The man behind the buttons that have taken Phoenix by storm

Brendan McCaskey, known to some as "Jar of Buttons," has taken a simple novelty item and turned it into a business with a dedicated fanbase that has capitalized on social media sites such as Instagram and Facebook.

Beyond the button-making, dollhouse-restoring and food-cooking, the Instagram-famous character has contributed to the thriving downtown arts community that makes Roosevelt Row the perfect destination for any urban dweller. Everyone started somewhere, and who knew that someone could build an entire business of buttons? To be honest, the beginning wasn't that easy.

“Nothing really stuck out and it always made me anxious,” he said. “When you are that young, you still don’t know who you are really. It got a little crazy because I didn’t know what I was doing.”

McCaskey has given buttons a whole new face in the button world. Starting with a button machine in college that was just for fun, to experimenting with original designs like making a favorite TV show wearable, McCaskey has put just about everything on a button.

But there’s more to the man than just buttons.

He began working out of local Phoenix businesses here after living coast to coast in different cities across the country, only to come back to his roots.  

He now manages For the People, a local contemporary living store at the Biltmore Fashion Park, while keeping his catering business and creative projects on the side. Still, McCaskey somehow always manages to showcase excellent work every time.

From coffee shops to fine dining and vintage stores to urban retail, the man has done it all.

As a college student, there was always so much going on with nothing pointing in a clear direction for a career. 

After attending some school after high school, he went to Scottsdale Culinary Art Institute in 2006, now known as Cordon Bleu, where he was able to further his cooking skills and food styling that led him to have the opportunity to cater events such as Urban Garden Fundraisers for the garden at Growhouse in downtown Phoenix and more around the community.

Sharing the delicacies and treats via Instagram, it is no wonder his follow count has grown tremendously over the year. 

Taking images from magazines and the Internet, he was able to recreate some quirky wearable designs for passersby.

He then began working at Smeeks, a quirky novelty and sweets shop in 2009 that has now closed. This is where he was first selling the now-infamous buttons.

Through working at Smeeks, McCaskey was able to showcase his design and display skills where he was able to further demonstrate his natural creativity and really go all out. His talents evolved to the point of branding himself in the most prevalent of ways.

He also went on to work for a coffee shop coincidentally titled The Coffee Shop, where he was able to display his buttons on a mannequin as a hobby and for profit as well.

To this, McCaskey credits his mother for always having the perfect birthday tables and themes. He describes her as having a natural talent for creativity by homemaking the Halloween costumes each year.  

Most recently, it was the dollhouse project that struck the interest of Instagram all over again, and the most beautiful part was the backstory.

Originally a gift from his grandfather to his grandmother that was then passed on to his mother, the dollhouse became a project of his that he stumbled upon six years ago.  He gifted it to his three-year-old niece after he finished the project. 

On top of all of this, McCaskey has been collecting little knickknacks and accessories for the dollhouse; anywhere from thrift stores to other local vendors and even his own miniature creations.

Since then, he has not looked back and has his eye on future endeavors that he hopes to explore and accomplish.

“It used to freak me out a lot, but I started becoming more comfortable with accepting the idea that there isn’t just one thing that I’m supposed to do,” he said.

With the buttons, the eye for design and go-to attitude, McCaskey is one for the books in downtown’s very own arts district.

“Jar Of Buttons isn’t just that anymore,” he said.  “Its become an umbrella and a brand of my personal self where everything I do has become a part of that.”

For custom orders, email jarofbuttonsaz@gmail.com

Related Links:

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Reach the reporter at rramir30@asu.edu or follow @rubythewriter on Twitter.

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