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Happy memories, nostalgia on sale at Gold Rush

Tom WeberMay 14, 2019

Anyone entering Tim Lockard’s booth during the weekend at the Gold Rush antique show could be excused for thinking they had taken a step into the set of “Happy Days.”

From the soda fountain menu board (10 cents for french fries, 20 cents for a piece of pie), to the malted milk shaker to the oldies music to the poodle-skirted mannequin seated at a table, the 1950s and 1960s were alive and well in Lockard’s booth.

“This is kind of the era I fit into,” said Lockard, 65, of Russell, Iowa. “We’re selling memories. My heyday is the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s.”

Lockard does up to 40 antique shows a year, and every single one of them has some variation of his soda fountain display.

“I might do a doctor’s office, but with a soda fountain in the back,” he said. “I do something different every week.”

Lockard was one of hundreds of antique dealers who set up shop Friday through Sunday at the Olmsted County Fairgrounds for Gold Rush, which is usually held on Mother’s Day weekend, and could be considered a true sign of spring.

For Lockard and other dealers, Rochester is an annual stop on the circuit of antique shows. Dealers from as far away as New York come back year after year.

“The quality is really good here, the people are friendly, and there are some deep pockets,” said Michael Grendys, of suburban Chicago, who comes to Rochester for both the May and August Gold Rush events.

Like Lockard, Grendys is selling memories — happy memories of sports teams and Disney shows, childhood toys, and with some political buttons as well.

“You get into this when you go down in your grandfather’s basement and find a collection of political buttons,” he said. “You get hooked. You start out as a collector and then you become a dealer.”

Dealing in antiques is now his job 365 days a year.

“People think I’m crazy,” he said. “But I say, ‘Do what you love.’”

Between major antique shows and fairs, Grendys looks for more items to buy, and then sell. “Estate sales and private collections are best,” he said.

Disney items — everything from lunch boxes to figures — continue to be popular, Grendys said.

“A lot of folks will say, ‘Oh, I had that when I was a kid,’” he said.

And it’s not just baby boomers who are buying. “The trend is anything from the ’80s,” Grendys said.

That trend hasn’t yet hit at Lockhard’s soda fountain, where New Frontier nostalgia is on the menu.

It’s a throwback to a simpler time: An original signboard from a diner warned that while sitting in a booth patrons must have “both feet on the floor at all times.”

All of the items were for sale. “You can take something home and tell your grandkids about when you hung out at the malt shop,” Lockard said.

“People come around the corner and they just light up when they see this,” he said. “We get a big charge out of doing this.”

The next Olmsted County Gold Rush will be Aug. 16-18 at the fairgrounds.

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