Dishing About Our Past - OrlandoVoyager Interviews The Vintage Dish
Published on OrlandoVoyager: Meet Kristin Stewart Aungst of The Vintage Dish - Timely Tableware
Today we’d like to introduce you to Kristin Stewart Aungst.
Hi Kristin, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today? I grew up on a sprawling north-central Nebraska cattle ranch that was in my family for over 125 years. My grandmother’s parents immigrated from Germany and settled the land before the turn of the 20th century. It was a unique childhood that instilled a strong work ethic and tenacity – along with extreme problem solving and critical thinking skills. Town was 23 miles away, with not much in between – no stoplights, few people, and rarely another car until you reached the highway. Amazon and Google didn’t exist, cell phones (bag phones) were newly available and spotty at best, and the internet was still dial-up running on buried phone lines that gophers frequently chewed into, halting internet access for extended periods. Without the distractions of modern technology, and the very limited access to stores, shopping, and even information, it was an extreme exercise in problem-solving and innovating from the resources around us. One of my favorite things to do as a kid was sift through old stuff in the barn’s haymow and let my imagination run wild. I’ve always liked “old” things – both my grandmothers and mother had treasure troves of antiques and dishes passed down through generations. Owning a vintage china dish rental business was inevitable for me!
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road? It’s not always been a smooth road, but I don’t think anyone’s life really is. When I left the ranch to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, it was a major shock and one I didn’t handle very well. It was the first time I had lived inside city limits, and I was in an all-women’s dorm, surrounded by people all the time. The peace and quiet of the wide-open spaces was replaced with constant chatter and comings and goings. More girls lived on one floor of the dorm than there were students in my graduating high school class! Then in October of my freshman year, a vehicle turned in front of me and I wasn’t able to avoid the collision, smashing into an “army tank” of an older suburban (they don’t make ’em like that anymore!) and shattering the windshield with my head. I made it out without any real, lasting damage, thankfully, but it was one of those moments where it felt like the rug had really been ripped out from under me. I picked up the pieces and continued on through college, struggling to get to the finish line with ever-moving goal posts and ever-changing graduation requirements. After six years, a switch from nursing school to business school, attendance at four different colleges and universities, and a brief hiatus to “find myself”, I finally graduated from undergrad.
The spring after I graduated from UNL, I was living in Dallas, Texas and had finished my contract – helping the city attract and retain young professionals. I threw a dart at a map, figuratively, and “hit” Winter Park, Florida. I worked out a deal to help Winter Park with a young professionals initiative, only to have the deal fall through the day I was pulling out of my Dallas apartment complex heading east with all my stuff in a moving truck. It was a bumpy entry into Florida with a brief stint of homelessness and no “real” job. I rode horses for folks, took care of their farms and livestock, and built fence through the palmettos and swamps, saving up enough money to get back on track. I eventually landed a job with the Orlando Chamber of Commerce to help build their young professionals program and haven’t looked back once.
There have been other hurdles along the way, things I should have done differently, and stuff that happened through no fault of my own – it doesn’t really matter why it happens, only that you keep putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward.
Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others? Several years ago, a friend traveled the state collecting vintage dishes for her son’s wedding. After the wedding, she wrestled with what to do with the collection – a lover of vintage things, she couldn’t bear to just get rid of it. I kept hassling her to make it into a dish rental business. When my husband proposed in 2016, that was her engagement gift to us – the foundation pieces for The Vintage Dish – Timely Tableware, which I launched in early 2017. Since then, the collection has continued to grow and evolve. There’s over 200 full place settings of mismatched vintage china in over 100 different patterns, glassware in every shape, size and color, four different sets of flatware (stainless steel, gold-colored, and two sets of silver plate), votives and table decor, serving pieces, hundreds of teacups and saucers, teapots, and even a Mid Century Modern collection with dishes, glassware, and barware!
The dishes are all so special because they each have a story and a background – they have seen so much (some items in the collection date back to the 1890s)! They can’t tell us their secrets, but we can feel the vibrations of their pasts. The mismatched patterns create such a beautiful visual tapestry of porcelain, glass, crystal, and metals, transporting us to days of yesteryear. Holidays at the ranch always involved china, and it was more than just about using the “good dishes” – it was about gathering together, and being on our best behavior, dressing up, and hearing stories from long ago. Somehow the food always tasted even better on pretty dishes.
Traditions have shifted and families rarely keep china anymore – it’s bulky to store, breakable, hand wash only, and impractical for frequent use. Wedding couples no longer register for a china pattern, opting for more practical everyday use items. The Vintage Dish exists to bring back the magic of holiday gatherings around the dining room table without the effort of maintaining a dish collection. We “do the dishes” in every sense of the phrase, including washing them after your event. The dishes come back dirty, so all you have to do is enjoy them!
Recently, I’ve seen a rise in requests for dishes for outdoor events including backyard weddings and milestone celebration parties. Sadly, the vintage dishes don’t fare well on backyard pavers or pool decks. To accommodate this increase in outdoor events, I’ve added chip-resistant and break-resistant ceramic dishes in colorful patterns that are also mix and match. They are a great alternative to disposables or plastic plates, adding a fun pop of color to the event while still serving guests on “real” plates. It’s also a nice option for events that might not fit the “floral china pattern”-type theme, lending a more modern vibe.
How do you think about luck? Throughout junior high and high school, I team roped with my dad (team roping involves a “header” that ropes the horns of a steer and a “heeler” that ropes the steer’s two back legs). Like golf, it can be an infuriating hobby, easily messed up by overthinking, overanalyzing, and overcorrecting your technique. An impatient teenager wanting to always be perfect and catch every time, my dad would always tell me, “it’s better to be lucky than good.”
I’ve always had good luck, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to learn “luck” isn’t anything more than the vibrations we put out into the universe. Positivity fosters good luck, and negativity fosters bad luck. I’ll take good luck any day, but I know it comes from my own mindset, outlook, and attitude.
Photo credits: Sydney Morman Photography, Mackensey Alexander, Sierra Ford, The Hendricks, Heidi Mitchell Photography