The Melissa is a quirky, vintage design store found right at Queen Street West and Dovercourt. It's an incredibly tiny store with a strong, almost overpowering musty smell, but there's so much to see and touch inside that I keep finding new treasures and surprises, no matter how many times I walk in circles.
A postcard on the door advertises The Melissa as having "eclectic stuff at recession prices" and I couldn't agree more. Everything inside was inexpensive and unique, but I couldn't help but wonder how much of it had been curated from out-of-town garage sales and the attics of many deceased Grandmothers.
Anybody looking for something a little quirky and worn for their home will not be disappointed by the finds here. I loved looking through the used books, vintage records and board games, and I was actually tempted to pick up a few old-timey postcards (marked unusually as "2 or 3 for $5") and 75 cent recipe cards including such tricky recipes as sukiyaki, stuffed trout and egg foo yun.
I was also drawn to all the different options of wall art including some creepy, but pretty amazing fabric collages of sleeping babies for $55, a large white stallion velvet painted, framed, for $50 and a good-sized selection of wall painted originals (although some of the looked eerily similar to paint by numbers - but in the kitshy, good way), including a beautiful Asian painting titled "Japan in all its glory" for $42.
The musty smell, which my nose never really gets used to, clearly comes from the enormous supply of fabrics available. There are a lot of different drapes, tablecloths, throws, blankets and handkerchiefs for sale. Surely this place would have a fabric to match and fit any window, but I would recommend a really strong cleaning of any textile to make sure that your house doesn't also end up smelling damp and a little bit like decay.
While perusing the used clothing racks I noticed that they must have all been laundered because they didn't have any odour, but I'm not sure how many people would be interested in these used shoes outside of maybe a costume party, considering that some of the former owners didn't seem to use them that gently at all.
However, the clothing racks at the back of the store were bursting with some pretty dresses, cute shirts and sharp jackets, including a really nice $18 bright red windbreaker that was calling my name.
There's also a generous supply of jewelery and accessories available. I prefer to wear nothing but my watch to go with my ensemble, but the display cases had tons of brooches and pins, including a variety of "handmaiden" pins featuring cartoonish and hand-drawn images faces and old-timey ladies for $2 each.
There isn't really anywhere to go in this small store except in a circle, but I made several trips because I kept eyeing things I had missed on my previous go-rounds. I don't know how I almost glanced right over the large selection of assorted glassware, candle holders and ceramics - including several sets of various vegetable salt and pepper shakers. Perfect for anyone who really likes carrots and cauliflower, for only $22 a pair. I also could barely resist a globe for $45 featuring the Union of Soviet Socialists way out there in east Asia.
I usually steer away from decor that just looks like an excuse to have something to dust - especially if it's being sold as a treasure, rather than someone's junk, but you really can't go wrong with The Melissa. Sure, I left the place with my wallet still firmly in my pocket, but if you're in the market to add some character and originality to your home, then you'll barely make a dent in your funds, but add a lot of value to any room with a visit here.
(Also, when you visit, make sure to visit Art History which is right next door and attached inside, plus take note of the hours: open Thursday through Sunday, Wednesday by chance or appointment.)
Photos by Jason Tavares