In case you haven’t heard, Corvallis has its very own red caboose that some entrepreneurs have used as a storefront. Its newest occupant, Bryce Kalousek-Maritano, is here to share his impressive collection of vintage jewelry and strange gifts, and—if you’re lucky—you’ll get a history lesson to boot.
The caboose now houses about 35,000 pieces of costume jewelry as well as figurines, postcards, herbs, vintage clothing, and more. There’s so much that the caboose spilleth over and Kalousek-Maritano had to start putting things outside.
“In addition to jewelry, I have 1,000 paintings which I’d like to display, but I’m in a caboose,” he said, appreciating both the absurdity and charm of having a store in a railroad car. Kalousek-Maritano’s family started selling their strange treasures 50 years ago at the Venice Beach Boardwalk and, since then, the collection has been housed in 18 locations.
So, what’s the Curiosity Shop doing in Corvallis? Kalousek-Maritano came here for OSU, with the goal to write a thesis about the “unfolding story of modernity and feminism through the study of jewelry.” Through his background in cognitive science, he was able to recognize patterns in the jewelry being produced and their ties to political movements.
“When I put the jewelry in chronological order, I realized it told a feminist story,” said Kalousek-Maritano.
In my short time there, I learned a lot about how women have used jewelry as more than decoration. Kalousek-Maritano showed me his collection of hat pins and explained how these were the Victorian equivalent of mace. Women would use them for protection. He went on to explain that owls, a modern jewelry trend, once served as a declaration of women’s lib in the 1970s. One display case was chock-full of feminist pins and other memorabilia.
Even if history is not your bag, Kalousek-Maritano is really selling an experience. You’ll find him perched above the retail floor, listening to tunes like Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House,” ready to tell you everything he knows about whichever piece catches your eye. This really is the place to let your curiosity get the best of you.
Located at 450 NW Buchanan Avenue, the Curiosity Shop does not have set hours. You can typically find Kalousek-Maritano in the caboose from 9 a.m. until dark, or until he gets too hungry to sit in a caboose full of jewelry any longer. Prices mostly range from $1-$20.
By Anika Lautenbach