It’s the Fourth of July which means that it is time for a notional Quirky Berkeley holiday field trip.
Susan Alexander has never given me a bum steer. She invited me to her place in Glen Ellen. BINGO. She introduced me to Patrick Amiot and Brigitte Laurent in Sebastopol. BINGO She introduced me to Art Moura in Sebastopol. BINGO
So – when Alexander suggested that I visit Susan’s Store Room in San Anselmo I did not hesitate. Dubitandum perdere and Cato and all that. Never mind that this is a store. Never mind that this is in Marin and never mind our Holier Than Marin attitudes here. Susan Alexander’s recommendation was all I needed.
I was not disappointed. Holy Moly I was not.
Susan Hoy, born Susan Oliver, grew up in Berkeley – on Arlington, third generation Berkeley. Nexus! She started the store in her home in 1979. Her mother dealt in antiques; she ran Oliver’s Oddities in Port Costa, where she was friends with Wendy Addison who runs Theatre of Dreams. The store comes naturally to Hoy. It has grown to its present state, occupying three conjoining storefronts.
If there is a central organizing theme in the store, it is the Steiff stuffed animals. But a central organizing principle only goes so far. The store is like my mind at its energetic distracted best writing a no-holds-barred Quirky Berkeley post, where one idea leads to another to another to another. So it is with the store. Something suggests something and so Hoy stocks the Best Of that Something. A joy!
Of great interest to me – the books about the travels of her bears.
Four years later – back to Africa, to Egypt.
In 2005, Pansy went to Paris.
In 2008, Clarence went to the Chelsea Flower Show in London.
He met the queen.
The books are whimsical and quirky. Hoy: “Everything in the books/journals are true. The only artistic license taken was that they were written from the prospective of the bear. Everywhere I went, even the jungles of Rwanda, people wanted to touch and hold the bears. It would not have worked with a gnome or a beanie baby, it was because the bears were antique, at least 100 years old.”
Scrapbooky – photos, drawings, facts, history, stories. Creative to da max.
Hoy makes cards, really cool cards.
There is a doll house.
And a case full of dollhouse furnishings. Really high end. Not your grandmother’s dollhouse.
Near the dollhouse are some fairy houses.
This reminds me of a papier-mâché troll house that I made for my sister Jeanne for Christmas in about 1963. Slightly better production values than mine though.
A note about holidays. She keeps seasonal items up all year. People come in and ask for them. There they are.
Hoy calls these matchbox shrines. She makes them with the help of her grand daughter Cali Hoy.
And memory jars.
One writes down a memory and puts it in the jar. There are DIY ones too. Hoy expounds: “Researchers show memory jugs originated in Africa’s Bakongo culture, which influenced slave communities in America. The culture believed the spirit world was turned upside down, and that they were connected to it by water. They decorated graves with water bearing items (shells, pitchers, jugs or vases), which would help the deceased through the watery world to the afterlife. Items were broken to release the loved one’s spirit so as to make the journey. A surge of interest in memory jugs took place during the late 19th century as ‘scrap booking’ Victorians sought to keep their mementos in one place memory jugs, folk art memory jar, scrapbook jar. Jugs are often found coated in a thick layer of lacquer or gold paint to further glorify the recipient. Memory jugs are also called forget-me-not jugs, memory vessel, mourning jug, spirit jar, ugly jug, whatnot jar, and whimsy jar. The matrix used to hold objects in place include mortar, plaster, and river clay or windowpane putty, tile grout. Most makers did not sign their work, however it is possible to date a memory jug by determining its under-structure or identifying the type of adhesive used. A revival of memory jug art is taking place in contemporary ‘found object sculptures.”9 Values for memory objects range from $20 to simple forms and adornments to as much as $3,000 for elaborate examples with provenance.”
Now: random photos. Wandering around the store. No categories or organization. Just photos:
Love this. Want one. But – where to put?
Everywhere – wonderful things. Lots of them.
Hoy tells of Marin County royalty visiting her store – Jerry Garcia, George Lucas, Sammy Hagar’s first wife Betsy Berardi. I can imagine it, Jerry Garcia sitting on a folding chair just Taking It All In.
Hoy changes her window with regularity. People know when it will happen and come see the new window. Families bring children and grandchildren just to wander the store. It is not hard to see why.
As I was stalling, not wanting to leave, I spotted this for sale:
It is a totally cool quiz game from the 1920s. Here is an All About Me aside about why this game thrills me.
What a store! What a universe!
I have long been drawn to a Kerouac passage from On the Road: “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!'”
I have fantasized of having these words painted on the wall in the grand room of quirk of my fantasy. And yes these are the people whose flame draws me, the ones who are mad to live, who burn, burn, burn.
The point being: Hoy’s store burns like Kerouac’s fabulous yellow roman candles – appropriate for today, the 4th of July. The store is all over the map, idea leading to idea leading to idea. At times I intellectualized a display, discerning the train of thought that wound through the display. At times I just went with the flow, accepting what Hoy offered without thought or forensic analysis. There are no commonplace things here. It is a romp!
I asked my friend what he thinks of this post about Susan’s Store. “You can’t go wrong with Susan Alexander. The sister knows what rings your bell.”
He zeroed in on my use of “Holy Moses.”
“That was a little strong for Good Americans in the 1940s. Captain Marvel gave us ‘Holy Moly’ instead.” This was news to me. Good knowledge!
The mention of Marin County music royalty hit home with my friend. He was darted into his quarters and came back with a portfolio of posters from the Ark in Sausalito. “They didn’t have bread to pay the bands – fed them huevos rancheros instead. Nobody cared. It was more or less an after-hours joint – and.what a joint at that!”
He wanted to go through the posters with me, which I was willing to do, but first I needed his evaluation of this post. We had just gone through another set of posters – why not this one too? He spoke: