The Kindle is convenient, the Wii is great exercise, and robotic hamsters top everybody's wish list this Christmas. But sometimes a person longs to escape this high-tech age for a simpler era, a time of princess phones and hula hoops, starburst clocks and poodle skirts — when Silly Putty was young and so were the kids in Family Circus. If you are this person, then Street Scene on Regency Road is right up your alley.
Be in the now or then: Step inside Street Scene, and you might need to pause to check your resolve: an open door on the right leads into Coffee Times, with its aroma of gourmet brews and ambiance that's totally 21st century. Don't be tempted by the Jamaican Blue Mountain Blend, but head straight for the turquoise refrigerator. It's filled with Orange Crush.
A savings bond: Street Scene is the love child of owners and friends Terri Wood and Kathryne Wiseman. The two met more than 20 years ago at a local salon when Wood was in for an appointment and Wiseman was cutting hair. It didn't take long for them to bond over an affinity for vintage style and an inability to part with old stuff. "We were pack rats," says Wood. "We began to talk about things we had, Grandma's suitcase, old scarves ..."
Outlet shopping: The friends started out by hosting giant yard sales on Glendover Road that "were more like a store" than an attic clean-out. They didn't just sell old stuff; they also painted and reupholstered to create original pieces. Over time, they looked for better ways to turn their obsession into a business opportunity.
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"We weren't sure what we were going to do, but we just started shopping," Wiseman said. They found "there were so many great things out there, but we didn't need more," so they rented space at Feather Your Nest, an antiques store on Leestown Road, as a test-drive. It handled well.
"We were exploding. Then this space opened up," says Wood, who also owns Coffee Times next door. "We officially opened here on July 16, 2007, and have expanded twice."
Crushed velvet if you please: Wood and Wiseman both grew up in homes where the décor was "ordinary," says one, "Early American," says the other. Taking flight from their conservatively furnished nests, they were drawn to modern American 1950s, '60s and '70s design. Now, their tastes complement each other: "I like the gold crushed velvet," says Wiseman, who confesses she sometimes likes things "a little on the tacky side." Wood loves "turquoise, and anything flocked," and vintage lingerie, she says, pulling a lavender negligee off the rack to illustrate.
A like-new leopard-skin pillbox hat: Street Scene carries vintage furniture, knick-knacks, clothing and accessories. There are TV lamps, pillbox hats, fistfuls of costume jewelry and the perfect Greyhound overnight case to carry it all. There are old linens and new linens with retro patterns, for those who want the style without the stains. There are things that would have been made in the '50s if the '50s had developed an ironic appreciation for itself — like pink poodle Christmas-tree ornaments.
Elvis is in the building: The '60s and '70s are well-represented, too, with peace signs, swag lamps and Elvis art. There are enough Berries "Sillisculpt" figurines to start a collection. Owls sprouted like mushrooms on '70s-era accessories, and they're perched throughout the store: glossy owls, furry owls, psychedelic owls, felt-owl ornaments, gold owl statues and embroidered owl pillows. "We keep finding them and buying them," says Wiseman. An owl is on their business cards and their signs outside.
A fuzzy chair massage: Early on, the owners wondered: "How are we going to keep the merchandise flowing?" But between estate sales, new retro stock and consignments, they haven't had a problem keeping the inventory fresh. "You'd be amazed at things people bring in that we'll consign," says Wood. Like what? "Well, that fuzzy black lounge chair that heats and vibrates."
A shoe-in: Street Scene also carries new items that fit the owners' mind-set: Tom's Shoes is a company that donates a pair of new shoes to a needy child for every pair that's sold. And there's lots of locally made art, both hangable and wearable. Don't be tempted to throw away that crumpled McDonald's coffee cup on the shelf; it's one in a series of hyper-realistic pieces by Lexington art teacher Robert Love and costs about the same as 20 Big Macs.
The big 8-0: Wood and Wiseman take an obvious pleasure in their business: "What we do does not feel like work most of the time," says Wiseman. "It's ever-changing, that's for sure," says Wood. Their young female employees love it, too. And ever so gradually, with a stretchy belt here, a fringed jacket there, those young women are introducing a new element to Wood and Wiseman's vintage inventory — the 1980s. Totally radical.