Curiosity Shop, a store featuring anything from Czech rhinestones to stick pins employed as a variety of self-defense all through very first-wave feminism, opened at 2214 Martin Luther King Jr. Way on Dec. 24. Credit rating: Joanne Furio

A pithy summary of what’s to be found inside Berkeley’s new candy-coloured Curiosity Store in close proximity to Civic Heart Park is shown in daring lettering just previously mentioned the entrance door: “100,000 Issues YOU Never Require.”

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

According to its eccentric operator Bryce Kalousek-Maritano, who once dabbled in copywriting, the retailer has two other slogans: “Cool. Things. Low-priced.” and “We Acquire/Sell/Trade/Repair service and Appraise Compact Ineffective Objects.” 

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

The shop opened on Dec. 24 in a historic early 20th-century making on MLK Way that the moment served as the dwelling of the Black Panthers and the Peace and Flexibility Get together, and some of its choices have a political bent, like the classic buttons emblazoned with rallying cries displayed on the entrance doorway. 

The retailer is dripping with products, its home windows crammed with bracelets, necklaces and paintings. Inside, the “good, low-priced stuff” can be identified from ground to ceiling, in baskets and display scenarios, on the partitions, doors, windows — even hanging from the ceiling. 

Selling prices commence at 10 cents for a tiny tumbled stone and go up to $8,000 for a portray by the Belgian surrealist Suzanne van Damme. But largely, Kalousek-Maritano states, “I offer greenback issues and five-greenback factors.” 

Much more than anything else, Curiosity Store features a jaw-dropping assortment of costume jewelry, what Kalousek-Maritano believes is the world’s biggest. 

“I’ve scoured the online and located people today who declare to have the greatest collection of costume jewelry and they have 1,500 items,” he claims. “I have about 45,000.” 

The collection features Roman fibula, or toga clasps, which he says date from all over the second century, and medieval crosses, each and every of which market 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, organized by coloration. (If you are dressing for a time period costume bash — or just enjoy the character of vintage parts — this is the location to store.)

Kalousek-Maritano developed some of that costume jewelry in a earlier daily life — and he has experienced numerous. He’s a former hippie UC Berkeley dropout-turned-graduate who acquired a master’s in cognitive science, taught psychology at the college or university amount and, alongside the way, traveled and persevered as an itinerant shopkeeper who’s experienced 20 incarnations of the retailer he to start with opened in Escondido in 1966. Then called Libra of California, just after the astrological sign, the shop morphed into the Curiosity Store in the late ’80s and appeared in various West Coastline locations, most notably on the Venice Beach Boardwalk and in a caboose in Corvallis, Oregon. A pop-up version sprouted on Telegraph Avenue in 1995. 

Inspite of the owner’s intriguing and significantly-flung background, Kalousek-Maritano eschews the highlight and refuses to be photographed. 

“The shop is not about me, but the things and, socially, about the women of all ages who painted these paintings,” he says. As to why he’s established this kind of a store? A 2017 write-up in The Corvallis Advocate reveals that both of those his grandmother and mother have been active in feminist actions. ​​His Czech grandmother was a union chief in the Chicago women’s garment sector 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 author who experimented with to manage the comic e-book industry all through the postwar period. He adopted in their footsteps by getting a strike organizer for the Writer’s Guild of America and the California Lecturers Association.

Checking out the store involves a leisurely pace to entirely consider in the menagerie: a large array of Czech rhinestones, both obvious and coloured, classic textiles relationship as far back again as the 18th century, Native American jewelry and beadwork, sheet tunes, crystals and rocks, vintage memento spoons, stained glass flowers, seashells, baseball cards, a little ones location with mini dinosaurs, plastic balls and stickers, and candy bought by the piece. 

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

The ephemera, jewellery and artwork from America’s feminist movements lend a museum-like experience to Curiosity Shop. Credit rating: Joanne Furio

There are pins (“ERA Sure!”), embroidered samplers with feminist slogans, stick pins used as a type of self-defense during initially-wave feminism ($20 and up) and reprised as assertion jewelry in the course of the 2nd wave ($5). Paintings that rejoice females as artist or subject matter contain the perform of 10 contemporary artists he encourages, amid them awyn, Defergi and Ehren Snyder. “I’m also heading to be managing neighborhood, modern artists,” Kalousek-Maritano says, “but I just acquired here.”

While it is true that visitors might not need everything this eccentric shopkeeper sells, a wander-by way of will likely reveal one thing, as its title implies, to pique — and perhaps fulfill — one’s curiosity. 

Curiosity Store, 2214 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley. Hrs: day by day, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.

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