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Archive for Monday, June 17, 1996

50S DRAW THE DOLLAR

June 17, 1996

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What used to be garage-sale merchandise now is in high demand and available at a new downtown store.

If you can track down your grandma's old green glass grape-bunch lamp from the 1950s, you might be in the money.

What about your old metal lunch box with the matching Thermos, a rotary telephone, a '50s silver rounded toaster or one of the numerous bright marble-orange ashtrays that've been hidden away for years?

What used to sell at a garage sales for a couple of bucks now is in high demand. A local couple have opened a new business downtown to market these vintage items.

The store at 924 1/2 Mass. houses two businesses rolled into one.

John Geery, owner of It's a Drag, heads up the vintage item sales, focusing on hard-to-find vintage guitars.

"I deal in everything weird. Stuff that is hard to find," the 24-year-old said. "The '50s chairs, tables and lamps seem to do real well."

About eight years ago, Geery traveled the United States seeking old guitars. Along the way, he accumulated a collection of vintage items from the 1950s and 1960s, including some clothing for men.

"This is stuff that hasn't been made in a long time," he said. "Many of the new music stores considered the old guitars worthless."

Old guitars that sold for $60 about five years ago can now sell for more than $600. Geery has found vintage guitars for musicians in national rock bands, including Nirvana and Sonic Youth.

Other vintage merchandise also has shot up in price. A like-new Dukes of Hazzard lunch box from the 1970s sells for $50.

Where does he find the old silver toaster that's in perfect condition or the funky mint-green '60s-style arm chairs?

"I can't give away my secrets," said Geery, who also sells his paintings in the store. "Let's just say I find the stuff in the Keebler Elves' workshop."

Walking into It's a Drag can be like stepping back in time, which is one of the attractions of the store, he said. Many of the items are recognizable and familiar pieces from home many years ago.

"You hear a lot of, 'I remember when I had one of those.' And 'I wish I'd never have gotten rid of it now.'"

The second business operating alongside It's a Drag is called Sh-boom. Jennifer McKnight, who has owned Arizona Trading Co., 734 Mass., since 1991, wanted to open a clothing store that features new clothing for women. Arizona Trading Co. buys and sells only used clothing.

"I wanted Arizona Trading Co. to remain focused on buy, sell, trade of used clothing," the 25-year-old business owner said.

"But along the way, I've found a lot of things that I really like that would do great in Lawrence and that nobody else sells."

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