At first glance while walking down Martin Luther King Jr. Way towards University Avenue, it’s hard to notice anything out of the ordinary. However, after Winter Break, a new store named the Curiosity Shop popped up out of the blue — and literally, the outside is blue.
Although the shop is new to Berkeley, the establishment has been around for more than 50 years. The owner, Bryce Kalousek-Maritano, started the business when he was only nine years old with the simple idea of making wire peace symbols during the Vietnam War to sell at fundraisers.
The shop’s slogan is “small useless objects,” and it has followed Kalousek-Maritano up and down the West Coast from shop to shop, spanning from Corvallis, Oregon, all the way to La Jolla, California. Kalousek-Maritano is a University of California (UC), Berkeley graduate and has lived in the neighborhood many times, so he is very familiar with the area.
Although termed “useless,” the objects the store sells have deep meaning. Upon entering the store, customers are immediately greeted by a variety of pins displaying feminist messages. Around the walls, there are paintings and memorabilia relating to American feminism as well.
To Kalousek-Maritano, that is definitely something unique about his shop, alongside the fact that it has a whopping 45,000 piece collection of vintage costume jewelry, the largest collection in the world as far as he can tell.
“I didn’t expect the reaction I got from [Berkeley High School (BHS)]. It’s been just a wonderful experience being here the last couple weeks,” Kalousek-Maritano said. With all the amazing jewelry pieces and out-of-the-ordinary items, such as Pokémon cards, students are bound to find something of interest.
Chicory Ruyle, a BHS freshman, heard about the shop from a friend and has visited it a few times, picking up some pins and jewelry pieces. “The number of items and how it’s mostly vintage jewelry makes [the store] unique,” Ruyle said. “You can’t really find [stuff like that] at random thrift stores.”
Not only is the shop filled with interesting objects, but prices are very affordable, with some objects costing no more than ten cents. A friendly and relaxed shopkeeper, Kalousek-Maritano always tries to give the best prices, and sometimes even rounds down from the actual price. Knowledge about the new shop has spread rapidly by word of mouth among BHS students.