The moment I enter Aria Antiques, I feel the need to shove my Blackberry as deep down in my purse as possible and pretend it doesn’t exist. No, there’s no ban on technology at this North Beach store, but the old school atmosphere conjures up images of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. Somehow, the 36 emails waiting for my response feel out of place.
I almost hold my breath while I peruse tables brimming with oddities ranging from a bowl of antique keys to enormous Dutch science classroom prints to an Edwardian doll with eerie glass eyes. I select two beautiful pages torn out of an early 19th century botanical encyclopedia and wait while the owner, Bill Haskell, carefully wraps them between two pieces of cardboard.
When I finally exit – having paid with cash since real currency and checks are the only acceptable forms of payment – the outside world hits me like a fire wall. My blackberry starts beeping as if given the signal that it’s re-entered reality, and I hear the sound of an ambulance in the distance. My immediate reaction is to look back and see if I can sneak back inside and find something else to buy. But Haskell is already at the door, keys in hand, on his way to lunch with a local friend. I leave with my prints tucked under my arm, reminded that there are magical places in the world where time stands still.
Above: Aria’s selection of torn pages from antique books and wall paper make for beautiful — and unique — framed art.
Aria Antiques is located at 1522 Grant Avenue, San Francisco, California. For hours, please call ahead at (415) 433-0219.
Photographs by Ulrica Wihlborg ©2013.