There aren't any dusty, faded collectibles here. It's all about not-so-quiet nostalgia at What the Rock?!, where every item packed between the four red, black, white and blue walls screams with cheeky irreverence and '70s memories.
Ramones T-shirts, tattoo-inspired bedsheets and everything vinyl vie for your eye in the 300-square-foot space. Taking in each corner of the store is bound to bring some chuckles.
Screen-printed T-shirts, pint glasses and shot glasses featuring bands like The Pretenders and The Beatles are staples at the Short North shop. Matching, miniaturized versions in the form of onesies, bibs and tiny tees are just as popular, said married owners Mike Renner and Heather Ziegler, who have staffed the store every hour since it opened in October 2006.
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"We figured that the market in Columbus didn't really exist for the fun baby clothes, rock 'n' roll baby clothes," Ziegler said.
"So we found our niche in that, and from that we grew," Renner added. "I mean, the gift kind of stuff, we've grown that in our last year."
The baby department rounds out with a CD of rock songs recorded as lullabies and books like Baby, Mix Me a Drink. (Sample line: "Nanny wants a champagne cocktail.")
The couple keeps the offerings fresh and often takes cues from customers. A display case by the register has shelves loaded with shiny flasks that were added recently thanks to shoppers' requests, alongside metal belt buckles shaped like skulls or guns and hundreds of buttons Renner and Ziegler make by hand.
There's also an impressive assortment of Columbus-made merchandise, like AmyD's coffee cup sleeves, and guitar pick necklaces and earrings Ziegler makes herself.
Of course, there's the just plain silly — like the zombie brain mold, catapults that shoot miniature nun figurines and a Gangsta Rap coloring book that takes the kids' line to another level.
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It's kitschy, off-the-wall stuff you can't find anywhere else in Columbus, Ziegler said.
One of the store's much-loved quirks, a chalkboard that sits outside every day, tempting passersby to answer a pop-culture trivia question, fell victim to last week's storm. Renner is working on getting it back out as soon as possible.
Those who stop in and answer the question correctly can have their pick from a jumble of freebie bouncy balls, stickers and buttons in a shoebox behind the counter.
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