KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Collectibles from the 1982 World’s Fair are now up for grabs for a short time only in downtown.
Bliss & Tori Mason Shoes is hosting a pop-up shop for the memorabilia Chris Ford, the co-owner of Sweet P’s BBQ, has been collecting for years.
The shop is open now in celebration of the upcoming 40th anniversary of the 1982 World’s Fair, something both Ford and Scott Schimmel, the co-owner of Bliss, attended when they were kids.
“The memories I have of being in the arcade and going in the cool pavilions and everything about the World’s Fair,” Schimmel said. “You know, being on the World’s Fair site as a 10-year-old was such an exciting time.”
“For a 10-year-old, I’d rather be an 18-year-old probably, but it was an awesome experience, you know,” Ford said. “The arcade was next level. That was my favorite place. The Strohaus House. The concerts they had at night, you know, it was amazing.”
Both became collectors of fair memorabilia, but Schimmel said Ford takes the cake for how much he owns.
“I’d say a full storage unit easily. You know, I’ve got a couple, I have storage units, I have my basement. So my wife is very happy,” Ford said.
His wife is happy that after the pop-up events, their home and storage units won’t be filled with all these collectables anymore.
Ford said his obsession with the memorabilia first started when he and a friend wanted to sell shirts with the 1982 World’s Fair logo for the 25th anniversary.
“We started looking into it and nobody owned it, and we hired a lawyer, and it just kind of snowballed like, ‘We can just buy this thing,'” Ford said.
Then, years later he opened up Sweet P’s and decided that flame would be the perfect logo, and the 1982 World’s Fair would be the perfect theme for the restaurant.
Once Sweet P’s opened in its first location, he said people just started coming in with memorabilia.
“They would either trade for (barbecue), just give it to me or I would just buy boxes like, you know, ‘I’ll give you a hundred bucks for that box.’ And then when we moved downtown and did the whole thing fair, then it just, you know, quadrupled the amount of stuff,” Ford said.
Now, he’s ready to sell some of the items off, and for a good cause.
A portion of the proceeds goes to the Sunsphere Fund, which was created in 2019 to protect, preserve and maintain the historic structure.
For a Knoxville native, who also enjoyed going to the fair and collecting memorabilia, Schimmel was proud to host the pop-up.
“To be part of this really neat event and showcasing all of these awesome World’s Fair pieces was just exciting. And when Chris asked us to do that, we jumped at the chance,” Schimmel said.
They both have a few items they’re excited to sell off and keep the memories of the fair alive.
“The brown beer mug. That was actually one of the few pieces that I hadn’t seen. You know, I had seen some of the things he had, but I’d never seen that,” Schimmel said.
Ford has a lot of favorites that aren’t even available yet.
“Coffee table book, um, which you know in ’82, I don’t know what the coffee table book game was like. I don’t think it was like what it is today, right? So it’s a nice big book and all black-and-white photos,” Ford said.
Ford said most of the collectibles he owns have multiples, so he’s not too worried about losing a cherished item. However, there are some pieces people might not see make the shelves.
“Christmas balls. So, I’ve kept a lot of, I’ve got two trees I put up every year, and they had made some really nice Christmas balls,” Ford said.
He also has a snow globe from the 1982 World’s Fair a friend recently traded him for two barbecue burritos. That one might not make the shelf either.
But, Ford has dozens of items, although he might only have a few of each. That means whatever is at the pop-up now could be gone the next day and replaced with another item no one has seen yet.
“You need to constantly come by because there’s things that they don’t even have out, you know,” Ford said.
The pop-up will last as long as the items last.