New EG Store An 'Emporium Of Popular Culture'
Owner Darren Hill has been collecting mid-century modern antiques and other curiosities since his rock star days in the early 1980's.
What do dinosaur bones, a geiger counter, a polka record collection, a pinball machine, a URI marching band uniform and a copy of Time magazine with Che Guevara on the cover have in common?
The answer: they are all for sale at a new store in East Greenwich called Pop Emporium of Popular Culture.
"This is just scratching the surface," owner Darren Hill said of his collection of antiques and odds-and-ends that is now for sale at 142 Duke St. "I've been collecting since I was 4 or 5, according to my mom. It started with baseball cards."
Then, he got into music and pop culture. Really into it. His first career incarnation was playing bass guitar for the Red Rockers, a 1980's one-hit wonder who made Billboard's Top 40 with a song he wrote called "China." The Red Rockers toured the world, and even opened for U2 on its "Unforgettable Fire" tour.
"I would scour antique shops on days off from touring," Hill said, remembering his tenure as a rock star.
These days, he buys his wares at estate sales, flea markets, e-Bay and other such venues for finding what he calls antiques, oddities, curiosities, relics and treasures.
"In the back of my mind I always thought I would do something like this," he said.
The opportunity came a year ago, when he and his family moved from a big Victorian house in Warwick, that was jammed packed with all the memorabilia, to a smaller one here in East Greenwich.
He and his wife "made an agreement that I would get rid of all this stuff and [Pop] was the compromise," he said.
The compromise, he said, should prove to be a great small business for downtown.
"East Greenwich is a really cool place to do this," he said. "I love the village vibe."
His storefront, a grocery store in another era, fits perfectly the mood of his product with its high, tin ceiling and big glass show window.
"Ideally, I'd love to be on Main Street, but there was just nothing with the character of this place," he said. "I hope people aren't afraid to walk two blocks off Main Street to visit us.
Initially, he said, Pop will be more of a destination for pop culture aficionados. He said he has already heard from collectors in New York City who are planning a visit to his new store, which opens today.