According to Kristen Morales with the Knoxville News Sentinel, Gatlinburg’s Museum of Salt and Pepper Shakers is currently for sale, but only to the right buyer.
The museum opened nearly 10 years ago, and today have more than 20,000 pairs of salt and pepper shakers on display throughout the premises.
“In the beginning of the ’80s we went to swap meets and flea markets – actually, we started with (pepper) grinding mills,” Rolf Ludden said. “After a while my wife started to fall in love with the shakers.”
Step into the museum and before you lies a world of travels, history and cartoon characters constructed for the purpose of dispensing condiments. Categories, such as the type of material used to make them, the type of animal or person they depict, or the place they represent separate the hundreds of thousands lining the shop.
On any given day, visitors can peruse the woodland creatures or barnyard animals or plastic household items from the 1950s. There are ceramic corn figures with grimacing faces. Angels, devils and miniature fried eggs. Chubby babies and chubby chefs. Donkeys – some pulling carts, some without.
International and domestic locales separate a section of shakers from around the world.
Domestically, Ludden said the states with the biggest treasure trove of shakers lie along the rust belt: Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan.
“In the 1900s there were big factories,” he said. “When the Depression came, the factories that made dishes didn’t have any orders, so they started to do smaller items like salt and pepper shakers.”
Shaker production moved to Japan following the 1930s – first occupied Japan, then Japan, then China.
“But the creativity is from here,” he noted. “That’s the interesting thing about it. My wife is an archaeologist and that’s where she decides – on the creativity. It’s so interesting to see all the different things.”
Today, the museum and the family’s artistic endeavors are a joint effort. Rolf and Andrea have two grown children who are artists in their own right and also have a love for the quirky salt and pepper shakers they’ve grown up around.
But for as much as they love the shakers, Rolf and Andrea have been working a long time, and they admit they would like to retire, at some point.
So, the Museum of Salt and Pepper Shakers is up for sale – to the right person.
In an innocuous note posted among the display cases, Andrea writes how the family would sell the museum to the right person, one who can take it “to the next stop.”
Rolf puts it more plainly.
“We are not in a hurry,” he said. “We want the museum to stay, (for someone) to keep it going. One day we want to retire.”
Rolf and Andrea’s daughter, also named Andrea, said the family wants to devote some time to their new museum, too. On May 21, a sister museum to the Gatlinburg attraction opened in Spain.
“We opened another one in Spain, and we don’t want to feel too spread,” said daughter Andrea, who makes jewelry with her father and travels around the country selling pieces at art shows. “That’s why I wouldn’t mind it if it’s someone who has a passion for salt and pepper shakers. We’ve already invested seven years of our lives to bring it to fruition. It has to continue; there’s no other option.”
Whether the museum stays in the family or is sold to another salt and pepper shaker lover, Andrea said she’ll always carry her parents’ love of the items. While she doesn’t have a favorite – there are just too many, she says – she does favor the retro-themed plastic ones, like the miniature fried eggs.
“We’re a very close-knit family,” she said, and she notes that she and her brother always appreciated the salt and pepper shakers.
“I don’t think we were given an option.”