Showing posts with label Obscura Antiques and Oddities. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Obscura Antiques and Oddities. Show all posts

Monday, February 17, 2020

Curb alert! Your chance to score free items from the now-closed Obscura Antiques and Oddities

Mike Zohn, co-owner of the now-closed Obscura Antiques and Oddities, is cleaning out the basement of the shop at 207 Avenue A between 12th Street and 13th Street.

This afternoon (Monday, Feb. 17), he'll be putting out a few items on the curb for anyone to take. Up for grabs: Some folding chairs from Cafe Pick Me Up, a 2015 Avenue A casualty.

Previously on EV Grieve:
A visit to Obscura Antiques and Oddities, closing soon on Avenue A

After 20-plus years in the East Village, Obscura Antiques and Oddities is closing

Monday, January 27, 2020

Avenue A storefront watch

Obscura Antiques and Oddities has officially closed, and a for rent sign now hangs in the storefront at 207 Avenue A between 12th Street and 13th Street.

A variety of factors led to the closure. "Our lease is up at the end of February and we are a bit burned out," co-owner Mike Zohn told us back in November. "The business has changed as has the neighborhood, plus the expense and overhead are high."

The asking rent for the space is $4,995 — all uses considered, per the listing.

And on Avenue A at Ninth Street... a for rent notice is up at the recently shuttered Arepa Factory. The listing hasn't made it online just yet.

Meanwhile, the corner space — the former Gelarto — has been leased. The brokers didn't disclose who the new tenant is, however.

These spaces, overseen by two difference landlords — Icon on the corner and Steve Croman next door — were home to Cafe Pick Me Up until May 2015...

One last nearby storefront to note... Three Seat Espresso is now officially closed (as of Jan. 19) at 137 Avenue A between St. Mark's Place and Ninth Street...

No word on what might be coming to this space.

Previously on EV Grieve:
A visit to Obscura Antiques and Oddities, closing soon on Avenue A

After 20-plus years in the East Village, Obscura Antiques and Oddities is closing

Arepa Factory closes up on Avenue A

Three Seat Espresso will close by the end of 2019 on Avenue A; founder blames Starbucks

Thursday, December 12, 2019

A visit to Obscura Antiques and Oddities, closing soon on Avenue A

Text and photos by Stacie Joy

Mike Zohn, co-owner of Obscura Antiques and Oddities, 207 Avenue A near 13th Street, is circling the neighborhood looking for parking when we meet up to talk, take pictures, and reminisce about East Village people and places over the years.

I’d bought my first piece of adult furniture more than 20 years ago at the first of the store’s three locations and Mike was the guy who sold it to me. I still have the vintage green school desk, a photo of which I show him on my phone once I sweet talk the FedEx guy into moving his truck so Mike can park out front of the shop.

I have a similar conversation the following day when I drop by again to talk to co-owner Evan Michelson, chatting about places I’d seen her and her band perform and way the neighborhood has changed over the years.

Both Zohn and Michelson have moved out of the neighborhood, Zohn to Easton, Pa., and Michelson to Plainfield, N.J., and both commute in to work at the store.

[Evan Michelson]

[Mike Zohn]

As first reported by EV Grieve, the shop is closing up after almost a quarter of a century in business, so this was an especially poignant A Visit to… feature for me. We talked about the history of the shop, what’s changed for them and what their future plans may be.

What is the history of Obscura Antiques and Oddities?

Mike Zohn: We grew out of Wandering Dragon Trading Company, which was the shop Adrian Gilboe started many years ago on 10th Street. I would buy then sell items to him and hang out there at all hours. After he moved his shop to Brooklyn, Obscura was born.

Evan Michelson: In 1991, a few years after I first moved to the East Village, I happened upon a tiny shop on East 10th Street called Wandering Dragon Trading Company. It was run by a gentleman named Adrian Gilboe, and it was aesthetically perfect. There was an old Chinese lantern framed by faded drapes in the window; inside there were assorted wax mannequins, ethnographic objects, antique clothes, and pieces of taxidermy. It was an enchanting, somewhat shabby, lived-in cabinet of curiosities; stepping over the threshold was like stepping back in time. It was magical.

Adrian had an incredible eye. When I first met him, I told him that I was in love with the shop. I told him, “This looks like the inside of my own head.” We became friends and worked together on occasion. Eventually Adrian opened a store in Brooklyn, and Mike and I started Obscura in the old Wandering Dragon space.

What drew you to the East Village? Why was it important to you to stay in the neighborhood as you moved locations?

Michaelson: My husband and I first moved to the East Village in 1989; we were musicians and performance artists, and the Village at that time was a fantastically edgy, affordable neighborhood where creative people could live, rehearse, perform and spend time with like-minded folks who came from all over the world to make amazing things happen. From Wigstock to the Pyramid Club to the Collective Unconscious, the East Village was a cultural engine, and we were very lucky to be a part of that.

I’ve always seen Obscura as an extension of that creative, anarchic energy; the East Village has always been the only home this shop could possibly have.

Zohn: Back when we first started out the East Village was affordable. It was cool and fun and exciting. It was a place where you could open a neat little business and do ok. With very affordable rent, it was ok if sales were slow. You could still pay the rent and your bills and enjoy what you were doing. The East Village had so many unique places and things to do back then. It was a great place to be.

How has the retail landscape in the neighborhood changed since you first opened?

Zohn: The whole city has changed as has business and retail. Look at all the empty shops, all the long-standing business that are closing or have moved away. Look at what we do have shop-wise. There is clearly an issue.

Michelson: The East Village has changed tremendously in the last 20-plus years. The rents are very high, the regulations are rigorous, many long-time residents have been priced out and most of the businesses I’ve come to know and love over the years have had to close up or move. It’s a process of gentrification that is seen in so many cities; the East Village was once so vital, and so wild, and it has become relatively tame.

Your shop was a neighborhood fixture for almost a quarter of a century. What factors led you to the decision to close the store?

Michelson: Brick and mortar is hurting everywhere; lots of folks shop online these days. Also, when the shop started, we were one of the few places where you could find most of these strange and mysterious objects. Thanks in part to the TV show “Oddities” that culture has now become fairly mainstream.

We’ve also been around — in one form or another — for more than two decades. We’ve had a long, successful run and now just seems like the right time to move on.

Zohn: The business has changed and the neighborhood as well. The overhead is just too much. Between rent, taxes, insurance, payroll, garbage carting, etc., it’s a lot of money to keep a small business running. Now with the 12th and 13th Street bike lanes eliminating parking spots in the neighborhood, it’s that much more difficult. I need a vehicle for my business.

How has it been since the news got out? What can customers expect when they visit the shop before the end of the year?

Zohn: Lots of people have come out of the woodwork to say how sad they are about it. The shop will be the same until we close. We are bringing in new stuff as always. It won’t get depressing until we clear the place out in January.

Michelson: Folks have been stopping by the shop to say goodbye and share their favorite memories and experiences. It’s been really lovely. We hope to maintain our usual hours through the end of the year but things are a bit unsettled, so I’d call to make sure we’re open before heading over or making a special trip.

What’s next for you?

Michelson: There are so many things I’d like to do! My life has been focused on Obscura for so long that I’m going to have to decompress for a while before I figure out exactly what comes next. I love writing and I’ve had a few essays published; I have a rather esoteric book almost ready to go and some ideas for other written and spoken projects that really excite me.

Ultimately, however, I’m an antiques dealer, and I’ll probably get back to that in a few years. There are other aesthetics I’d like to explore, other forms of time travel, history and remembrance that I’d like to put out there in the world. If I’m lucky, I’ll have that chance.

Zohn: I’m planning on doing more online plus my Oddities Market events — Philly, Atlanta, Nashville, and more cities to be announced soon. We have discussed a pop up now and then but no final decision has been made on that.


Obscura will be closing at the end of this year, but may have odd hours in January as Mike and Evan shutter the store. They both recommend calling to make sure the place is open before making a special trip out: 212-505-9251.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

After 20-plus years in the East Village, Obscura Antiques and Oddities is closing

Obscura Antiques and Oddities, a wholly unique and one-of-a-kind shop on Avenue A where you can find an array of curiosities, will by packing up its storefront in the weeks ahead.

"Our lease is up at the end of February and we are a bit burned out," co-owner Mike Zohn recently told me. "The business has changed as has the neighborhood, plus the expense and overhead are high."

Yesterday, EVG contributor Stacie Joy stopped by the shop and talked with Zohn about the decision to close ... and tracked Obscura's East Village evolution.


My first experience with Obscura Antiques and Oddities was in the early 1990s, when it was called Wandering Dragon Trading Company, co-owned by Adrian Gilboe, Mike Zohn and Evan Michelson, in a storefront at 263 E. 10th St.

A few years later it moved across the street to 280 E. 10th St. and became Obscura Antiques and Oddities (incorporating the name 18 years ago last month) before finding its most recent home in 2012 a few blocks away at 207 Avenue A between 12th Street and 13th Street.

It’s been a neighborhood staple for more than a quarter of a century, which is one of the reasons it’s so hard to come to grips with the fact that the shop is shutting its doors. The store will close at the end of this year, with a possibility of limited hours in January to liquidate remaining items before the lease expires in February. Zohn talked with me about the store’s history, why they are closing and what’s next.

The store’s rent, back in the day, was $250 a month, and it was always a party, Zohn says. Cheap rent, parties every night, music, artists, drinking and smoking — a good time. Gilboe eventually moved to Brooklyn and Michelson and Zohn took over the shop, renamed it, and began working in earnest on the business.

[Mike Zohn]

The store and its two owners became the subject of a popular Discovery Channel TV series in 2010 called "Oddities" and possibly a victim of its own success.

Oddity-type shops popped up all over, the business changed, and more folks were buying and selling the merchandise. Overhead grew, taxes and regulations went up, and as Zohn points out, the neighborhood changed. Rents increased exponentially and parking became impossible. (Zohn lives in Easton, Pa., and Michelson in Plainfield, N.J., and both need a vehicle to transport goods and commute.)

Even though the store’s East Village front is closing, the shop will still be in existence online, and Zohn will continue to produce his Oddities Market and plans to look into the possibility of pop-up Oddites shops, maybe even the East Village one day.

I spoke by phone to Michelson — home sick, recovering from a recent work trip — about her plans for the future. She says there are a million things that interest her, but she won’t settle on anything until after the closure of Obscura.

She’s a founding member of Morbid Anatomy Museum and a scholar-in-residence at its library, and says she’s comfortable with the decision to close the shop. Although sad, she says that it’s organically time to go, that the world, the East Village and NYC are different now. Michelson saw Obscura as an outgrowth of the East Village performance and underground art scene and is eager to begin her next chapter of life, something experiential, not commercial.

Neither Michelson nor Zohn feel rushed into making this decision and both seem conformable with timing and the process. Zohn notes that if you have always wanted something special from Obscura, like, say, the two-headed cow or genuine human skull or a Freemasons book written in code, now is the time to come by.

In addition, fixtures from the shop will be available for sale. Shop hours are flexible, most likely every day from 12:30 to 8 p.m.

Look for more photos from inside the shop in an upcoming A Visit To ... feature on EVG.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Obscura Antiques and Oddities now open on Avenue A

RyanAvenueA passes along word that, as of yesterday, Obscura Antiques and Oddities is now open at 207 Avenue A. The reality TV favorites moved out of their East 10th Street store at the end of January ... arriving here at the onetime Sparacio & DeMarco Funeral Home, which closed in 1995.

When we stopped by, the place was full... nice to see a lively storefront along an otherwise quiet retail block.... and funny how lively it is considering they sell so many dead things. Or something.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Former Obscura Antiques and Oddities space now for rent

As we first reported last Wednesday, Obscura Antiques and Oddities has closed its store on East 10th Street... and will soon move to a nearby new home.

The store is now for rent...

Per the listing at Walker Malloy, the 350-square-foot space is going for $3,800. (Hey Bleecker Bob's — this fits in with your parameters.)

Here are a few photos of the Obscura stuff in storage via the store's Facebook page...

Given the popularity of the store (and their reality series), a lot of people are curious about the store's new home. Here's a Facebook message from them:

[W]hen we do reopen...its in a space about twice the size of our former store...and the place used to be a Funeral its win/win for all. We will post all of our info soon...such as where the new shop will be. Its actually very close to our former shop....maybe 3 or 4 blocks away....

Several readers figure the store will be at 207 Avenue A... which was the Sparacio & DeMarco Funeral Home until 1995... the space had been for rent... and there is now brown paper over the windows...

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Obscura Antiques & Oddities has closed; moving to new East Village home soon

Last night, a reader walked by Obscura Antiques and Oddities on 10th Street near Avenue A — and spotted workers clearing out the store.

But wait. It turns out that the reality television darlings (we mean that in a positive way!) are only moving to a larger store in the neighborhood, though they can't say where yet. The Obscura Antiques Facebook page has more details:

OK....a bit of bad news....but good news too...We are moving...sooner then we had thought. We must be out of our current space by the end of January...Thats 3 days from now....but the new space isnt ready we are closing until the new place is ready and we can move into it...Which will hopefully be near the end of February. If you are coming to NYC and plan to visit in the next month.....We are very sorry.....We will not be there....But when we do reopen...its in a space about twice the size of our former store...and the place used to be a Funeral its win/win for all. We will post all of our info soon...such as where the new shop will be. Its actually very close to our former shop....maybe 3 or 4 blocks away....

Hmm, we know of one former funeral home that's nearby... like this one right here.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Against all 'Oddities'

The third-season premiere of "Oddities" is on the Science Channel tonight at 9. In the Post today, TV critic Linda Stasi gives the show three out of four stars. Excerpt:

The series takes place in New York’s East Village shop, Obsurca Antiques & Oddities, at 280 East 10th Street, one of the few true peculiar shops left in this city, where strange and disgusting have been smothered by expensive and chic.

BoweryBoogie notes that the "Best of Oddities" premieres on New Year's Eve.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

From the news release files: 'Oddities' returns for another season

We get news releases!...

ODDITIES Returns to SCIENCE Bigger, Better and Weirder Than Ever for Its World Premiere Third Season

SILVER SPRING, Md., Dec. 8, 2011 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- For more than a decade, the East Village's iconic Obscura Antiques & Oddities shop has been New York City's foremost destination for one-of-a-kind, bizarre — and often shocking — artifacts. Since becoming the focus of SCIENCE's hit series, ODDITIES, the Big Apple's epicenter of the eccentric has become pop culture's Mecca of the macabre. Entering its third season, the franchise has come to define the oddball subculture on television. Since its premiere, ODDITIES has won over legions of viewers and inspired "colorful" collectors throughout the U.S. and beyond to seek out Obscura's purveyors of peculiarities: Mike, Evan and Ryan. Season three of ODDITIES premieres Saturday, December 17, at 9:00 PM (ET/PT) on SCIENCE.

The store is on East 10th Street between Avenue A and First Avenue...

Friday, May 27, 2011

Obscura Antiques owners share weird wares with Conan O'Brien

Mike Zohn and Evan Michelson, owners of Obscura Antiques and Oddities on East 10th Street, appeared on "Conan" last night... As you probably know, they have their own show, "Oddities," on the Science Channel.