To call Pauline’s Antiques a local “institution” is an understatement on par with referring to the Pentagon as simply “a military base.” Operator-owned by Alameda resident and icon Eunice “Pauline” Kelley for 54 years, the store is a labor of love that continues to yield surprises, secrets, and other cherished tchotchkes of our collective – and collectible – history. Whether you’re looking for it or not, chances are you’ll find it somewhere amid this cavernous yet cozy double-story treasure trove, packing every inch of its 7,000 square feet with almost every type of collectible item imaginable.
Pauline first opened the perennially popular store in the halcyon year of 1957 with her late husband, Bob, who originally worked in the construction field, with side jobs hauling trash and cleaning out basements. After accumulating everything from round oak tables to roll-top desks to bronze vases and cast iron pots and pans during these excavation excursions, Pauline suggested they just sell this stuff, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history – all of our history.
Pauline’s Antiques is like a massive yet intimate time capsule that continues saving sundry souvenirs from across the cultural cosmos, not only for posterity and preservation, but for the perpetuation of our precious past – literally, a gift that keeps on giving. Surrounded by sentiments from days of old, you’ll still always find something new.
The store’s overwhelming labyrinth of rare merchandise primarily consists of three showrooms, upstairs and down, showcasing an astonishingly eclectic array of collectibles, including but not limited to oil paintings and display prints; men’s and women’s clothing ranging from the era of Queen Victoria all the way to the days of Madonna and Prince; chandeliers and other decorative lamps; thousands of books and magazines; an incredible amount of quality glassware; vintage kitchen ware including coveted Pyrex dishes; basic tools and household necessities; nostalgic toys and games; and a wide variety of furniture, including entire dining room sets, beds, chests, armoires, and sofas, all available in a wide variety of shades, shapes and styles.
Pauline also conducts estate sales on a regular basis. On top of all that, she not only offers prop rentals for local film and television productions, but high school drama projects as well.
The community and the media have taken every opportunity to show their appreciation for Pauline’s unique contributions to Alameda and the Bay Area at large. KTVU’s roving reporter Bob MacKenzie hosted Christmastime broadcasts from the store for many years, and the employees would deck it out accordingly. Pauline’s has the feel of a permanent holiday, anyway: forever festive, richly retro, yet sweetly timeless in its appeal. Many loyal patrons frequent the store on a weekly or even daily basis. It is as much a meeting place for citizens to hang out and absorb the friendly atmosphere, as it is a marketplace for bargain hunters and collectors. No wonder the store has been honored in local publications with numerous “Best of the Bay” and “Best of Alameda” awards over the years.
Pauline has received civic recognition as well, being an Honorary Lifetime Membership in the Alameda Chamber of Commerce, and honored with the Member of the Year Award by the Park Street Business Association. Anne Diamond was mayor when Pauline was awarded “City of Alameda’s Business Woman of the Year.”
One of Pauline’s proudest achievements is her integral role within the widely acclaimed Soroptimist International of the Americas (Alameda chapter), a group of conscientious business women for which Pauline has twice served as president. This esteemed organization founded the former Alameda Girls Club, currently operating as Girls, Inc. Additionally, Pauline donates generously to local schools and charities.
Pauline Kelley is herself a living treasure trove.
1427 Park Street
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 10AM-5PM; Sunday, Noon-4PM
(written by Will Viharo)