The quirky personalities of two musicians and their vintage findings created friendships and lifelong business contacts around the world. However, after the owners of the Bon Ton passed away, the business was in jeopardy.
The legacy of the Bon Ton started in a three-story brown, stone building in Forreston in 1983. The eccentric couple, John and Barbra Kauffman, kept the vintage business alive for more than 35 years. The shop has experienced a few transitions in the meantime.
After John passed away four years ago, the remote 6,000-square-foot building became too much to manage for Barbra who was in her 80s. Barbra had to make the decision to liquidate most of what she and her husband had acquired. The items that were left were then placed on the third floor of Old Town Village, which is an antique co-op located in downtown Waxahachie.
When Barbra passed away in the fall of 2016, her daughter, Kathy KinKaid, inherited the same business that she worked for during her college years. The life of Bon Ton was soon to run short as KinKaid had plans to move to Colorado.
“When I told people I was moving to Colorado, people started to panic and ask, ‘well what’s going to happen to Bon Ton?’” KinKaid recalled.
KinKaid had already established a deep relationship with local downtown merchant Virginia Sevier, who she confided in. The business began to dissolve as other entrepreneurs slowly purchased items that belonged to Barbra. When Sevier had her pick she reconciled the situation and thought, “you can’t just close it down.”
Sevier noted her interest in the store and bought it out by Dec. 1.
“I told Kathy that we will make John and Barbra proud and keep it in the vain that they had it and continue their legacy in a way that they would be happy with,” Sevier said.
Sevier then flashed back to 2001 when she first learned of the shop while she and her husband, Coy Sevier, operated Scarborough Renaissance Festival. The couple caught wind of the unique shop through the creative individuals that worked and volunteered at the festival grounds.
“I think we stayed five hours that first time visiting. So we made a point to go out there once or twice a month on a Sunday afternoon,” Sevier said.
Even though there was so much to enjoy in the shop, it was the company of the Kauffmans that enticed the Seviers to hang out.
John was considered the doorman and greeted customers from all around the world. Virginia remembered the vintage musical equipment and accessories that are hard to come by scattered around the base of the building.
KinKaid said her parents were always there for the shoppers. “It has always been a real charm and magnetic place for artists and those seeking off the beaten path” she noted.
Barbra ran the second floor that was filled with vintage clothing, and she made an effort to mingle with all of her guests.
“She was creative; she would create a story and name all of her mannequins,” Sevier remembered. “Anyone who met her never would forget her.”
Sevier shared that Bon Ton supplied costumes for several period films that were filmed locally such as “Places in the Heart,” and “Tender Mercies” — both Oscar-winning productions. Over the years, the Bon Ton earned a positive reputation with persons from Japan and New Zealand, just to name a few, who make annual trips to check out the fashionable vintage attire. Sevier noted the Bon Ton contact is in the Rolodex of people in Hollywood as well.
“Over the years it’s become an international thing,” Sevier said. “They really developed a friendship with everyone. People would come and just sit and listen to their stories; my husband and me too. That’s how we got to know them.”
Sevier plans to stay true to the original feel of the shop that Barbra set up in 2015. Sevier has an extensive background in the resale world having operated Second-Hand Treasures from 2012 until February of this year; her family currently owns Unity Thrift. Sevier also values her first-hand experience estate sale shopping with Barbra.
A total of seven vendor booths of vintage clothing for men, women and children comprise the third floor of Old Town Village. A customer can find vintage attire from the turn of the century to the 90s; from evening wear to lingerie and even wedding gowns.
As merchandise is purchased, Sevier plans to maintain the shop solely as a vintage retail store.
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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450