workday, his obsession for hunting down vintage items he deemed “interesting” or “cool” would take over. He spent much of his free time picking, refurbishing, and restoring antiques to their original luster. His personal collection soon filled the confines of his home and made it nearly impossible to enter certain rooms. Taylor snapped out of his hoarding fog when he realized the stuff he loved to accumulate was becoming a monster—he needed a way to legitimize the amount of things he’d acquired.

He wanted to create a shop he could use as a vessel to display and sell his rare findings to the public. To fulfill customer requests and stockpile items for his shop, Taylor takes full advantage of a variety of resources.

“Yard sales, swap meets, flea markets, every once in a while people come into the store and they say, ‘Hey, I’ve got a storage unit full of stuff that I will never use, and I want you to go through it,’” he said.

Taylor also mobilizes his extended family and large pool of friends to find stuff for his shop: “They are all just constantly looking for stuff for us.”

He boasts that buying vintage items is a great way of going green and employing “the three R’s: reuse, reduce, recycle.”

“The first one is ‘reuse,’” he said. “If somebody comes in and buys a table from me, they are saving a tree.”

Ontology opens at 11 a.m. every day. Maybe seeing some of the cool stuff that ends up in the shop will inspire people to finally clean out that cluttered basement.

The store is located at 956 Monterey St. For more information, call 783-2616.

Fast facts

Atascadero’s Holiday Skate Camp will be held Dec. 27 to 29 for kids ages 8 to 16, and 5 to 7 if parents are present. The skateboard camp will be held at 5493 Traffic Way at the indoor A-Town Park with a focus on helping skaters develop their tricks and skills. The event will also include an optional skate competition. The fee is $50 per resident and $55 dollars per non-resident. Registration will be accepted at the A-Town park, Atascadero City Hall, or online at …

Pismo Bob’s True Value Hardware will be donating 15 percent of its profits every Monday to the LMUSD Music program. Bob’s five sons have all learned how to play their instruments through the school’s program and he is tired of seeing it struggle. Pismo Bob’s True Value Hardware is right off Highway 101 in Pismo Beach at 930 Price St.

Intern Jack Johnson compiled this week’s Strokes & Plugs. He can be reached through Managing Editor Ashley Schwellenbach at

Add a comment