Eccentric new Berkeley Curiosity Shop has 45,000 costume jewellery pieces

Curiosity Shop, a retailer offering every little thing from Czech rhinestones to adhere pins employed as a form of self-protection in the course of initial-wave feminism, opened at 2214 Martin Luther King Jr. Way on Dec. 24. Credit: Joanne Furio

A pithy summary of what is to be discovered inside of Berkeley’s new sweet-colored Curiosity Store near Civic Heart Park is shown in bold lettering just above the front doorway: “100,000 Factors YOU Do not Require.”

Curiosity Store, 2214 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley

According to its eccentric owner Bryce Kalousek-Maritano, who at the time dabbled in copywriting, the retailer has two other slogans: “Cool. Stuff. Cheap.” and “We Obtain/Market/Trade/Repair service and Appraise Small Useless Objects.” 

All 3 capture the essence of this jam-packed keep, which doubles as a gallery celebrating American feminism. 

The shop opened on Dec. 24 in a historic early 20th-century developing on MLK Way that as soon as served as the dwelling of the Black Panthers and the Peace and Liberty Party, and some of its choices have a political bent, like the vintage buttons emblazoned with rallying cries displayed on the front door. 

The retail store is dripping with items, its windows crammed with bracelets, necklaces and paintings. Within, the “good, cheap stuff” can be identified from ground to ceiling, in baskets and display screen instances, on the walls, doors, home windows — even hanging from the ceiling. 

Rates start at 10 cents for a modest tumbled stone and go up to $8,000 for a portray by the Belgian surrealist Suzanne van Damme. But typically, Kalousek-Maritano says, “I market dollar points and five-greenback points.” 

A lot more than everything else, Curiosity Shop attributes a jaw-dropping assortment of costume jewellery, what Kalousek-Maritano thinks is the world’s greatest. 

“I’ve scoured the net and found individuals who declare to have the major selection of costume jewellery and they have 1,500 pieces,” he claims. “I have about 45,000.” 

The collection incorporates Roman fibula, or toga clasps, which he suggests date from close to the second century, and medieval crosses, just about every of which promote for $30. There are rows and rows of chain bracelets, necklaces with pendants, groovy square chain necklaces from the ’70s and kitschy plastic necklaces, bangles and earrings, arranged by color. (If you’re dressing for a interval costume social gathering — or just adore the character of vintage pieces — this is the position to shop.)

Kalousek-Maritano designed some of that costume jewelry in a earlier existence — and he has experienced a lot of. He’s a former hippie UC Berkeley dropout-turned-graduate who acquired a master’s in cognitive science, taught psychology at the university level and, along the way, traveled and persevered as an itinerant shopkeeper who’s experienced 20 incarnations of the keep he first opened in Escondido in 1966. Then known as Libra of California, immediately after the astrological indicator, the retailer morphed into the Curiosity Shop in the late ’80s and appeared in numerous West Coastline places, most notably on the Venice Beach front Boardwalk and in a caboose in Corvallis, Oregon. A pop-up edition sprouted on Telegraph Avenue in 1995. 

Irrespective of the owner’s intriguing and considerably-flung qualifications, Kalousek-Maritano eschews the spotlight and refuses to be photographed. 

“The keep is not about me, but the things and, socially, about the gals who painted these paintings,” he claims. As to why he’s produced these types of a shop? A 2017 posting in The Corvallis Advocate reveals that the two his grandmother and mother had been lively in feminist movements. ​​His Czech grandmother was a union chief in the Chicago women’s garment marketplace who attended salons with the likes of Mark Twain, Emma Goldman, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. His mom was a novelist and afterwards a blacklisted Hollywood writer who attempted to organize the comedian book business throughout the postwar era. He followed in their footsteps by staying a strike organizer for the Writer’s Guild of The united states and the California Academics Association.

Checking out the store calls for a leisurely pace to entirely acquire in the menagerie: a substantial array of Czech rhinestones, each apparent and coloured, vintage textiles relationship as significantly back as the 18th century, Indigenous American jewelry and beadwork, sheet audio, crystals and rocks, vintage souvenir spoons, stained glass flowers, seashells, baseball playing cards, a children space with mini dinosaurs, plastic balls and stickers, and candy marketed by the piece. 

The ephemera, jewellery and artwork from America’s feminist actions (1848-1920 and 1960-1970s) lend a museum-like experience to the spot, with Kalousek-Maritano performing as curator.

The ephemera, jewellery and artwork from America’s feminist movements lend a museum-like really feel to Curiosity Store. Credit history: Joanne Furio

There are pins (“ERA Of course!”), embroidered samplers with feminist slogans, stick pins applied as a kind of self-protection throughout very first-wave feminism ($20 and up) and reprised as assertion jewelry throughout the second wave ($5). Paintings that rejoice women as artist or subject matter include the operate of 10 contemporary artists he promotes, amid them awyn, Defergi and Ehren Snyder. “I’m also likely to be handling area, contemporary artists,” Kalousek-Maritano says, “but I just got in this article.”

Whilst it is accurate that people may well not require everything this eccentric shopkeeper sells, a wander-by way of will probable reveal some thing, as its identify implies, to pique — and probably fulfill — one’s curiosity. 

Curiosity Shop, 2214 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley. Several hours: day-to-day, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.

Joanne Furio moved to Berkeley simply because it has sidewalks. She specializes in style and design in all its incarnations, innovation and the arts.