That Old Feeling
Vintage store reinvigorates midtown Ventura
By Essie Lustig 08/09/2012
Punctuating the familiar route down Main Street through Midtown Ventura is a bright orange sign. Upon further inspection, it replicates Saul Bass’ iconic “Vertigo” logo, yet the sign reads “VINTAGE.” The sign is a surprise, revealing a touch of humor to classic style: a motif that accurately represents its location, Attaboy Vintage. It is nestled near a vacuum cleaner store and lined by a slim alley, so it might be a tad difficult to spot, but inside is a treasure trove of some of the finest esoterica Ventura has to offer.
Chris and Adrienne Burko, proprietors of Attaboy, are devoted to the art of selection. They do not accept items from passersby nor do they lend any space in their shop to consignment. As collectors of the whimsical and sublime, the Burkos are very specific about the aesthetic. It appears that each item is something they would want to buy for their home, which is actually a tremendous compliment to the customer. From mid-century modern furniture to pulp novels and Shriner cufflinks, Attaboy is fully-stocked with enough high-class vintage and slightly low-brow kitsch to keep any collector amused for days. Their philosophy is simple: they take pleasure in combing garage sales, estate sales and their existing collections for pieces that fit. Especially impressive is the store’s selection of typewriters, ranging from the antique, impossible-to-find 1930s models to portables from the 1970s.
With such an impeccable selection, why a Midtown location? Adrienne explains, “Initially, it was all we could afford. We looked at downtown and a few other areas, but we couldn’t justify commuting. We were in Camarillo for a while and in an antique mall in Agoura before that.” Midtown seems due for a renaissance. Chris appreciates Midtown Ventura for the “vintage feel it’s always had,” while Adrienne enjoys the architecture. “It’s a mid-century building with high ceilings, so it fits,” she says.
Attaboy offers an obvious yet oddly unique solution to today’s economic woes: its wares are actually affordable, priced for the casual collector and antique dealer alike. The decision was both practical and philosophical. As an avid collector of vintage motorcycle and bicycle ephemera, Chris understands that the value of a piece relies on its use, whether it is going for resale or going straight to the mantel, “We get a joy out of selling things to people who really appreciate it. We like others to get a deal as well. It makes it fun.”
The Burkos’ shared love of movies and mid-century brought them to this business, but they had a pretty epic job along the way. Originally hailing from Orange County and West Los Angeles, respectively, the couple worked at a nursing home for retired members of the motion picture industry. Fascinated by Hollywood lore, they began combing through their collections and taking their show on the road.
As the daughter of an antiques dealer, Adrienne had enough to start, especially combined with Chris’ ample collection. “You’re collecting everything of a certain time period and it just grows and grows. If you collect long enough, you have to find something to do with it,” he says. They both grew up in the early ’80s when “vintage was hot” so they parlayed massive collections into the impressive inventory you can see today. In fact, Attaboy even has its own mascot, Willy, a ventriloquist’s dummy who is anything but dumb. He has his own Facebook page and a litany of fans.
Luckily, vintage appears to be on the upswing as shows like Mad Men and the clean lines of mid-century design are beginning to influence both casual partygoers and interior designers. As Adrienne explains, “It’s been hanging around for a while off the radar. A lot of Ventura designers like it because it can blend with a variety of other styles.”
Collecting is something both worthwhile and entertainingly addictive. Besides, vintage items have stood the test of time. If you are looking to begin an eclectic Hollywood paperback collection or complete your grandmother’s Wedgewood china set, Attaboy is the place to start. As the Burkos say, almost in unison, “Once you get started collecting, it becomes a part of you and you can’t get rid of it.”
Attaboy Vintage, 2478 E. Main St., Ventura, 648-1668. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m to 5 p.m.