Friday, 3 May 2013

Amber Smith of Shakin Katz Radio & Jackpot Vintage London Fuse Article

Earlier this year, Amber Smith found herself looking at a tantalizing offer to bring Jackpot Vintage back into a commercial space, and couldn’t resist. Partnering with Uber Cool Stuff and Candy Dice Jewelry, the entrepreneurs opened a joint space in February at 122 Dundas St. Smith feels incredibly lucky to have been given the opportunity,“We opened up February 16th. It was kind of a real rush to get in here,” Smith explains. “Myself and another gentleman were approached, and we just knew the mix would be good. Chris [of Uber Cool Stuff] and I were originally from the Met, and we knew that both of our stuff crossed over, in the people, but also in that retro vibe. So that’s what we’re trying to do in here, and then we invited Candy Dice Jewelry to come on board with us.”
The mix is certainly eclectic! A combination of retro men’s sportswear, 1970s plaid shirts, and the most intriguing trinkets and retro accessories grabs your attention as you enter on Dundas St. Towards the middle of the store, Candy Dice’s earthy, unique jewelry pieces pull you in for closer examination, as each charm and feather reminds you of something or someone each piece would be perfect for. Lastly, Uber Cool Stuff delights with quirky, pop cultural and fun accessories, toys and games. A perfect place for the collector, aficionado, or to find something unique that no one else has. Smith talks about her own collecting, and how Jackpot Vintage came to fruition.
“I’ve been collecting for years. When I first started collecting vintage, it wasn’t for the nostalgic factor, it was more about the fact that I needed to save money in college,” she laughs. “I found some really great vintage shops in Peterborough, which is where I went to university. As time went on, I learned and started to respect some of these pieces, because they were timeless. I have a couple of pieces that are still in my wardrobe from a long time ago, and I just kinda started to embrace and collect over the years.”

Smith has always been self employed, but while her nostalgic wardrobe imbueds her with a passion, practicality inspired her to make her collection and her sharp eye for vintage pieces available to others. “I decided I would start to sell online, and from being online I wound up at the Met, and when it closed I didn’t know what I wanted to do exactly so I took some time off, then opportunities kind of fell in my lap very quickly, and now I’m here,” she smiles.
When asked what her favourite vintage piece in her collection is, Smith’s face lights up. “My straw dress,” she elaborates, “It’s a crocheted straw dress from Mexico - a halter, full skirt, petticoat underneath - absolutely unbelievable.” Smith also notes how important it is for pieces such as these to be appreciated for their nostalgic and historic values. “It’s pretty spectacular. I’m going to bring it down, just so people can see. I have a couple of pieces like that, really obscure and very very rare. People should see those kinds of things.”
Niche collections are particularly fascinating and Smith notes her collection has its unique aspects, while her partner’s has different focuses. “People do bits and pieces of it. Such as vintage men’s sportswear - my partner just loves it - he’s always got things he’s collecting. He has quite a nostalgic collection of the early days of drag racing, so we want to bring that out, and others as special features, not for sale, just so people can see that stuff.” Their collection enhances the cultural landscape of London, but their involvement does not stop there.

The dedication of Smith and her partner to enhancing the cultural scene in London is sincere, having run Shakin’ Katz radio for six years. “Absolutely love that. My partner John and I, a lot of people call him Johnny Boy - that’s what I call him on air – we just really love Rockabilly music.” The show airs on CHRW 94.9 every Wednesday 3:30-6 pm. “It was kind of a very fluke thing once again. We had the London Rockabilly/Psychobilly Crew, we promoted and brought rockabilly, surf and psychobilly bands into London for quite a few years, and took a little bit of a break from that. Shakin Katz has been unreal, it’s just opened up the doors to so much music out there.”
Rockabilly and Psychobilly are a genre of music characterized by fast rhythm inspired by country/western influences and blues, with Psychobilly as the faster, more punk rock version. “A lot of people don’t know there’s huge pockets of Rockabilly and Psychobilly scenes in Columbia, in Northern Europe, in Australia. And our fan base is more than just London, and that’s what’s  really really cool about it. We just cannot believe the overwhelming response we’re getting to doing this.”
Even though London, ON isn’t considered a world city, for a local radio show to be able to reach thousands of excited listeners every week across the world is phenomenal. Amber’s top Psychobilly picks? “A Canadian band called The Gutter Demons, and right behind them is The Brains - my two favourite Canadian ones.” Picking Rockabilly favourites is a little more tough for the radio host. “I have so many of them, I am trying to think. Surf bands, right now is Aloha Screwdriver - ask everybody to check them out!” she beams. “ I’m kinda more into the Psychobilly. I was a metalhead when I was a kid, and my partner was a punker and so it kinda slams it all together.”
When asked whether she would consider the unification of two of her passions, as “living the dream,” Smith laughs. “I think I’m living the dream right now. I’ve been self employed all my life, and I’ve had a lot of really successful businesses. I’ve been very fortunate. This is fun - really really fun. I enjoy collecting, I love the thrill of the hunt. I think the two balance each other out. Doing the radio show plus buying the vintage, and they just kind of merged together.”
Visit Amber at Jackpot Vintage on 122 Dundas St for your new favourite vintage piece or tune into CHRW every Wednesday for Shakin' Katz Radio!  

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