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.
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.
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.
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.
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.