MIDDLETOWN - Part museum, part toy emporium, Wild Bill's Nostalgia is more than just a store. "It is a way of life, for me, at least," laughs owner Bill Ziegler, as he gestures to posters, records, bobble heads, even a Barbie camper. "When I grew up, everybody - all the kids - collected coins, stamps, political campaign buttons. I collected all my life. Then it gets to a point, 'You've got a lot of stuff, kid.'"
So, now, his "stuff" is housed in a former nightclub, once a mob hang-out. Wild Bill's is top-ranked on Roadside America, a "guide to uniquely odd tourist attractions". Small trinkets sit next to big ticket items, like an authentic prop bike from "Pee Wee's Big Adventure", on sale for $12,000. "Whether it's 8,000 pairs of suspenders or 700 Hawaiian shirts, if it's a good deal, I'll buy it," says Ziegler, who doesn't care if visitors shop or just browse.
"There is a lot of random stuff here, really interesting things. A lot of 80s stuff," says Eduardo Gait of Haddam.
The King of Kitsch is expanding his business with the reconstruction of an on-site funhouse - which features a "Laugh In The Dark" ride - that he bought from an amusement park in Staten Island that closed. He is trying to raise $100,000 to open it by the summertime. "It's old time rock and roll," he says, "You don't see funhouses in everyone's backyard!"
Ziegler, a true character with "Duck Dynasty" style, aims to help folks return to their childhood, to reminisce with a smile. "When people come in, and they've traveled four or five hours, they come in and say, 'It was worth it,' and that makes me feel good," he says. "I’m pretty sure we’re one of a kind!"
"Wild Bill's" is located at 1003 Newfield Street in Middletown. The Nostalgia Center is open 7 days a week from 10am to 6pm. Check out the web site for more information.