Intriguing is the word I’d use for this store front in Burbank. So many times I’ve driven by and wondered about the contents of the shop and what it was all about. Any store called “The Vanishing Indian” is going to make you want to know more.
This guy is usually stationed out front. (Sitting up a bit taller)
Shop owners Richard and Connie.
Native American Fetish Stone Carvings, carved by Connie and Richard’s son.
A couple of days ago my husband and I drove by, saw that the store was open! Sometimes it can be hit or miss with store hours. We made a quick U-turn, knowing we had to seize this opportunity to check it out.
Such a cool and unexpected find. What I find here in in LA (especially in Burbank) that things don’t change much over the years and the shops and restaurants aren’t “trendy” in the way I’m used to in Minneapolis, but in their solid and unchanging way they do in fact become trendy.
The best part of this shop is the people. This dusty gem in Burbank is a shop with deep layers of stories and life experience. The owners Connie and Richard Smith have poured themselves into the fabric of Burbank for the last 22 years. It all started because Connie wanted to encourage her son’s desire to learn to be a silver smith. The couple bought this existing store (along with it’s name) filled with contents and some consignment items. Each piece in the shop tells a story, from the handmade copper and turquoise jewelry Richard crafts to the stone Native American fetishes their son hand carves.
On the day my husband and I were there, the couple graciously told us stories about the items in the store and about their own history. Richard is an avid golfer. Notice the picture of the wall with all of his hole in one certificates. When he’s not golfing he’s helping Connie. The store is Connie’s and her way to share her rich heritage with Burbank, her life long home.
The couple has traveled the country, building relationships and learning the history behind the treasures they sell. Connie told me she was able to teach her children history by going to the source and experiencing it. One of the traditions Teri and I experienced when we visited was “saging”. A man came in while we were there (I guess he comes in regularly) to have Richard “Sage” him. He feels it gets rid of negative energy. Teri said, hey can you do that for me too? Richard could also tell Teri has Native American blood. She left the store with a super unique hand made necklace and two bunches of dried sage for her new home. My treasures are a new handmade turquoise ring (very reasonably priced) and a copper bracelet. Love this place for one of a kind gifts.
The Vanishing Indian is one of those quirky Burbank places that I have driven by a million times and never stopped to check it out. It’s on a busy street and there is usually a life sized mannequin sitting in a plastic chair at the store entrance, so it did always catch my eye. I just never managed a stop in, check it out moment.
Luckily I have Kelli who will actually do a ‘stop in, check out’! When she relayed her charmed experience with owners Connie and Richard, I was really eager to finally discover this unique shop.
Although, to say it is unique hardly covers it. It is that and so much more.
As Kelli described, it is a dusty gem. We met outside the shop as the couple were having lunch in the plastic chairs that is usually reserved for their mascot. They were both warm and engaging, welcoming us into their home away from home. Richard apologized for the lack of inventory, the dust, etc. I didn’t see what he saw. I saw treasures and layers of beautiful artifacts, art, jewelry and crafts.
Richard showed us inside and we got to talking about our mutual Native American heritage. He is from the Potawatomi tribe. I told him I was Muscogee Creek Indian. He said he could tell by my cheekbones. *swoon* You gotta love a man who notices your cheekbones! He also guessed right that my arms were hairless and my hair color was a not quite the light brown/blonde that my lovely hairdresser Rachel transforms it into. (Shhh! it’s almost black!). He was right on every count!
At one point Richard brought out an 18th century map of the US documenting every single Indian tribe in existence in the country at that time. The map was covered, but sadly many of the tribes have died off. The Vanishing Indian is more than just a name. It is a sad truth. The good news is that there are people like Connie and Richard who continue to keep the heritage alive. I felt an immediate connection and appreciation for them both.
The admiration continued as Kelli and I witnessed a man walk in and get the sage purification treatment. The man, dressed in dreadlocks and overalls…“he’s a comedian”, Richard explain without any hint of judgement, smiled blissfully as Richard lit the sage and waved it gently over and around his body.
I absolutely had to try it! Richard waved the lit sage above my head and arms. It’s hard to explain how it felt afterward. I’m not a mysticism type of person, but I actually felt a sense of peace and relaxation…a sort of calm came over me when all was done. I purchased two sages for my new home. I’m looking forward to a purification ceremony that has a connection with my ancestors. It was very meaningful to me.
Richard hand crafts most of the jewelry in the store. I walked out wearing a very cool copper and turquoise necklace. It’s beautiful and I feel it’s very special.
The overall experience at the Vanishing Indian was one a highly recommend. Come visit Connie and Richard. Pull up a plastic chair, talk story, get purified. You’ll be happy you did.