By SCOTT AUST, FCEDC Director of Communications
Editor’s Note: This story is part of a series called the 25 Days of Downtown Christmas that highlights the fantastic selection of retailers in downtown Garden City.
Sitting among a horde of collectibles of all types and variety, Tony Harris guessed he has more than 500 different kinds of things in his store, the Antique & Comic Shoppe, 119 Grant Avenue in downtown Garden City.
“Some I have a few of, and some I have thousands of. My fortes are marbles and arrowheads, Indian artifacts and that type of thing,” he said. “I know a little about a lot, and a lot about a little. That old phrase, you know.”
Next month the business will celebrate 25 years in operation. For the first two years in business, the shop was located on Main Street. Harris has been in the Grant Avenue spot for 23 years.
“It’s off of Main, but the kids found me. They were like little hound dogs when it came to comics and cards. They’d find me,” he said.
Comics, Cards, Collectibles
Harris opened the store at the coaxing of his son and his son’s cousin. It was originally a comic book, sports cards and collectibles shop.
“The cards died. The comics died. The antiques and collectibles hung in there and got me through a couple crises and we stayed with it. Now, the artwork is taking over,” Harris said, gesturing at the variety of his artwork that graces the walls and counters of the store.
“I’ve been a professional artist since I was 9. That’s when I sold my first piece. I’ve been selling artwork ever since, and recently doing a lot of painting. These paintings are actually keeping the doors open,” he said.
Harris estimated he has 300 to 400 pieces of his artwork for sale, everything from paintings to sculpture.
“I have things that I’ve done that are in museums. I have artwork all over the world, drawings and paintings, too, because I have the luxury of customers who come in here from all over the world,” he said. “I prefer to do miniature acrylics. I think there’s like 49 or 50 that have sold in the last calendar year so I may have found a niche.”
Harris said the comic book and sports cards side of the business did well until around 1999 when a new Marvel Comics CEO took over and started spreading comic book stories over as many as nine comic titles per week rather than just one. While parents might be willing to pay for one title per week for their son and daughter, buying nine different crossover titles just wasn’t affordable, according to Harris.
“That’s the essence of what destroyed it,” he said.
Harris has about 300 comics in storage that he gives out for free when kids come in, along with some that he sells on consignment on behalf of others. Overall, Harris said he has about 50 people who he sells a variety of things for on consignment in the store.
Harris seems to have caught the collecting bug from his dad, an electrician for the city of Lakin who originally started work for the city on its trash collection route. While on the trash route, Harris’s dad would pick up any number of things that people had, for whatever reason, thrown out.
“I got a matchbook cover collection that way, a stamp collection that way. Matchbook cars. I had 52 collections before I left for college,” Harris said.
Many of the items from the original 52 collections were used to start his collectibles shop. After 25 years, he’s not surprised by seemingly unusual requests for particular items.
“I had a rather effeminate guy from California come in one time looking for toenail clippers. I had a big box full of them and sold them for almost nothing,” he said. “There’s a collector for everything, you know. No matter what I have in here, somebody somewhere wants it. I just hope they trip through the door.”
But art seems to be Harris’ passion now. He is in the midst of a painting a colorful mural on the north side of his building, a project he expects to complete by the time he “retires” next June. Harris called it a retirement even though he plans to keep working in his art studio and will still have the collectibles available for sale.
All in all, Harris still loves what he does for a living.
“I’ve been so fortunate. And there’s nobody to tell me what to do except the wife, and she’s pretty good at it,” Harris said with a laugh.
The shop’s hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.