Janet Phillips knows that times flies and the past can be treasured.
>> PHOTOS: Inside Feathers in the Oregon District
The Oregon District resident started selling treasures from days long gone at her business’ original site in April of 1978 ... or so.
“If I knew back then this stuff would be important, I would have written (the dates) down,” the owner of Feathers Vintage Clothing, an Oregon District mainstay, said with a smile.
It is among the neighborhood’s longest running businesses.
Born in Long Island, Phillips has lived in the Dayton area since she was 3 years old when her dad took a sales job here.
She never intended to be a business owner herself.
Phillips was 21 or 22 and had recently been fired from her waitress job at Grammer’s restaurant at 101 Pine St. (now the site of Wiley’s Comedy Joint) for being a “smart ass” when a friend made her an offer. The friend was hoping to have an antique mall and asked Phillips and her husband at the time Bill Phillips space in what is now the Ned Peppers Bar’s space, 419 E Fifth St.
They stayed in the space rent free in exchange for keeping the buildings open.
The friend’s antique mall idea fell through and Feathers moved to the currently vacant building right next door to Ned Peppers when that space became a bar that preceded Ned Peppers.
Feathers moved across the street to its current location, 440 E. Fifth St., in 1981 or 1982.
“Every day I am amazed. I love what I do. I get to go shopping. It’s my job, and I take it seriously,” the Meadowdale High School graduate said. “I’ve met some fabulous people.”
When she started, customers were in love with clothing and other items from the 1950s.
“Back then, you could find car loads of it,” said Phillips, a self-described hippy now and then.
The mother of two — her daughter Amy and son Aaron grew up in the shop — said she always loved vintage clothes.
“I thought I was Joan Crawford back in high school,” she explained, adding that she gravitated toward 1940s clothing and wore long skirts while everyone else was showing legs.
“I always went left when people went right,” Phillips said.
Aaron Phillips, a Dayton comedian, works with his mother in the shop and handles Feathers’ album side.
The definition of vintage has changed during Feathers’ four decades in business, Janet Phillips explained before selling a -T-shirt featuring Bart, Marge, Maggie, Lisa and Homer Simpson to a fresh-faced teen with super curly hair.
“To these young kids, stuff from the ‘90s is vintage,” Phillips said.
Neon nylon windbreakers from the 1990s fly off the racks for instance.
The store still has plenty of the older stuff, too.
“I really buy what I like and hope other people like it as well,” Phillips said. “Sometimes I buy something and say, ‘what in in the hell did I buy that for’.”
Phillips says she finds the best stuff at private estate sales, but hits up flea markets and sellers bring items in that they think her customers will like.
As for those customers, they are as diverse as vintage buttons, albums, dishware, posters, jewelry, clothing and knick-knacks...
“There are all kinds of people: young, old, straight, not so straight,” Phillips said of her customers. “They want something different than what everyone else has.”
Phillips says she loves her customers and the Oregon District.
“I’ve seen a lot of changes — most of them are good. I like the restaurants and the other shops are great, too. Can’t say that I go to the porno shop often, but they are nice, too,” she said. “Our neighborhood has everything.”
After 40 or so years, Phillips says she still likes what she does.
“I just can’t believe I’ve lasted this long,” she said. “I have to pinch myself.”