Vintage Phoenix Q&A: Brandi Kvetko
Brandi Kvetko gives us the scoop on how she got into the vintage game and much more.
Bo's Funky Stuff. Shaboom's. Elbo Antiques. Go-Kat-Go. Honey Buns. If you've shopped at any of these landmark vintage shops -- all of them now truly things of the past -- you've shopped with the Kvetkos, the Valley's first family of vintage retail. What started as a mom-and-pop antiques store 35 years ago became a dynasty of sorts -- a chain of different vintage shops that's currently represented by Jackalope Trading Post, recently opened by Brandi Kvetko, who reminisces about growing up in auction houses and antique shops all over the valley.
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Robrt Pela: So how does this happen -- a family dynasty of vintage retail?
Brandi Kvetko: My dad pretty much started it all. He started collecting Coca-Cola memorabilia right around the time I was born. He always wanted a store instead of a real job. So, about 35 years ago, he opened Elbo Antiques -- El for Ellie, my mom, and Bo is my dad's name. They had partners who got out of the business really quickly -- you know, selling vintage isn't for everyone. And then when my parents split up, my dad opened Bo's Funky Stuff, and my mom opened Honey Buns, where she sold vintage clothing.
RP: I remember Honey Buns. You know, no one ever called it anything but Miss Ellie's.
BK: I know. It was like that with all the vintage clothing stores. Everyone just called them by the name of the person who owned them.
RP: Like Beulah's.
BK: Beulah's! I'd forgotten about that place. She was so nice. What was the name of her store?
RP: No one remembers. We just called it "Beulah's." So, then your aunt got into the business?
BK: Well, Aunt Jacque was always there, working with my parents, but in the '80s, she opened Shaboom's over in Glendale, and then my dad moved his store to Glendale, too. And my brother Shad was always dabbling in antiques and collectibles. He had a store, too. He was the one who had this real talent for retail -- he was into it from the time we were kids.
RP: You weren't? BK: No way. I was going to nursing school! I wanted nothing to do with retail. Then I met my ex-husband, Chris, and we went to Vegas for our honeymoon and we visited all these great little vintage shops while we were there, and I said to him, "Why don't we open up a store!" So when we got back we opened Go-Kat-Go.
RP: What happened to nursing school?
BK: Vintage retail is in your blood. You can't shake it.
RP: Did your family force you guys to work in their stores when you were kids?
BK: I think we wanted to be there. We grew up in those stores. I worked my way through high school in my dad's shop. One day I mentioned to my dad that I was planning to go to college and he said, "What are you, stupid?"
RP: Were your parents obsessive collectors?
BK: My dad used to say he collected money. But, yeah, they've always both collected stuff. Right now, my mom is into old signage and vintage medical things. And my dad has always been into old beer signs and advertising pieces. Shad is into folk art now and really old hospital stuff. He probably has the weirdest collection. I'm doing Halloween items from the '20s and '30s and older cat collectibles.
RP: Did your possessions get sold out from under you when you were a child? Did you come home from school to find your entire bedroom set gone?
BK: No, my parents weren't ever like that. But I do remember this one time, when I was real little and really in love with toy nurse and doctor kits, and my dad brought one home -- a really old one with all the contents in it. I was so excited, because I thought he brought it home for me, but he cleaned it up and stuck a price sticker on it. Today, he claims this never happened.
RP: Did you get to play with all the stuff in your parents' stores?
BK: Not at all. In fact, the only times we got into trouble was if we broke something. Once, I broke one of my dad's Howdy Doody plates. My mother said, "Your punishment is you have to tell your father you broke his plate when he gets home."
RP: Still, it sounds like a fun childhood, to have parents who sold hip vintage things.
BK: Well, I was like any other kid. We had cool, modern furniture and antiques, and I wanted to be like every other kid I knew. You know: "Mom, why can't we have normal furniture?"
Our parents didn't push us into this life, but our life was centered around going to auctions and swap meets. It wasn't horrible. Every summer, we vacationed wherever the collectible convention was that year. Back then, we just wanted to go to Disneyland, but now I look back and think, Hey, I got to see a lot of cool places that I wouldn't have gone to, otherwise. And I got to experience that whole buyer-seller culture while it still existed.
RP: The secondhand market has changed.
BK: Yes, and it's affected our family, business-wise. My dad's store in Glendale isn't open. He does auctions sometimes. Shad has booths in two different stores in Texas, and he sells on eBay. My mother is completely out of the business -- she does permanent makeup now. My aunt has gone into estate sales. My cousin Penny does some selling on eBay, but mostly she does life coaching.
RP: You were the one who didn't want any part of running a vintage shop, and you're the last Kvetko standing. You've got a new store in a new location.
BK: Jackalope Trading Post is doing really well. We picked the right time to move onto Grand Avenue -- with ASU moving downtown, we're seeing a lot of activity down here. We took a big chance, changing our name and location and our hours -- but it's worked out. We're on the upswing. My partner Christian and I are doing what my family's always done: Selling cool old stuff that everyone can afford.
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