Meet the Shopkeeper: Space Oddity Furniture
Happy Hour at a vintage furniture shop? Yeah. Todd Werny offers a two-hour window every evening from 4 to 6 when all the space-age lamps and kitschy cool naugahyde side chairs inside Space Oddity Furniture, his Ballard home store, are 15 percent off.
Another unique bonus of Werny’s Ballard vintage furniture store is its happy hour: Werny shared with us the ins and outs of his shop.
What song or album is playing on your store’s sound system right now?
My store has a mix of 1950s, 60s, 70s, and 80s furniture spanning from mid-century modern to primitive, rustic industrial, and interesting oddities of all generations. My customers are from all walks of life, so I try to play music that I know will appeal to these creative folks and also help me keep my sanity as I make a living selling artistic stuff to artistic people. Japandroids is playing right now.
What was your first job in retail? What did you love or hate about it and how does it compare to what you do now?
My first retail job was at Mitchells Family Department Store in Wilmington, Delaware. It was a small department store in a 50s strip mall in the suburbs of Wilmington. This was in the early 80s, but Mitchells was clinging to the past, trying to work a business model more suited to the 1960s. The interior was still 50s, and they had 50s music playing all the time. Their customers were mostly other people clinging to the simpler times of years gone by. You could still buy classic but outdated fashions and living accessories of all kinds at Mitchells. I worked a few nights a week when I was in high school. I liked the conflict occurring between the past and the present and was happy to be fighting for the past. Even in high school, I romanticized about the past. I used to sneak into the basement and look through the boxes of unsold items. I remember finding a box of 1970s clacker balls. They were recalled due to the fact that they exploded occasionally—blinding the kid playing with them. They were cool enough to let me buy the box. I still have a few hoarded. To this day I am still searching through forgotten basements looking for cool stuff.
What’s your favorite thing in the store right now?
Things move through my little store pretty quick, but today my favorite item is the Chandelier sconce from the remodeling of the Seattle Opera House for the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962. It is atypical of what I usually focus on, but I have been getting into more a decadent-meets-rustic-industrial design lately. I like the juxtaposition of pure function mixed with luxury that rusts and decays together as time strips them of their original value.
Where do you shop when you’re not at your store?
I spend most of my time at estate sales, thrift stores, auctions, garage sales, salvage sales, and anywhere else I can find something cool to sell in my store. And for my own personal use, I can pretty much find everything I need—except underwear, food and a new pair of Vans—at these places.
What do you love about your store’s neighborhood?
I love the old town Ballard area, because it is has preserved its vintage and historic buildings. The backdrop of antique architecture has inspired the influx of merchants who value the rustic charm of a vintage downtown main street feel. I am in a building that was one of Seattle's first sporting goods stores.
What nearby restaurants, coffee shops, etc do you recommend?
That is a hard one to answer, because there are so many. I am excited about The Kickin Boot Whiskey Kitchen opening up across the street from me. They will have an outdoor deck with a view of the water, and the interior is rustic industrial—which you know I like. Other than that, you can find my favorite appetizers at The Sexton, my favorite bloody mary at Hattie's Hat, and my favorite dinner at La Isla. For an old school breakfast, try Salmon Bay Café. My favorite night on the town is Backfire Motorcycle Night on the third Wednesday of the month.
What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened in your store?
It was late at night as I was closing up the store. I walked past a vintage female mannequin and she reached out and grabbed my shirt. It spooked me real good.