Treasures, Yes. Cheap, No.

Last week was my birthday and I was going to venture down to Nic and Gigi's Antiques and Collectibles shop at 155 Van Horne in the Mile End to buy myself a special gift. If you haven't noticed the shop, it's probably because it's in the basement, and the entrance is less than inviting. The six or seven steps would have you believe that you're descending into a dark dank cellar and well, you are.

Window on Van Horne
Last summer, my husband and I took those stairs not sure where they were leading us, and honestly I don't think that I would have gone down on my own. The steep industrial cement steps veered to the right but to God knows where. It was slightly creepy yet enticing at the same time. The last step led to an entrance and a wall of furniture, statues and curios. Amid the smell of dust and sounds of traffic from Van Horne, we found ourselves in a genuine treasure trove. We immediately noticed stained glass panels, something we had wanted to put in our condo a few years before. There were also fireplace mantels, religious icons and statues, chandeliers, church pews, paintings and other "funky" antiques and collectibles. The collector/buyer certainly had a good eye. We yelled hello a few times, so we wouldn't frighten whoever was down there, but more importantly, so they wouldn't frighten us.

The Contessa
The arrangement of objects was, and if you venture down those grey cement steps, I advise you not to wear anything knit, as there is a fair bit to catch your clothes on and inadvertently pull something down, leaving you buried never to be seen again.

We took our first right down a narrow path that snaked around the front of the store near the window, stopping to look at a half dozen items.This is where we met store owner Nic, a portly blue-eyed gentleman in his late sixties. My husband addressed him in French, without much of a reply. Then I tried in English, which elicited a response, albeit in Italian. We got the gist of what he was saying. We could look around, "no problema."

It was around this time that I spied mon objet de désir--a yellowing "Contessa" dial telephone. Although there were many furnishings I wanted to have, I'd have to wait until we moved into our more spacious duplex, but the phone we could still squeeze in. I wanted my kids to see the type of smoke-signal we used when I was growing up. It brought back some wonderful childhood memories. Unfortunately, last summer we were only carrying debit cards, and unsurprisingly, Nic only accepts cash.

Last week, I went back to see if the Contessa was still available. I set the maximum price I would pay at $40 and kept a few bills shoved in a pocket. Lady luck was smiling on me that day: the deluxe dial phone was still there. "Quanto?" I asked Nic. He signaled just a second with his index finger, and picked up the phone to call none other than Gigi. I could hear him describing the phone. He put his hand over the receiver and said "cinquanta" or fifty. I countered "quaranta." He relayed forty to Gigi. I heard some yelling from Gigi through the phone. Nic pulled his ear away from the receiver and shook his head. "I'm sorry," he said. That was it. I didn't have fifty bucks. I said good-bye and headed back up the cement steps.

I still wanted the phone, but $50 for a purely decorative communications device aroused some sudden thriftiness in me. I'd try again in a few months' time. Then Gigi might be more willing to barter.

I would still recommend this "store" to anyone who is looking for one-of-a-kind furnishings to build your home decor around. Remember, we only looked at what was lining our path around the shop. For you adventurous types that want to venture into the middle, there's plenty more to see. Just bear in mind that before you fall in love with something, you'll have to get your objet de désir out of the store--an excellent haggling point for a better price with Gigi. You might also want to invest in an Italian phrase book beforehand.

This is particularly a great spot if you're looking for antique religious items or vintage film posters in French or Italian. Nic and Gigi both sell and rent items.

Other Mile End-related posts
The True Gender
Almost a Visit to Gender
St-Viateur: the Polish Bazaar
The Mile End Buzz Around Beekeeping
For the Love of Vinyl
Airing Our Dirty Laundry
Filming on St-Viateur
A Sense of Humour With the Wilensky's Special
S.W. Welch: the Nicolski Coincidence
The Lure of Fishing on Bernard



Anonymous | February 18, 2014 at 6:53 PM

So, did you get the phone - eventually?

Heather | February 20, 2014 at 6:40 AM

No, I didn't. After I felt how heavy it was, I decided against it. H

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