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THE HOT ISSUE


TOP TED


TIP Questions for TED SMITH,


general manager of the Orbit Room and co-owner of Tip Top Deluxe


It’s been a lot of work. It’s really my first time opening a bar from scratch, so a lot of learning for me. Luckily, I have a partner (Frank Lehnen) who’s experienced in that. It’s a relief having it open.


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What was the most important thing you learned through the process?


There was a lot working with a building that was a hundred-some-odd years old and all the things you have to deal with with the city. It’s hard to say. The biggest tip is to be prepared, get quotes on every- thing, know what you’re going to be getting into.


How do you juggle the two venues, plus spending time with your wife and three boys?


Well, I’m not really used to it yet. I’ve not gotten a lot of sleep for the last couple months, but it’s probably been more of a stress on my kids than on me. Every time I leave the house, I’ve got a three year old and a five year old saying, “I don’t want you to go!” But between the two jobs, I don’t see a conflict at all.


ou’ve been in the bar and venue scene for 20 years. You ran the old Intersection and you’ve been the general manager of the Orbit Room for eight years. Recently, you’ve opened Tip Top Deluxe, a rockabilly bar and music venue on Grand Rapids’ west side.


You’re doing a lot of rockabilly and related genres with the acts you’re booking at Tip Top. Is this the kind of music you like?


Rockabilly is definitely one of my passions, but rocka- billy itself is a combination of several different forms of music. Primarily, it’s a combination of rhythm and blues and country music and I think at Tip Top, it’s not the “rockabilly bar,” it’s really an Americana bar. We want to encompass all forms of American music.


The jukebox really drives that home with current and classic Americana acts. You won’t find Ke$ha or Kanye here.


Thanks. Those are 100 CDs out of my collection.


Do you have a particular favorite moment of your career?


To me, the first time I booked Big Sandy, I felt like I accomplished a goal. Bringing Wanda Jackson here last year is something I’m proud of.


Are you a music listener, player, both? I am strictly a music listener. I don’t play music at all. And it’s funny, a lot of people are surprised by that.


When we were doing research for our Hot Issue, we noticed that vintage and retro is becoming really popular again…


“It always seems that something happens that makes people realize, ‘Oh yeah, that was really cool.’ Like when Pulp Fiction came out with all that surf music in it, suddenly Taco Bell had surf music in its commercials.”


It always seems that something happens that makes people realize, ‘Oh yeah, that was really cool.’ Like when Pulp Fiction came out with all that surf mu- sic in it, suddenly Taco Bell had surf music in its commercials.


What makes West Michigan your home?


Well, my family’s here, for one. And I think I’ve traveled enough where I’ve realized if you can’t be happy in one place, then someplace else isn’t going to make you happy. It’s not the place that makes you happy – there has to be more than just that. There are unhappy people in Paris, I’m sure. n


INTERVIEW CONDUCTED, CONDENSED AND EDITED BY LINDSAY PATTON-CARSON. PHOTO: RYAN PAVLOVICH


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