I’ve often wondered about this one particular building near our apartment on Hollywood Boulevard.
The business’ exterior is covered in wood paneling and has large, rusty garage door. In a font similar to the type used in the original Levi Strauss logo, the words “The Yellow Aster Mercantile Co.” are painted over the exterior. An image of a large yellow flower stands out in the background.
I drive by almost everyday and I’ve never seen the place open. Based on the paint job, I speculated that perhaps it was a hip boutique or furniture store that closed down long ago and the property just never sold.
The other day while I was behind the wheel, I made a conscious mental note to do a Google search once I got home and figure out, once and for all, the history of the Yellow Aster Mercantile Co.
It turns out that it’s an antique store and it’s been there since the 1960s. It has select hours, open just an hour or two per day, or you must make a special appointment to go inside.
Because it’s open in the early evening, I decided to check it out on my way home from work yesterday.
It was not at all what I expected. The place specializes in selling artifacts from the old west and turn of the century. It actually has the feel of an old fashioned merchant because it looks like a worn, dusty barn on the inside. There’s not much of a sense of order, with rusty tools and old glass bottles covering every horizontal surface in the place.
I was most intrigued by the boxes and barrels that were filled with old postcards, letters and family photos. Some of these pictures were so tattered and yellowed with time that it was hard to make out the faces on the surface.
Whether they were candid polaroids or carefully staged family portraits, each of these images were probably treasured by someone else at some time. And they were priced at $1 a piece. At first I felt awkward handling them, like I was infringing on someone else’s privacy.
A few of these images, though, made me feel something. Some made me smile because even though the stranger in the photograph existed in a moment during another time, I felt that I could relate to their human experience. It inspired me and made me feel alive.
I also felt that I could preserve some of these pictures by placing them in one of my collages. Or I could decode the mysteries of these people lives, if not in real life, through the work of fiction. I could use these images to flesh out characters in a story.
I bought all of the following photos (and a few old touristy photographs) for $5. Then I walked out of the Yellow Aster Mercantile Co. feeling very inspired. I’m excited to see what comes of these.