Anyone who meets Brian Smith, a ‘Tinner’ in Central Maintenance for Kansas City Assembly Plant, who recently celebrated his 25-year service anniversary with Ford Motor Company, quickly discovers that he has a special fondness for ‘yester-year’. Whether you call it ‘retro’ or ‘vintage’, there are many classic things that are cherished ‘blasts from the past’ to Brian.
During his recent 25-year service anniversary presentation, attendees learned about his special side-hobby in that Smith operates a space in an antique store in the West Bottoms sector of Kansas City. Highly known as an antiques hot spot, the area is home to “First Fridays”, a once-a-month event where antique and art vendors welcome the public into their shops and studios. It was shared that Smith is generally off work every ‘First Friday’ of the month so that he can host his booth, affectionately named, ‘Porcelain Monkey’, which is located within the store, ‘Good Juju’.
He happily concedes that he has a flair for vintage music, décor, retro furniture and mid-century stereo equipment such as record players, tape decks and 8-track players. His hobby went beyond his own collection when one day he decided he wanted to share it with others. “Back in the day, there was a venue called ‘Cowtown Ballroom’ in KC,” said Smith. “Around ten years ago, the former property was converted into a flea market. That is where I first decided to open a space. After that, I noticed people really liked my stuff and someone suggested that I open a spot in the West Bottoms for First Fridays,” he said.
Being that the West Bottoms is a highly popular shopping zone, Smith did not easily find retail vacancy among the stores right away. However, he was offered a ‘plan-B’ option. “They allowed me to first host a spot on the sidewalk to sell my retro plastic holiday blow-molds,” he said. “Although it was freezing outside, I was busy selling jack o’ lanterns, plastic Santas and snowmen and that is how I got my foot in the door,” he chuckled.
The mid-century era is Smith’s favorite genre. From the velveteen furniture, to the vinyl records and furry rugs, all the items trigger memories and flashbacks. “It’s like the stuff you remember from growing up, riding in the back of the Ford Country Squire station wagon going on vacation,” he says. “My mom would tell me to sleep in the back of the car so we could leave early while waiting for my dad to finish his shift at Ford’s Kansas City Assembly Plant.”
A memorable time in history, the 1960s hold a special place in Brian’s heart. “Our vacation house was full of this stuff, so I hold dear many coming-of-age-memories with these items,” he said. “I think that is what makes these things neat is that they evoke that same sense of wonder in the people who see it. They’ll say ‘oh grandma had one of these, or grandpa always used one of those’ – and I think that is what makes it relatable and that much more special to people.”
Smith says he enjoys the hunt for collectables, but mostly the connections he makes with people along the way. “I enjoy talking with people,” he said. “And it’s not like they’re buying a part for their dishwasher, they’re coming to capture memories and reminisce. Some folks have told me I’m the first booth they come to, and that always makes me feel good. I’ll keep bringing back the classics and vintage vibes as long as I can to keep the memories alive.”