Tucked between the Italian bakeries and laundromats of North Beach, San Francisco, Aria Antiques is a unique store, with an old world charm that matches its old world items.
Drawing up images of the kind of old school antique shops found more often in fiction than reality, Aria Antiques is a curio shop for all those interested in procuring European and Early American oddities ranging from old printer’s tiles to an extensive collection of antique biological and zoological charts. Enchanting in its eccentricity, the walls are filled with strange and beautiful pieces that can easily transport one to Parisian street markets past, the atmosphere heady with the music of Tom Waits, Jacques Brel, and Serge Gainsbourg. Glass eyes, antique keys that don’t look as if they would fit any door, vintage wax mannequin arms, Edwardian doll heads, plates of doll hands, century old Dutch science classroom prints, old maps and globes, mysterious B&W photographs, hand printed menus, postcards and personal letters, watch faces, medicine boxes, astrological charts, and tins of small, unidentifiable objects are just a few of the relics that line the walls and are scattered throughout.
The owner, Bill Haskell, matches his store in storied uniqueness. A kind and fascinating man, traveling often during the year to Europe to obtain new items for his shop. Open to price negotiation and with an unerring eye for design, Bill is knowledgeable about every piece, able to relay at least some of its history and tell the story as to how he obtained it.
A gallery, a museum, a thrift shop - all these things and more describe Aria Antiques. Relatively affordable, the original posters and old natural history objects, though well priced, can still be quite expensive. Only cash and check are accepted.
If visiting, it is recommended that one call the shop ahead of time, as the hours of operation are somewhat erratic, and it can be closed for long periods of time when the owner travels.
Also, if one is looking for something specific and happens to catch him before another buying trip, Bill is known to accept a list of items to search for. While success is not guaranteed, knowing owner Bill Haskell, one might end up with a different object equally marvelous.
Update: Sadly, Aria has is now permanently closed.