107 Main Becomes Part of What Makes The Place Tick
John Putnam didn’t plan on becoming a watch collector. He hadn’t originally planned on opening Cool Vintage Watches, and most certainly didn’t expect to expand his business within a few years. But, he did.
After spending more than 20 years marketing vintage watches and watch accessories online, Putnam became burnt out on strictly online sales. He missed the day-to-day interaction with people. He didn’t give up his online business but did make the decision to expand his offering of collectibles and create a place people would visit and want to come back. In the fall of 2012, he opened the brick and mortar version of Cool Vintage Watches surrounding his collection of timepieces with an array of memorable antiques, collectibles, and cool stuff, in general.
Less than four years later, a store known primarily for its watches evolved into a wall-to-wall shrine of classic vinyl, antique typewriters, ageless radios, stereos, and cameras. Long forgotten toys, collectible writing implements, nostalgic signage, and even a motorcycle crowd the floor space, all under the watchful eyes of a pair of stuffed pheasants and mounted deer heads. As much eclectic as it is electric, the merchandise quickly outgrew its space.
So, instead of answering the door when opportunity knocked, Putnam knocked out a wall and built a passageway. That’s just how he rolls. In May, Cool Vintage Watches’ companion store opened. Aptly named, 107 Main, the extension of the space continues the theme of uniquity.
Nearly 200 vintage watches remain showcased in the vicinity of assorted watch straps and leather bands in the original man cave of a store. The timeworn brown leather sofa and odd lot of chairs, creased by memories and frequented by visitors, greet newcomers as they enter Cool Vintage Watches.
“I’ve always had a flair for antiques and collectibles,” offers Putnam. “I figure if I like something, most likely someone else will like it, too. Much of this,” he gestures toward the collectibles in his original shop, “came from people walking in and seeing items that remind them of memorabilia they’ve been holding onto and are ready to part with. It’s always interesting and of course, everything has a story.”
As for his expansive collection of hard-to-find watches, Putnam finds enviable additions all over the world.
“Watch collectors are more common than you might think,” explains Putnam. “One reason men like collecting watches is they’re unique and even historical. Imagine owning the 60’s Omega Speedmaster that traveled to the moon or the Heuer Monaco worn by Steve McQueen in the ‘70s movie, Le Mans! Another consideration is watch collecting doesn’t take up much space compared to cars and motorcycles. They can also be an investment. If you buy the right watch at the right price, in a few years it could be worth more. Plus, you have the enjoyment of wearing the watch.”
“My general expertise is with pieces from 1910 to 1980, but I collect a little bit of everything,” says Putnam. “ My current display ranges from watches made in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s to Cool Dive Watches from the 60’s and 70’s, and a mix of newer Rolex and Omega watches. But, It’s the vintage watches that really stand out,” Putnam muses, pointing to several epic watches. “They have a mystique all their own.”
“Wear one of these and you can walk through a crowd of a hundred people and not see another watch like the one you’re wearing. They’re addictive; you buy one and you know there’s another better or harder to find timepiece out there. All of a sudden, you become a collector.”
Putnam, through his web presence at CoolVintageWatches.com, has developed an international following. The fact there are only a handful of stores similar to his makes his shop even more attractive. The ultimate validation of Putnam’s success in marketing vintage timepieces came when Hodinkee, the world’s leading online wristwatch magazine, featured Cool Vintage Watches on its site.
Interest in vintage watch collecting continues to grow at an aggressive pace. While watches were once just a functional item, that’s not the case anymore, explains Putnam “The reason people wear them now is for style and personality, to make a statement.
Since being in this business, I’ve sold watches all over the world. David Letterman’s assistant called me one day. He was looking for a watch for Paul Shaffer. I sold Andre Agassi’s sister a watch for John Mayer. Professional athletes shop here. I’ve even sold to several movie houses when they’ve needed watches for movies.”
And, then, of course, there was the surprise visit from President Obama when he was in Parkville a couple of years ago. Obama saw the ‘vintage watches’ sign and couldn’t resist. He popped in, checked out the watch collection, and tried on a 1950’s Rolex Bubble Back he favored, but, “no”, he didn’t buy it.
The addition of the 107 Main store to the north of Cool Vintage Watches allows Putnam to further diversify his collection of merchandise and better showcase his wealth of treasures.
The centerpiece of the new space is a 1940’s hand carved wooden bar that had been lingering in the family’s basement. It sets the mood for the cheeky scotch and whiskey glasses displayed nearby. New and vintage barware, heavy duty Siberian coolers, poker related items, travel backpacks and satchels, wallets, and other leather items set the mood, creating an ambiance attractive to men and women of all ages. 107 Main will also offer menswear by custom clothier, J. Hilburn. With an ever-growing collection of vintage everything, Putnam wanted to feature some newer high-end items he could simply reorder.
“This expansion gives me room to expand my vinyl and audio collection where it can really make a statement. And, of course, I’ll find a way to add more watches over here,” smiles Putnam. “Eventually, I want to have bourbon tastings and other events in this space, too. I want others to enjoy the place as much as I do.”