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A trip back in time

Sunday, December 23, 2007 | 4:13 p.m. CST; updated 4:50 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Bonnie Bennett, left, checks out Judy Hicks's, right, purchase on November 16. Judy and her husband have stopped in Nostalgiaville about five times.

COLUMBIA — While most stores are breaking out their best deals and stocking their shelves for the holiday shopping season, it’s more like business as usual at Nostalgiaville, USA.

“A good bit of our business is done in the summertime, probably half of it,” owner Ron Dunwoody said. “There are times in the summertime when there’ll be 15, 20, maybe 25 cars here, and you’ll have difficulty getting from one end of the store to the other with the crowds in here. That’s not the case in January and February.”

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Nostalgiaville sits just off Interstate 70 at the Kingdom City exit and houses a diverse collection of items straight out of the 1950s and 1960s. The bright pink-and-green building is packed from floor to ceiling with reproductions of old tin signs, Betty Boop-themed items, classic car memorabilia, John Deere products and even ’50s candy such as “Squirrel Nut Zippers” and “Mary Janes.”

Dunwoody gets a lot of business from the store’s two Web sites — nostalgiavilleusa.com and nostalgicstuffusa.com — but most customers stop in while driving I-70 on road trips.

“We meet people that are traveling,” Dunwoody said. “They’re not in a rush to get to work. It’s not uncommon for someone to come in here and spend an hour, an hour and a half, looking around.”

Charita Jackson stops in whenever she drives west of St. Charles. Jackson has a Betty Boop tattoo on her shoulder and more collectibles than she can count. When she walks into Nostalgiaville, she plants herself in the Betty Boop aisle, the most popular section of the store, and stocks up.

“If I could live in here, I would,” Jackson said. “I don’t even know what else they have in here. I only come to this spot, and I camp out until it’s time to go. They drag me out.”

Dunwoody described his two busiest seasons in the store. One is the summertime, when it’s mostly families who stop in during vacations. The other comes in the fall, when older people hit the road and come across a place that brings them back to a time they remember.

“There is a second tourist season out there in the fall of the year that was not there 20 or 30 years ago,” Dunwoody said. “And it’s when people in my age range — people in their 50s, 60s, 70s — are traveling.”

Skip and Judy Hicks have stopped in about five times. They’re not big collectors. At this point, Skip Hicks said, their nostalgic collection is “each other.” The store’s signs along I-70 attracted the Hicks to stop by on a recent day when they had some extra time.

“We always saw it for years and years, and then I always wanted to stop and we never did,” Judy Hicks said. “Finally we did once we had some time.”

Dunwoody said that’s one of the perks of his business: the people who stop in do so because they want to, not like at a gas station where people complain about filling up.

“We never get a grouchy customer,” Dunwoody said.

Martha Doyle, a Nostalgiaville employee, said there’s some business over the holiday season, but the exciting time of the year comes just after — when they order all their new products to prepare for summer.

“That’s our big time, mostly the tourists,” Doyle said.

Doyle first came into the store when traveling along I-70. She only needed a phone book but ended up making a connection with the Dunwoodys and eventually getting a job.

“They talk about coincidences, but I think I was meant to pull into this parking lot that day,” Doyle said.

Nostalgiaville really does take its customers back in time. It’s no wonder the customers who walk in feel compelled to smile.

“Nostalgia is really fun,” Skip Hicks said. “It is. To think about the old times. You don’t want to get too carried away with that but it just feels good.”


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