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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Q&A with Rob Robinson from Fort Thomas Antiques & Design Center


Fort Thomas Antiques & Design Center, a new retail concept combining antique booths with a coffee shop twist, is set to open on November 1. I had an opportunity to catch up with Rob Robinson to learn more about this new venture. 

What's the concept behind Fort Thomas Antiques & Design Center?
Our concept is really to attract kids from ages 18 to 80, who have never stepped foot inside an antique mall. The concept has evolved to utilize the space that was once the Fischer Home Selection Center. We plan to attract those who have never considered shopping at an antique and design center.  
What makes Fort Thomas Antiques & Design Center different than other vintage shops? 
I like to tell people that I am opening a 17,500 sq. foot coffee shop surrounded by a really cool antique mall and design center. Highlander Coffee House will feature fair trade, organic coffee, roasted locally. Newberry Bros. Coffee in Newport and Lookout Joe in Mt. Lookout have the best coffee and have been wonderful to work with.

The store name includes reference to design. Will you be offering interior design or decorating services? 

We will not be offering services directly, but I hope local decorators and designers become an integral part of the fun. It would be wonderful to see them support our dealers as well as promote their own services.

 What spurred your love for antiques? 
I am not so sure that I would describe it as a love for antiques, rather as a passion for the people in this space. After spending 23 years working for a Silicon Valley technology company and having traveled all over the world, I am having a blast working the "pickers," dealers, collectors, customers, hoarders, designers and of course those with a passion for great coffee. Hence, my comment about attracting kids ages 18 to 80. 

What items are you currently collecting?  
Oh, I am not a collector. A buyer, yes, but not a collector. As I browsed the other antique malls in the area picking up ideas to use in our concept, I inevitably end up buying something. I have the most adorable granddaughter ever and I like looking for interesting, unique things for her!
Are there any vintage/antique items that are hot and we should keep an eye out for when shopping? 
Beyond traditional antiques, repurposed furniture, chalk paints and industrial retro items seem to be really hot at the moment.  
Brides and wedding planners are always looking for novel and interesting vintage concepts. Phase II of our plan is the Highlander Event Center.  
We have use of the Plaza parking lot for party tents and an option to use 6,000 feet of space next door (a space that used to belong to DEP’s). As we move into the New Year, we hope to offer space for weddings and events. We could host groups ranging in size from 20 to 400.
I see the farmers' market is moving to the parking lot of the Fort Thomas Antiques & Design Center. What prompted the change in location?
Debbie Buckley, Renaissance Manager for the City, has been such a blessing. The City of Fort Thomas is really lucky to have her. I love her energy and "can do" attitude. She is the principal reason we are where we are today. When I first reached out to her early this summer about my concept, she mentioned that the Fort Thomas Farmers’ Market used to be in the parking lot at the Plaza, so it was a natural fit.  
We have easy access and great parking. I hope the Antiques & Design Center/Highlander Coffee House and the Farmers’ Market become a gathering spot and focal point for the community.  Did I mention we hope to attract kids ages 18 to 80?

Tell us about your grand opening on November 1.  
We are planning a fun event! Local Jazz singer Chelsea Fries is scheduled to perform 1 to 4 pm. We will have free food, a wine tasting, and of course, some fantastic antiques and design concepts. We will open at 8 am that day as our baristas are anxious to play with our new Espresso machine! 
 Besides the grand opening, do you have any other special events planned? 
We are promoting "Free Coffee Friday" throughout October, providing free Highlander Grog and House Blend coffee from 8 to 11 am. 
We have over 140 feet of covered walkway outside. Next year, weather permitting, we will have our outdoor cafĂ© open.  
Also, we are planning classic car cruise-ins and charity events. 
Next fall, I hope to have Oktoberfest a few Saturdays in September and October.   
Lastly, rumor has it that Santa will be making an appearance each Saturday in December for free photos for kids, ages 18 to 80.

Interested in learning more about the Fort Thomas Antiques & Design Center? Visit their site here.

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