Mike Albo Goes Shopping: Weirdest Store Ever Edition
July 5, 2007
Photograph by Kitra Cahana for The New York Times
Were The Shophound asked to handicap the race to be the permanent, new Critical Shopper for the Thursday Styles, we would have to put Mike Albo ahead of the pack (although we wouldn't mind seeing a few more entries from last weeks rookie, Cintra Wilson). Today Mike brings us avid readers to Kiosk, one of the most bizarre retail ventures we have come across in quite a while. In addition to his well-chosen subject matter, Mike is careful to expose a bit more of himself in his lead-in,
I AM not one of those people who has a constantly magical time when I travel. If I am outside the country and alone, whether it is Mexico City, Paris or Athens, I will trudge through museums and churches and go to a dumb discothèque, but spend most of my time trying to find toothpaste, and also staring at people, storefronts and logos that make no sense. Then I go back to my hotel, alone, and watch a dubbed cop film starring Billy Zane.
Well, this is just a bit sad. One would think Mike would be able to pick up somebody to watch his Billy Zane movie with, but, it's true, foreign lands can be intimidating. Of course, this could simply be a reflection of the current status of the American traveler in the eyes of the rest of the world. At any rate, we didn't dwell on it too much, because Kiosk was so intriguing we simply had to run down to Spring Street and check it out for ourselves.
The first task is finding the place. It is hidden past two dingy flights of stairs around the corner form a steamy kitchen, but once you find it, signs on the door enthusiastically encourage your entry. What we found inside was a strange cross between the Museum of Modern Art Design Store and a German Five and Dime store.
As Mike tells us, Kiosk features a revolving stock of everyday items collected on the sojourns of its proprietors, Alisa Grifo, and her husband, Marco ter Haar Romeny. They also have a blog chronicling the continuing development of their store. Each item is displayed as if in an exhibition, but rather than dry descriptions, Kiosk offers colorful commentary about why it may have been included in the store.
Like in a gallery, sold out items are marked with a red dot. There's great charm in the eccentric concept of the shop. While nobody wants sit through a slide show of anyone's vacation, Kiosk brings the vacation to you in the form of stuff, mundane, prosaic items, and somehow brings it to life for you. It turns out there is a fascination to the indigenous everyday items of a foreign country. Even the various different packaging carries foreign intrigue, provided you have a lot of time on your hands. We are not quite sure how one can make a viable business out of this combination of museum and variety store, but we imagine that the hidden location has a pretty low overhead. You have to really be looking for Kiosk to get there. We are pretty sure that there won't be a branch coming to a mall near you.
Kiosk 95 Spring Street, between Broadway & Mercer Street, SoHo
Critical Shopper: International House of Oddities by Mike Albo (NYTimes)