For Kansas City Kids Of The '80s, Memories Of 'You Animal You' Skate Shop Stick Around

Sep 22, 2016

This story first appeared on KCUR's Question Quest. You can find the episode here or wherever you download podcasts.

Lots of people have stores they remember going to when they were a kid— for you maybe it was the video store, the arcade, a comic shop, an ice cream stand or corner store.

If you were into skateboarding in the Kansas City metro area in the 1980s, then you definitely remember You Animal You.

The skate-and-some-surf shop had a Tiki vibe, with palm tree and bamboo decor, and was completely packed with stuff — so much so that you could hardly get a single t-shirt off a rack. 

You Animal You, open from 1985-1999, was in the suburbs of Kansas City and sold coastal fashions and skateboarding gear. Berets, wacky watches and fanny packs (which were really big then) were also for sale, and perhaps surprisingly, the store also carried snowboards, surfboards, wetsuits and ... animals. Yes, live animals.

"I vaguely remember like parrots and cockatoos and stuff." says Michael Vennard. Vennard, 40, says he has a lot of nostalgia for the old store. He says he remembers various animals, including maybe a monkey?

Ed Reed, the owner, was a wacky character that created a hangout as much as he created a shop. He would sometimes pull pranks on customers, and his counter was always staffed by a high school girl with an impressive 80s hair style. 

He says there was nothing like that store in the area at the time.

"I had an iguana, and her name was Wanna the iguana from Tijuana," says Ed. Wanna would perch on Ed's shoulder as he'd walk around the store. He says there was never a monkey, but there were monkey decorations, so he can understand why some people might remember it differently.

You Animal You would attract kids from around the region at a time when surf and skate wear was hard to come by in the Midwest. They'd come to buy things, or just watch skate videos and loiter. 

"It was like a skate shop and all those clothes, and then in the corner he had like puppies for sale, which I always thought was kind of weird,"  says Ryan Elrod, who used to do odd jobs for Ed.

Ed wasn't even a skater, or from the coast. He was just a quirky businessman who caught onto the popularity of surf wear and skateboarding at the right time.

Elrod says he still remembers Ed and the store really well. He feels like it had an impact on him. 

"I'd just thank him for having such an awesome shop, and something so cutting edge in Kansas City at the time," says Elrod.

In 1999, You Animal You closed after Ed had a dispute with the landlord about raising the rent. 

You Animal You was a popular destination for Kansas City skaters in the 1980s and 90s.
Credit Suzanne Hogan / KCUR 89.3

Ed got a job at Dillard's and then eventually retired.

Because the shop had to close pretty quickly, Ed still has a ton of 80s skate gear and fashion items, which he now sells on eBay. In fact, that's how I found him (user name: youanimalyou). 

Ed Reed still lives in the neighborhood close to where the store once was, and he says he often has people coming up to him when he's out asking if he's Ed from You Animal You. He doesn't recognize them normally, because they're all grown, but he says it's a nice feeling.

"Nothing was as fun as You Animal You," says Reed.

Suzanne Hogan is a reporter, producer and announcer for KCUR 89.3 and co-host of the podcast Question Quest. She does not have a Twitter.