For twenty years between 1986 and 2006, Kansas City’s Crown Center Shops held one especially bright jewel, Car’s the Star. It’s classic neon sign set between floor-to-ceiling ’57 Chevy tail fins welcomed visitors from around the world into a specialty store known for turning junkyard cars into high-end automotive design and furniture.
The brainchild of prominent public relations and advertising executives Phil and Freda Schroeder, Car’s the Star specialized in automotive art, collectibles, auto furniture and clothing from markets in Las Vegas, New York, Miami and Chicago. Initially located next to the Marriott hotel entry, business travelers and tourists often became repeat customers.
Car’s the Star welcomed numerous celebrities, including Kansas City native Paul Rudd, as well as Julia Roberts, Rod Stewart, Felix Cavaliere, Boomer Esiason and Reggie Jackson, to name a few. One special guest—Beverly Garland of My Three Sons—purchased a Gilmore Oil gas pump liquor dispenser. Her grandfather, Arthur Gilmore, founded the oil company.
The reach of Car’s the Star went well beyond Kansas City. MTV outfitted one of its sets with a ’57 Chevy couch, which caught the attention of and inspired a visit from a Japanese film crew. Car’s the Star made a successful appearance in the 1994 Milan Furniture Fair – only one piece of furniture returned to Kansas City. And in 1997, a Saudi prince purchased and shipped most of the furniture in stock to his various castles around the world.
By 2000, CTS saw fewer travelers and slower traffic. After a spectacular run of almost twenty years, the store closed in 2006.
LUMI is privileged to welcome Car’s the Star to its neon family. It’s especially fitting that this classic neon comes from two iconic Kansas City advertising devotees, Phil and Freda Schroeder.