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Nostalgia Shop reflects changes in trends, growth in friendship

Thursday, January 5, 2012 | 4:18 p.m. CST; updated 7:14 a.m. CST, Friday, January 6, 2012
George Liggett holds out a cigar to Jeremy the 25-year-old Amazonian Yellow Nape at the Nostalgia Shop on Dec. 12, 2011. "Jeremy used to snatch cigars out of my hand and throw them on the ground," Liggett said. Liggett currently owns Nostalgia Shop but was business partners with Tim Flynn for decades.

Nostalgia Shop has specialized in several products over the years and has had a dynamic history in Columbia since it opened in 1977.  In October as part of the Missourian's Facebook album "CoMo in Retrospect," which highlights photos from our archives as they relate to current events, we found a photo of George Liggett and Tim Flynn in 1981, when the Nostalgia Shop sold costumes. We followed up with them to share what they are up to now.

Then ...

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In 1981, when Ronald Reagan became president and stamps cost 18 cents, Halloween was slowly becoming more popular among adults. George Liggett and Tim Flynn, then co-owners of Nostalgia Shop, an antique, costume, cigar and spirits store that opened in January 1977 in downtown Columbia, were part of making that possible.

“There were themed parties, college parties and a lot of political satire,” Liggett said. Many people came in for Nixon, Reagan or Carter parody outfits, while others came in for movie-themed costumes such as "Star Wars" and Tor Johnson, Liggett said.

Liggett gathered ideas for costumes from other stores during the off season, and on the side, he operated a singing telegram business — messengers sent, before e-cards were around, to deliver presents and live music for special occasions. His wife, Mariel Liggett, took time off from her job at Williams Keepers each October to help out at the store.

After more than 20 years, Liggett and Flynn sold the costume shop to Aaro Froese, who renamed the store Gotcha! Costumes, still in operation today.

"We had outgrown the (costume) business," Flynn said. "Aaro took it to the next level like 'Star Trek: The Next Generation.'"

How they met

Liggett and Flynn were both MU graduate students when they met. Both were dabbling with antiques, similar to the now-popular TV show "American Pickers," Flynn said.

They traveled together across the country for 12 years searching for antiques and hosting shows in many major U.S. cities. Eventually the Smithsonian funded their lifestyle, and the pair bought antiques on behalf of the museum. 

How they got to cigars, wines and costumes

Liggett said he often brought cigars and wine to antique shows, particularly Arturo Fuente cigars and Buena Vista Cabernet Sauvignon, the rare wine from California that President Richard Nixon brought with him to China in 1972 — the trip that built the foundations for diplomatic relations between the two countries.  

At a show hosted by the Smithsonian, a U.S. representative from Ohio approached Liggett and asked how he came across the rare wine. Soon, Liggett was collecting wish lists from representatives and picking up California wine when he picked up antiques there. Hence, the foundations of Nostalgia Shop were built.

The business partners went on selling cigars well before the cigar boom of the mid-'90s. 

"For reasons no one knows, (cigars) became hip," Flynn said. "We were in the right place at the right time."

Now ...

You can find Liggett sporting a stylish cane and smoking a Diamond Crown cigar wandering around the Nostalgia Shop with his 167-pound German shepherd, Ashton, greeting and helping customers find the right cigar to sit back and relax with.

Flynn is retired and newly married, but he still visits Liggett to "make sure (his) partner is alive and kicking." Flynn and his wife casually travel around Missouri shopping for antiques at auctions to put on display at Artichoke Annie's Antique Mall in Millersburg.

Nostalgia Shop, which moved next to Grand Cru Steak and Seafood restaurant on South Providence Road in 2008, represents 40 years of friendship, passion and hard work for Liggett and Flynn.

"Time slips away — the memories don't," Flynn said.


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