Vancouver’s Salmagundi West

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Salmagundi West
There’s a female ghost who haunts Salmagundi. She hangs out downstairs and begs the odd customer to look through old photos, find one of her and take it home. Once a customer told owner Anne Banner that a ghost wanted her to take an antique doll out of a birdcage. Anne, who has never experienced the ghost herself, is not one to tempt fate. She complied.

The ghosts may be the least interesting thing about Salmagundi West—a name that means a mixed bag or potpourri.

The store has operated out of an 1889 Gastown building since 1973 and sells antiques, oddities and novelties.

Salmagundi West

Anne is the second owner, art curator and chief purveyor. She has a fine arts degree from Emily Carr and an eye for the weird and wonderful, and while she still draws on occasion, her creative outlet is her store.

“The great part about the store is you can pretty much sell anything here, but you still have to curate it to make it unique,” she says.

It’s in this store where you will find the perfect gift for the person who has everything, or something for the criminally insane.

The two floors are crammed full of fascinating stuff. There’s everything from vintage posters and jewelry to a military belt and goggles from World War 1, skeletons, antique dresses, sock monkeys and sketches by Vancouver artist Kat Thorsen.

Salmagundi West

Downstairs, a Chinese medicine cabinet is filled with plastic guitars, windup toys, soaps and stones.

Anne says the weirdest thing she’s sold is a “craniofacial duplication cat”—in layman’s terms a cat with two faces preserved in a jar of alcohol. That specimen sold to a lady tattoo artist for $2,000.

Salmagundi West

 

A younger demographic is drawn to the vibe and to the different events that Anne stages in the store. Last month she put on an ‘oddities show-and-tell.’ One person brought her hand-carved crystal skull from Mexico, another his dead rattle snake.

Tarot card readings and vision board workshops are also popular.

“Vision boards are essentially a collage of different things that manifest in your life,” says Anne. “Say you want to have a new boyfriend or a new car—you cut out the images from magazines and it’s like a visual wish list.”

A woman who specializes in taxidermy will be teaching classes in the spring (she provides the road kill). Anne plans to turn the downstairs workroom into an art gallery where tattoo artists can showcase their fine art.

Salmagundi West

While Anne works with “pickers” who scour junk stores and old barns in places like eastern Canada and Chicago, she also sources local such as a line of candles with labels bearing modern day Saints designed in-store by a Vancouver graphic artist.

“Nowadays in business you can’t be just one thing,” she says.

If you can’t visit the store at 321 West Cordova in Gastown, check out Salmagundi’s Facebook page

© All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all blog content copyright Eve Lazarus.

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8 comments

  1. I have in the past worked part-time at Salmagundi and have always been fascinated with the rich, cluttered feel to the shop. Anne Banner is doing a wonderful job keeping the same flavour to the store as its original owner, Lynn Brown (who sadly passed away a couple of years ago). At Salmagundi you will find anything from Steam Punk findings to Victorian Ephemera to an old metal trunk which can be converted into a coffee table. It really is a potpourri for the pure at heart who are always on the lookout for something unusual.

    Everyone, including tourist traffic and Anne’s local clientele express warmly how they love to come into the shop. Most people who walk into Salmagundi gasp a sigh of relief and express their love for the eclectic eccentricity. And then there is Christmas! Salmagundi is especially busy during this peak season, where customers stand in line on the lower level to look in the Chinese Medicine Cabinet drawers, searching for terrific stocking stuffer’s.

    One of my most memorable experiences working at the store was when a woman came in with her children and expressed how much she loved the store when her mother bought “her” in as a child. I knew then that this store had a remarkable history.

    When Lynn Brown opened Salmagundi West in 1973 I believe she may have been one of the first retailers to kick-start Gastown as a cool place to shop and hang out. Even back then, this shop became the true anchor for the young-at-heart, moving from Hippie Ville to the Hipster culture we are familiar with today.

    If you ever have some time on your hands, spending an hour or two at Salmagundi is always a delight!

    Fred / oncetwicevintage on Etsy

  2. The girl who wanted to be immortalized! –still gave me a creep upon recalling Anne’s stories. Great insights here Eve. I loved how rich and detailed your visit was. Have
    had only little time at the Salmagundi West last year and will surely visit again.

  3. I loved this post. I’ve been to the store many times, and purchased a few dolls and doll furniture. I love miniatures. The store has quite a unique feel to it, although I’ve never seen any ghosts. It took me ages to get over the “creepy” feeling downstairs. There’s one spot in the floor down there where you nearly sink through. Ack! I hope Anne stays there for a long time.

  4. Oh, so sad to hear about Lynn’s passing. We had many a discussion about all things tarot and astrological over the years. I always came away from the store with a delightful treasure. I’m happy to hear that so many of the traditions continue. I will visit the tiny drawers next time I’m in town. Thanks for this post, Eve.

  5. This store is magical and it was always a delight to visit. I tried to bring all my out-of-town visitors to the store. I’ve never been in another store that had as much stuff per square inch. It’s a small store but has so much to see. I no longer live in Vancouver, but if I go back I’ll be sure to visit. So glad to know that the store lives on in the new owner.

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