May 13, 2011

Mini-view with Todd Werny, owner of Space Oddity….

Q: What got you interested in vintage furniture?

A: “I have always been transfixed by the past.  At a very young age old objects and artifacts intrigued me. There is something about holding an old thing your hand.  Or to sit in a chair that has survived for many years. It takes my mind’s imagination to that time. Who made it? Why did they choose to design it the way they did. Who owned it? What were they like back then? I guess vintage stuff has always been a tool I have used to express sentimentality toward the past. I grew up being infatuated with the 1950’s. Switchblades, hot rods, James Dean, surfer girls, ( the more stereotypical  mid century icons ).  I have always loved to wander through flea markets, garage sales, estate sales, and dusty old thrift stores. Looking for treasures and glimpses of a simpler time. I lived in suburban Delaware in the 70’s and was not happy with my surroundings. To put it in a nutshell…That unhappiness led me to punk rock and skateboarding which in turn led me to the fashion and style throwbacks of the 1950’s that permeated the punk rock/new wave scene of the 70’s and 80’s.”

Q: How did your interest become a business?

A: “Fresh out of college, I moved to Seattle in the late 80’s to start a rock band and to make a living being creative somehow. I just wanted to be my own boss by day and play in a rock and roll band by night.  I started a one man, post-modernist jewelry company selling earrings mostly at the pike place market and artsy stores throughout Seattle. My stuff sold well. I lived in a run down warehouse space on Capitol Hill for over a decade where I hoarded vintage furniture clothes and other curiosities.  My rock band "Diamond fist Werny " rose to the upper levels of the Northwest music scene where it stayed for about a decade . It was a fast paced slacker's existence but I still had time to indulge in my vintage interests. I lived right down the street from the world’s most prominent vintage Americana clothing exporter to Japan and Europe... ‘Heller’s Café’.  Rich kids in Japan were buying vintage Levis jeans, vintage Nike, and a hundreds other cool American clothing items for top dollar and I lived next door to the #1 guy in the business. I couldn't resist the lucrative Levis fever that was sweeping the USA at the time.  I was already well versed in the field and Larry at Heller’s taught me the rest. Before I knew it I was quitting the jewelry business and driving off into the country between rock shows to find sweet vintage Levis and who knows what.  It was pure vintage heaven. I was now a ‘Picker’.  Hop in an old truck with my girlfriend at the time and drive from small town to small town till the truck was totally full with vintage Americana and then drive back and sell it to the dealers who in turn sold it to Japanese dealers. I did this for years. I got to see the underside of America and I loved it.  But then the Japanese stock market crashed and so did the jeans market.  Coincidentally, a good friend and member of my motorcycle club, the Cretins MC, had just opened a vintage furniture store on Capitol Hill called ‘F’. Turns out he didn't have the time or the patience to find the furniture. I did. So I immediately changed my gears to vintage furniture and stocked his store for him for about a year till his lease ran out. Mid century modern was heating up and I knew were to find it. I started selling to all the stores around town ‘Mint’, ‘Area 51’, ‘Chartreuse’, ‘Standard home’, ‘Mission to Modern’, ‘Occupied Seattle’, and a slew of others. Seattle's economy was rocking and the "dot coms" were buying up modern furniture to furnish their lavish headquarters with giant budgets. Overnight, 30-something millionaires needed cool furnishings fast and the vintage high end market was thriving. We all know what happened next.  The dot coms went bust along with the stock options of thousands of Seattle hipsters. Eventually most of the stores closed or stopped carrying vintage. I was stuck with a warehouse full of sweet vintage furniture with nowhere to sell it. Then I got the notice that they were demolishing my warehouse to build condos. I had a month till the wrecking balls would hit. That is when I opened my first store that used to be on Elliott Ave. on lower Queen Anne.  I was pretty much broke and my company truck was a 1983 Honda civic hatchback.  But I found a crappy location with cheap rent, lots of water problems and the best part was they didn't check my credit! Unfortunately at this point the music took a back seat in my life. ”

Q: When did you move to Ballard?

A: “I moved to Ballard in 2006. The new location was formerly a champagne cave so it had lots of rustic charm and still does. I love it here in Ballard.  Ballard Avenue has preserved its historic integrity quite well and I fit in easily. Plus, Curtis Steiner’s shop Souvenir has moved in upstairs from me in my building recently and I am really happy about that.”

Q: What do you think the future holds for you?

A: “Overall, I plan to keep doing what I am doing. I have been remodeling my back room to expand my showroom in the last month. I would like to start making some of my own furniture to sell if I can find the time. More importantly I am trying to get back to the music and finish a solo recording project, which has been in the works for way too long. I would like to say thanks to all my customers who have kept me afloat over the years.”


Detroit said...


Anonymous said...

super classy to interview yourself.....

Julianna said...

He didn't interview himself. It's an extended interview from Seattle Magazine.

Ethan Smith said...

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