In March, when a small space, really no bigger than a dining room, opened up on North Phelps street in downtown Youngstown, local activist Phil Kidd saw an opportunity to sell pieces of the city’s past.
It took him nearly four months, but on July 7, his boutique-style consignment shop, Youngstown Nation, opened.
“It’s a value add to have something like this in our community,” Kidd said. “People love this stuff, and these things are all over out there. I wanted to put them all in a one-stop venue.”
Those things are many, from old photos and books, to postcards and city maps dating back to the turn of the 20th century and before.
The catch comes with the way Kidd has established his business. It’s incorporated as a nonprofit, and nearly all the proceeds from the store go back to causes throughout the community.
“It’s just me right now, that’s how I am doing this,” Kidd said in explaining his low overhead and rent for the space, which costs him $200 per month.
To acquire the items to sell at Youngstown Nation, Kidd put a call out on social media for donations. He also scoured eBay for rare merchandise.
Just one of the organizations with items on consignment in the shop is the Youngstown Steel Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the history of steel in the Mahoning, Shenango and Ohio River valleys. Proceeds from the T-shirts and old books highlighting the history of steel in the valleys will go to the foundation.
The display windows at the shop are lined with early 20th century Bessemer bricks, forged at a factory in Bessemer, Pa. At one point, the bricks were used as street pavers on Youngstown’s South Side.
Kidd also has historical postcards depicting the Tod Hotel at Central Square from 1911. Board-of-education directories also are on hand, listing all the teachers working in the city during 1912.
City maps are for sale from 1870, and a small replica of Stambaugh Stadium at Youngstown State University sits on the shelf behind the register. Most of the items being sold at the store are under $30.
In all, Kidd said Youngstown Nation has seen a “steady” stream of customers since it opened. Going forward, he said he would like to establish a grant program with funds from the store going to help artists and others create unique products to be sold in the shop.
Kidd also is considering an internship program for business students attending YSU who want to learn the ins and outs of running a small business.
“Things have really been picking up downtown lately, and I thought this was just the right time to do this,” he said.
Hopefully, Kidd added, if the store does well enough, he can expand on his idea and move into a bigger space in order to better accommodate all the memorabilia the city has to offer.