Tiki VIP #24 Jason T. Smith (Thrift Hunters and Thrifty Business)


Jason T. Smith

Jason T. Smith was ten years old when he made a realization that would change his life forever. For forty bucks, he could buy five times as many toys used instead of buying them new. And what young Jason wanted was MORE toys instead of new toys! Fast forward to now and Jason T. Smith has made a living by thrifting. Read on to find out how…

What is the Tiki scene like in Las Vegas?

Jason– It’s small. There’s handful of us into Tiki who live here. We only have one good Tiki bar, Frankie’s Tiki Room, and most of us hang out there on Tuesday or Wednesday evening. However, a bar just opened that although not Tiki, is close. It’s called Starboard Tack and they started with 200+ rums and are making kick ass cocktails. The Gunpowder Swizzle is my current favorite.

Jason T. Smith

What brought you into the “Tiki lifestyle” and how long has it been part of your life?

Jason- Originally, all my life since I was three in 1974, but I lost it for many, many years. Cut to April of 2000 and I had just gotten laid off from my job in Cleveland, Ohio. My kick ass wife didn’t bust my balls to get a job, so I collected unemployment for six months and just as it was running out, she got a job offer in Long Beach, California. So off we went, landing in SoCal in the fall of 2000, moving into the Belmont Shore area of LB. By early spring, we had fully changed from Cleveland people to Southern California people. I was looking around at our furniture and decor and told my wife it was time to switch. I said we should switch to Tiki/Hawaiian/beachy/pirate. The resurgence of Tiki had just happened and we dove right in. Read everything I could get my hands on and starting buying anything I could find. Then, as time went on, I learned what was good and what wasn’t. I started thinning the heard of the not-so-good stuff and focused on collecting only quality items. So it has been sixteen years since that change and our first mug purchase. We currently live in a 3800-square foot home and the house is full of an amazing Tiki collection. Or, as my friends call it, the “Tiki Museum.”

Jason T. Smith at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort 1974 3 years old!
Jason T. Smith at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort 1974 3 years old!

How did you get into thrifting?

Jason- My mom and grandma took to me flea markets when I was six years old. I didn’t really care about antiques when I was six, but I was fascinated with the buying and selling. One time, I wandered away from my mom and she found me quizzing a vendor, asking him why was he selling all his stuff. Then, in the spring of 1981, I was ten years old and my mom took me to a community sale in a neighboring town. I had saved up forty dollars and had a little wagon I was pulling around. That was the day that I realized I could buy five times as many used toys as I could new toys. I’d rather have more toys than brand new toys. So I have thrifted all my life, but it has been my sole career since 2007.

Jason T. Smith at the Kodak Hula Show in Waikiki (1975) 4 years old
Jason T. Smith at the Kodak Hula Show in Waikiki (1975) 4 years old

From your love of thrifting, you had a show on Spike TV called Thrift Hunters! Can you talk about that?

Jason- In 2013 , I was approached by a production company that wanted to make a TV show about thrifting based around me and a guy I knew.  We filmed some test footage and then one year later, we were off and running and Season One of Thrift Hunters was airing on Spike TV in the U.S., Travel & Escape in Canada, and a variety of networks around the world in over forty countries. We lasted two seasons before Spike screwed it all up. I wished it would’ve lasted longer, but that’s how TV goes. I am so glad I made the show. Making TV isn’t fun nor glamorous. The network didn’t do anything they said they would do and my partner ended up being a problem, BUT the finished product was a lot of fun and it touched and helped a lot of people and I made some great friends because of the show. But you never know, you just might see me back on TV soon. Stay tuned….

After Thrift Hunters, you started a YouTube show called Thrifty Business with Jay and Nay. How did that come about?

Jason- Soon after Thrift Hunters ended, I was in Philadelphia speaking at an e-commerce event. After the event, and on the way to the airport, I had my friend Nadene, who lives in Philly, take me to a thrift store near the airport. We spent about an hour thrifting the entire store and then I got on a plane and flew back to Vegas. During the flight, I was mulling over ideas in my head about what to do next. I kept thinking about doing a YouTube show about thrifting, but structure it like a late night talk show. I figured Nadene would be the perfect cohost. She was much cuter and smelled way better than my partner on Thrift Hunters and she was a mom and a girly-girl. She could talk about aspects of the thrift store that I couldn’t. I sketched out a plan for an hour show and as soon as I got off the plane, I called Nay with my idea. Nadene is the opposite of me. I crave the spotlight and a stage and she is shy and hides from the spotlight. It took me awhile to convince her, but she finally said yes and we gave it a whirl.  We just celebrated two years of doing that show and a second weekly show Thrifty Business Thrift Hauls.  We do segments like “Scores Of The Week,” “Duds Of The Week,” “Shipping Tips,” “EBay Tips,” and more. Then we have a guest come in at the half hour mark and we interview them for thirty minutes. I also worked a Tiki mug/rum segment into the show. Each week I try and drink a different rum from a different Tiki mug and somehow match it up to our guest.

Jason T. Smith

 What is your favorite Tiki drink?

Jason- That’s like asking who’s your favorite kid. Of course you have one, but you never say that out loud. I’d probably say Ray’s Mistake (Tiki Ti), Grandfather’s Barrel (Mai Kai), Navy Grog & Three Dots and a Dash at various Tiki bars around the country. Now, at my home bar, I normally make the Surf Room Mai Tai and Ciro’s Special

Jason T. Smith and his tiki mug collection
Jason T. Smith and his tiki mug collection

What is your favorite Tiki bar? Why? 

Jason– I make it into LA about six to eight times per year and you can always find me on the corner seat at the Tiki Ti. I LOVE the bar, I love the Buehns, and I like the patrons, most of whom I know. I feel at home there.

Tiki Ti Los Angeles
Tiki Ti Los Angeles

On the other hand, I live in Vegas and I LOVE Frankie’s Tiki Room. It never closes, I can gamble there, and Mike and Allison make kick ass cocktails.

Frankie's Tiki Room Las Vegas
Frankie’s Tiki Room Las Vegas

Can you give us any thrifting tips when it comes to Tiki stuff?

Jason- My biggest tip to give anyone who is thrifting for Tiki stuff: ALWAY check the vase section. Most thrift stores think Tiki mugs are vases. Then, head over to the ladies pajama section, because most thrift stores think muu muus are nightgowns.

Jason T. Smith

What does the future hold for you? Any new projects coming up? 

Jason– Every single day I buy and sell Tiki mugs. I love collecting, I love flipping, and I love the hunt. You can always find me selling Tiki stuff online in various Tiki FB groups, on my EBay ID TikiPugMusic, and once or twice a year at the original International Tiki Marketplace. I also travel twice month across the country teaching thrifting classes and speaking at events like EBay Open and ASD. I will be a small tour this fall (2017) around the country teaching classes. You can find all that info on my website. I also have some fun projects in the works, but nothing I can talk about right now.

Jason T. Smith

Anything else you would like to add?

Jason- I love the Tiki community and love everything about the Tiki lifestyle from the mugs to the bars to the clothing to the music to the rum. When I travel the country teaching thrifting, you also be able to find me in the nearest Tiki bar to the class I just taught. In fact, I tend to plan my classes and speaking engagements based around where good Tiki bars are, or Tiki bars I have never been to. I wonder if there enough people for a class in Montana so I can finally see the Sip & Dip.

Jason T. Smith

Here is Jason T. Smith’s website

And YouTube page.

Check out Jason’s Facebook Group: The Thrifting Board