Published in the Montreal Gazette on September 3, 2011.
Undoubtedly we collect a fair amount of knick-knacks in the course of a lifetime. Approaching 65, one of the big challenges ahead of me at this point of time is to attempt to cut down on the number of objects in my possession, or in the prophetic phrase of the great nineteenth century French writer, Guy du Maupassant, “everything that remains of the life of a human being after death”.
The time-consuming task will not be easy but, at any rate, I can at least take solace in the fact that I am not the besieged owner of an enterprise specializing in nostalgic memorabilia. You know what I mean – the type of store where you will find small, out of the ordinary collectibles, unusual things, and other odds and ends that most of us are just seemingly reluctant to get rid of.
There are, of course, many such businesses in the Montreal area but some are just a little more noteworthy than others. Take, for example, the tiny storefront shop located on Notre Dame Street West, on the very periphery of the Atwater Market. Styled ‘Rétro-Ville’, this singular venture in sentimentality has been serving the public since 1985 in a very colourful, yet limited space that can only be good – naturedly described as cluttered.
Specialising in bar decor and general store advertising, ‘Rétro Ville’ is owned and operated by Marie Skevis and her husband, Peter. Marie, by her own admission, has been interested in antiques and memorabilia all her life, all the while hoping one day to find her treasure. Seated amidst the eclectic muddle, she wonders if that day will ever come. Marie confesses to being a compulsive collector and, in her own words, “has tons of stuff”. It’s a passion, she says earnestly. And I believe her.
People who enter the shop are thoroughly amazed, almost always coming across something that fascinates them. Most describe a visit as a one of a kind experience. Many browse for long periods of time, inevitably finding some doodad or other that reminds them of a visit as a child to their grandmother’s house, or perhaps even their favourite toy store at the time.
Marie dotingly organizes the small storefront window herself, usually in a successful effort to arouse people’s curiosity as to what they might find within.
And what a compilation there is!
As for me, I initially found myself inside the ‘Retro-Ville’ shop to dispose of a large quantity of glossy reviews. I had kept them in sturdy boxes ever since my now long lapsed teenage years. In fact, Marie has all sorts of vintage periodicals from years gone by. These days, I almost always find Life magazines and other dated news publications to be the most appealing in her store.
So if you’re interested in collectibles, old advertising, toys, magazines, neons, bar décor, country store items, bottles, tins, signs, trays and memorabilia in general, pay them a visit. You won’t be disappointed.
Oh, and by the way, the store’s cat’s name is ‘Treasure’.