Ken Fleming hasn’t collected a paycheck for more than 30 years, but the things he has collected have allowed him to make enough money to survive.
Fleming hopes the store he opened in Gardner on Tuesday will keep that tradition alive.
“This is what they call brick and mortar,” Fleming said of Ken’s Swap and Shop, a consignment store on Main Street.
A glance around the shop reveals a variety of items for sale. In the front window, shelving contains pottery, dishes and glassware. Neighboring shelves display everything from sports memorabilia to coins.
“Those are collector’s items,” Fleming explains, gesturing to a life-size head of Chewbacca and a large Jabba the Hut, both characters from the popular Star Wars films.
Beneath the front counter, coins and jewelry are displayed. Unlike most flea markets, Fleming says he owns everything in the store.
“This is all my stuff. I don’t have dealers in here. Basically, this is my wife’s collection,” he said gesturing to a display of rings.
It’s a family affair for Fleming. His mom owned a similar store in Paola for eight years. His son, Shelby Fleming of Edgerton, sits quietly behind a computer behind the counter selling books on Amazon.com. The brick and mortar store is a joint venture which includes an Internet store.
“We make money off the Internet just like we do in the store,” Shelby said.
The people who buy on the Internet are different than the walk-in customers, Fleming explained.
“You’re always going to have some foot traffic here and with the Internet store, well, maybe we’ll make enough to eat some suppers,” he said.
For several years, Fleming owned a series of similar stores in Olathe. Most recently, he owned KC Surplus Flea Market on Parker Street. His store hosted 25 to 30 vendors, but Fleming closed it down and focused on Internet sales only for a time.
“The rents in Olathe are too high,” he said. “When this place came available, it just worked out OK.”
Although he hopes to earn enough to buy his dinners, Fleming said, his store doesn’t operate solely on cash. He’s more than willing to trade and barter.
“We can work out an agreement if (customers) see something they like,” he said.
With less than two days in the store under his belt, Fleming said he’s had more than 35 customers so far. It helps, he added, that there are other retail stores nearby. Specifically, Fleming hopes traffic from his store might stop next door at the furniture store or head across the street to check out the antique store. And he hopes their customers will also stop by his store.
He and Shelby are still stocking the shelves, but Fleming said, local people have responded well to the store.
“We have positive feelings about this store,” he said. “So far everyone that’s come in has been pretty nice.”