Judging from the headline at the top of this post, you might think that we’re heading on a trip to Miami, or Palm Springs, but that’s not the case. Yesterday, when I was browsing some super cool throwback furniture at The Peddler, the guy who was running this particular “stand” noticed that I had an eye for “retro”. As we stood there, talking about the authenticity of a blue and white pod egg chair and matching ottoman (great price at $850 for the set), he said, “You should see what I have in my warehouse.”
Warehouse? Filled with atomic chairs, lights, radios, bars, dining sets, etc.? “Where the heck is this place?,” I asked. “It’s over on William,” he replied. “I’m heading over there right now to open the doors for a couple who just drove here from Cleveland… want to tag along?”
The next thing I know,” I’m heading over towards the Central Terminal, with thoughts of retro and atomic furniture spinning around in my mind. Who was this guy? Where did he come from? How had I not heard about him?
We soon pulled into the driveway of The Atomic Bomb Shelter, but before walking into the building at 1285 William Street, I began to ask him some questions. “Judging from the space age chairs on your business card, you probably know Marty McGee?” “Yes, I lent him those chairs for an exhibit.” “Then you must also know Michael Merisola?” “I have a bunch of his furniture.” He then said, “I also have some stuff from John Marfoglia.” He obviously knew where I was going with all of this… yes, he was the real deal.
I should mention that the parking lot that we pulled into was also home to a pin-up themed gentleman’s night club called The Body Shop. It turns out that the owner, Jim Grys (who I was standing and chatting with), has an obsessive penchant for collecting anything related to the atomic age. The warehouse that we were entering is basically the back storage area for the strip club – a spacious retro oasis where Grys collects, displays, and sells, his prized belongings. Grys is a collector, no doubt, and is always on the hunt for new mid-century finds.
The difference between Grys and his local peers is that he has his collection priced to sell because it’s more kitsch and fun than it is “era-exclusive”. To him, the hunt is just as exciting as the sale. He wants people to have these items, some of which have a kitschy appeal – like the sound system with the Infinity Lamp, or the tiki-inspired bars and chairs. Seriously, this is the type of place that you will visit, and probably walk away with something – whether you need it or not. In the end, most of Grys’ stuff lends itself to fun and functional conversational pieces. It’s worth a trip to see what he has at any given time.
As for visitors, Grys does not have regular weekday hours – he is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Any other day, you can call him to set up an appointment, or to see if he is there: 716-780-2639. Like I said, his life revolves around this stuff. One of his customers once asked, “Why are you back here with all of this furniture, when you could be in your own strip club?” Grys replied that while the club was his money maker, the vintage furniture was his passion. So don’t feel that you are bothering him by calling – he really loves the retro sales part of his business dealings, and wants to share his prized possessions with those who can appreciate furniture from this wonderful and sometimes whacky era.