Troy Schwartz has one requirement for hanging on to vestiges of the past, be it an army of He-Man action figures, a bunch of Strawberry Shortcake dolls or a stack of old concert T-shirts: They should make you happy.
"If you actively collect, and you're displaying it or getting some kind of pleasure out of it, that's great," Schwartz says. "What people don't think about is, if stuff is sitting in your attic for the next 50 years, it's not doing anyone any good."
Star Pop Vintage and Modern, the small Collinwood neighborhood shop, is packed full of old toys — many still in their original boxes — as well as vintage T-shirts, books, movies, art and other pop culture trinkets. The place gives off the feel of the world's best geek garage sale.
"I think about it largely as sustainability and recycling as opposed to most other collectible stores in the city," Schwartz says. "Everything comes in here secondhand. I'm not picking up a catalog and saying, 'China, can you send me a case of this?' "
Schwartz, 30, graduated from Miami University with a marketing and entrepreneurship degree in 2001, but he's been buying and selling toys and memorabilia since his teens. People often asked why he didn't have a store. Ultimately, a friend suggested he consider a spot on Waterloo Road.
The shop is cozy, but Schwartz makes the most of his space, displaying many pieces in bins where shoppers can browse hands-on. It's as much about shelf space as it is customer experience. "Sometimes, I have to say, 'I'd rather have 100 of these in a bin than 10 of these on a shelf,' " Schwartz explains.
Being neighbors with the Beachland Ballroom hasn't hurt either, especially on the nights when hundreds of people show up for concerts. Blue Arrow Records & Boutique, Native Cleveland, Arts Collinwood, Music Saves and four nearby sausage shops also bring visitors to Waterloo.
"It's an interesting little neighborhood," Schwartz says. "But we're still the underdog, and we're still trying to get people to know we're here."
More Info: starpopcleveland.com
Some of the coolest finds at Star Pop Vintage and Modern are ones that come with a heavy dose of Cleveland nostalgia. Here are three of our favorites.
Rock And Roll Hall of Fame And Museum Mouse Pad, $3
Surf the Web like it's 1996 but without the dial-up modem. This mouse pad recalls the '90s pride of the Rock Hall's opening.
WJW-TV8 PM Magazine Button, $3
Who cares if the show hasn't been on the air in years? This button lets you proclaim your love for Fox 8's evening news magazine of the '70s and '80s. With a screaming orange and magenta color scheme, no one will miss that you're "a PM Magazine person."
Vintage Cleveland Cavaliers Coffee Mug, $8
May Co. once sold these mugs, which sport the Cavs' '80s-era logo and an equally dated gold ring around the brim. It's even the same price as it was at May Co. The original sales sticker is still on the bottom.