Curtis Steiner is wearing a black arm band over a black cardigan. He’s in mourning. His shop, Souvenir, isn’t exactly dead, but it wouldn’t be incorrect to say it’s dying. The beloved antiques, jewelry, gifts, and ephemera shop will be closed after February 6.
There’s never been a sign or sandwich board announcing Souvenir. The curious are drawn in by the nuanced, evocative windows. Right now the windows are draped in black and dimly lit; inside, twin gothic/romantic depictions of the situation elicit heavy sighs and saddened gasps as shoppers and fans happen by. In the right-hand space, lines from W.H. Auden’s Stop All the Clocks (in gorgeous script, of course) set the tone; more succinctly worded signage on the left lays it out a little more plainly – well, not too plainly. First you must get past the Latin words for, “Horse before the cart.”
Here’s the situation as the shop owner explains it: Steiner’s landlord is keen to capitalize on the ever-growing popularity of the neighborhood. He owns spaces above the shop that currently lay fallow. What is now (one supposes) a dusty attic-like no man’s land could be parceled into (one supposes) $467k condo units. The landlord believes that to get to those spaces and renovate them, he needs to install an elevator shaft where Steiner’s intricate art cards and meticulously recrafted antique jewelry are now displayed.
When I was at the store the other evening, Steiner pointed to a sloped ceiling above his counter and noted the stairway. An elevator doesn’t seem immediately imperative. It doesn’t seem worth kicking out such a treasured tenant. It does seem a little cart-before-horse-ish. But there you have it. It’s what’s being done.
Mind you, the black armband business is not done without a sense of humor. Steiner isn’t seething. He doesn’t even seem all that bitter. And yes, he does plan to open another shop eventually – though it won’t be Souvenir II. He isn’t sure yet what it will be – or where it will be, though to a hopeful neighbor who assumed he’d stay in the area he replied, ’There’s a whole big world outside of Ballard’ (breaking news to many a resident of 24th Ave NW).
Stay tuned for news of Steiner’s next initiative. I asked him to keep me, and us, abreast.
The slideshow here will give you a small view on the shop’s final days, but most of you will want to take a closer , longer, slower look in person. And there’s this: Fans of the store know that each year on Super Bowl Sunday, Steiner hosts a garage sale. He is doing it this year – on February 6 – and he says it’ll be bigger and better than ever, due to the, well, death in the family. Word to the wise: Bigger and better than ever means that more than the usual 60 or 70 people will be lined up outside before the doors open at 9a.m.
Another word: A garage sale is no time to say goodbye. Make sure to stop by before game day.