By Marly Fuller
Parents have a great responsibility. They can either force their beliefs and desires for who they want their children to be, pushing them into an existence of their creation, or they can accept and nurture their children as they are and watch how beautiful it is to see a child live in their authenticity.
Bryan and Nancy Sheetz knew their youngest son, Bailey, was unique when he shied away from traditional kids’ toys. Instead of telling him he was wrong, they chose to encourage him to follow his passion for and interest in antiques, specifically vacuum cleaners. He can tell you the ins and outs of his various Kirby and Hoover models. His knowledge and intricate way of describing these machines landed him a spot on the NBC show
“Little Big Shots” with Melissa McCarthy.
“Melissa is very nice and funny,” said Bailey. “She made me laugh a lot and I made her laugh a lot too. She said ‘I love that Kirby Avalir’ and I said it could be your second husband.”
The Sheetz family enjoyed their week in Burbank when filming the show on the Warner Bros. lot,bonding with other unique families who were also featured on the show. One would think the lights, cameras, and celebrity would be a lot for a kid, but Bailey says it’s just cameras.
“It takes a lot to impress him,” said his older brother, Harrison. Bailey replied, “It’s easy to impress me if you just give me a Kirby.”
After displaying several models, it is clear that Bailey believes Kirby is the best. He likes that even a 50-year-old vacuum can be repaired and continue to out-perform modern-day “disposable” vacuums. What impresses him most is the suction power and the quality or durability of these antique machines.
“It’s really more about how things work,” said his mother Nancy. “He loves taking things apart and understanding the engineering or mechanics of them.”
Bailey recalls becoming fascinated with engineering when he used to watch the laundry machine wash clothes. He would stand and watch load after load, getting more and more curious about how it functions. This led to the vacuum interest, his 1921 Singer pedal-operated sewing machine, typewriters, record players, gristmills, turbines, and rotary phones.
“Do you like John Denver?” Bailey asked, excited to share his Victrola record player as he played “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” He keeps that player in his grandmother’s room along with his other antiques. He spends most of his time there.
The family frequents Vac City for repairs, where Gordon Gunn shares his knowledge of vacuums he once sold decades ago. They also have a handful of antique shops in Petersburg and Richmond they visit in search of Bailey’s next find. The booth attendees know him well and will often give him gifts related to his passions. If they’re not gifting him things, they’re on the receiving end of his hard bargaining skills.
“He has an incredible business ethic and loves to work at the family print shop,” said Nancy.
Her family has owned and operated The Benj. Franklin Printing for four generations. Nancy recalls growing up there and spending summers pretending to be a secretary. It’s a totally different experience for Bailey, who loves the machines, knows the inner workings of the business and what everyone does there, and gives tours to visitors.
“I know I will take over the family business,” said Bailey. “I also see myself expanding and creating a publishing company because I want to be a writer.”
He has a lot of dreams and believes it is so important to follow them. His advice to other kids about following theirs? “Just keep going,” said Bailey. “And when your parents are trying to push you in another way, just pretend, and when you are grown you can do what you want to do.”
But what happens if you don’t follow your dreams and you do fall into the vision of your parents’ conflicting dreams for you? “When your dream goes away you will forget about it,” explained Bailey. “And when you are old you think ‘I never really had the opportunity.’” His explanation gave the room chills and in his accommodating fashion he offered a radiator heater as everyone laughed at the charm.
If you missed the season premier of “Little Big Shots” on Monday, catch it again on March 1 on NBC at 7 p.m.
Because Bailey and his family live in the area, it’s likely he will be recognized by anyone who sees the show. Their family will certainly be famous at Salem Church Elementary School, where Bryan and Nancy teach and Bailey attends third grade. As popular as the show may be, Bailey has a philosophy about not letting show biz change his personality. He told show producers; “I don’t think I will let those balloons carry me away. I don’t want to be in the sky. I will just stay down here. You can be a celebrity and live a normal life and not be all snooty.”
Aside from his intelligence and quirkiness, he is quite humble. Nancy said when he was younger, Bailey was so shy, he took speech lessons to get him talking. One would never know seeing how confident he is now. From his passions to the way he plays the piano, Bailey’s presence is definitely one of an old soul.
“I’m just glad I have good parents,” Bailey said referring to why it’s important to follow your dreams. “It makes you happy, follow your dreams and you will also be happy. I don’t stop; I keep going.”
Bailey did share that he is on the hunt for a wind-up record player and a Kirby Avalir 2. Be sure to let him know if you come across one, or just follow his story as it continues on Instagram @vintage.bailey or on YouTube at “Talking Shop With Bailey.”