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Hard-to-find is stock-in-trade for Betty Blue's

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Betty Blue's Junk Shop

Hard-to-find is stock-in-trade for Betty Blue's

'I don't understand wanting to have something everybody else has'

  • courtesy Betty Blue’s Junk Shop
  • courtesy Betty Blue’s Junk Shop
  • courtesy Betty Blue’s Junk Shop

Betty Blue's Junk Shop isn't the type of store you visit for cookie-cutter home décor.

The 3,000-square-foot business specializes in the unique and unusual, housing a range of hard-to-find items from the past and present.

Vintage velvet paintings, mirrored bar signs and brightly-colored, paint-by-number clown portraits from the 1970s line the walls, surrounding aisles filled with classic vinyl, Depression glassware, clothing, Pyrex dishes and truck stop belt buckles.

The store has its share of chairs, tables and desks, but nothing that you'd find if you were walking around IKEA.

"I don't understand wanting to have something everybody else has," said shop owner Kim Kysar.

"(It's all) the same generic furniture that you have to assemble when you get home."

Kysar opened Betty Blue's in October and runs it with her mother, Skeeter Gray.

The two started the shop after losing their jobs, Gray from an operating center position with Cox Communications and Kysar from her role as brand manager for an adult film production company.

The subsequent hunt for employment was slow-going.

"The market is tough out there right now." Kysar said. "Besides, I didn't really want to work for anyone else ever again."

A longtime collector of vintage kitsch, Kysar opted to make her love for "junk" work for her by ramping up visits to estate and garage sales, bidding on delinquent storage lockers at auctions and getting in touch with local pickers to build her inventory.

The end result was Betty Blue's, a brick-and-mortar establishment, located between a wood-and-metal stripping company and a fabrication shop, in a nondescript business district near the University of Arizona's main campus.

"Now I can buy stuff and not have to worry about making room for it at home," Kysar said. "I enjoy it for a while and then it goes. It's like collecting, but productive collecting."

Betty Blue's is a one-stop-shop for Kysar, who is perhaps known best for getting the Tucson Roller Derby off the ground. She sells items on the storeroom floor, but also lists products on eBay and Craigslist, giving her more avenues for profit.

When she isn't taking on consignments and buying estates, she is on the lookout for good deals.

Fridays find Kysar on what she calls, her "super secret route," scouring the city's sales for those perfect bargain items for her store.

"We are such a disposable society," she said. "I usually grab things that seem a little weird. I buy things at estate sales that nobody else notices."

Her inventory reflects a lot of her own favorite collectibles. She loves liquor and beer-themed memorabilia, including trays, signage and glassware.

Toys from her youth often have a special place in her heart.

"I tend to find things from my childhood, like everybody else does," said Kysar, 41. "We moved around a lot as a kid. I always had to thin out my stuff, get rid of my toys. I'm buying them back."

Betty Blue's is a bit off the beaten path, but Kysar said word-of-mouth has been spreading, especially among the collector and interior decorator communities.

"We have the same stuff as antique stores, but for half the price," she said. "Even regular thrift stores can be expensive these days. We try to keep things fair and reasonable."

Kysar said the amount of business in the first couple of months has been surprisingly good, thanks to her Craigslist postings, the store's Facebook page and clientele from Laverna's Coffee Shop next door, who often see the bright blue sign out front, complete with a cartoon image of a cowgirl riding a large, falling bomb, and come in out of pure curiosity.

Some of Kysar's big ticket items that have already come and gone include large mechanic garage cabinets, an old ob/gyn table and complete Commodore 64 and 128 sets, still in their original boxes.

She's even unloaded a 1977 Glastron Runabout Ski and Bass fishing boat on consignment.

"We already have regular customers," she said.

As the business grows, Kysar hopes to hire on a couple of full-time employees to run the store while she's out sourcing inventory, as well as someone to take over eBay listings.

"With the economy the way it is, people are looking to save money wherever they can," Kysar said. "If they can come to our store and get beautiful, brand new or vintage Christmas ornaments and lights for a fraction of what they sell new at department stores, they will."

Betty Blue's Junk Shop

Betty Blue’s Junk Shop, 262 S. Plumer Ave., is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. For more information, visit or call 624-7147.

Other vintage shop options

  • Eclectic Flea, 265 S. Park Ave. 404-4067
  • Social Science – Modern Vintage, 43 S. Sixth Ave. 777-6355

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