Written by Vicki Holder
Photography by Vicki Holder & John Williams
From stylish clothing and fashion accessories, beads and baubles to all kinds of wholesome homewares and classic furniture, Retro Addiction is an Aladdin’s Cave of quality collectables.
Much has already done the distance several times around yet it still has plenty of good years left. Not for Tasha and Mark - the easy gratification of the ubiquitous new, poor quality, give-it-a-couple-of-years throwaway stuff.
They’re both passionate about retro, deco and vintage and they appreciate the sustainability aspect of recycling too. It feels good and makes sense, rather than creating more stuff that just ends up in the landfill, they’re giving old stuff another lease of life.
“I’m not a stickler saying everybody has to buy second hand furniture. I don’t bag the people who go there. The girls next door in Good Thing have lovely new stuff. I just prefer second hand quality. It’s beautiful and well-built. It has stood the test of time,” says Tasha.
“Even the blouse I’m wearing...” admittedly a bit of a showstopper splashed in purple and white daisies “...is at least 30 years old. Though it’s been washed many times, it still looks as good as new. The great thing about furniture and clothing back in those days, it was made to last.”
The store was a natural progression of Tasha’s magpie-like collecting that dates back to her childhood years.
"I remember that feeling of getting super excited every time I found that special piece." Tasha says.
When she was just small, she reflects. “My Aunt Dolly used to take me to the flea markets with her and I would poke around while she browsed. She would say to me I could choose a couple of items. I loved carefully sifting through the racks and because it wasn’t expensive, always came out of the store owning something. It was thrilling.”
And that excitement endured. So much so that when the couple moved to Mt Albert nine years ago, her second hand treasures started to stack up and spill over from the house into the garage. When it was literally bursting at the seams, Mark said pragmatically. “We can only fit in so much stuff and you’re going to have to get rid of some of it.”
So they started selling on Trade Me. That’s when Retro Addiction was born as an online store - buying and selling cool stuff from the 1900s to the 1990s – “at prices you will love”.
Gaining licence to sell more initially resolved the problem of excess demand for space. But eventually, it just fed the ever-hungry beast and the garage bulged as the store expanded. Tasha and Mark could see they needed a physical outlet to not only store their goods but to complement their Trade Me activity with an appealing showroom in a prominent high street location.
Serendipitously one day, they were visiting the Mt Albert Market where they go most Saturdays and the little shop next door had a To Let notice pinned to the door.
Like many passersby, they thought it was just a tiny little space on the street front – too small for their burgeoning booty of treasure. On closer inspection, they discovered stairs led to a cavernous expanse downstairs that would perfectly accommodate their stacks of fabulous bigger pieces of furniture.
So Tasha – formerly a healthy and safety worker and Mark – who was previously employed by a cabinetmaker up and left their jobs to launch an exciting high street retail career. Neither had any experience but their enthusiasm more than made up for it.
Life is now a thrilling adventure that lets them combine their hobby with work in a lifestyle that sees them trip around the country sourcing great 20th century pieces to reward their dedicated clientele. They go to vintage fairs but most stuff comes from closer to home - their local community.
“When people are moving on and clearing out their homes, or someone has died, they ask us to come in and price a house lot,” continues Tasha, “They sometimes don’t know what stuff is worth. By the time we arrive, they’ve tossed half of it into a skip. Then it rains and it’s already ruined, too late to salvage. That’s sad. We want to get there before they throw anything out.”
Since they set up shop, they’ve accumulated a loyal following, says Tasha.
“Most people come in and say, this is a real feel-good shop. Some come just to reminisce. They sit on the furniture downstairs and say, ‘I remember when my mum had that'. They often find that extra special thing that takes them back to their childhood and they must have it.
“Lots of young people are looking for furniture for their flats. Mum and Dad come in with them and don’t mind paying for quality. It’s all so reasonably priced and built to last.”
“When you’re running a shop, you want great pieces for your customers,” says Mark.
You would think their home might be crammed with the very finest retro and vintage finds. But most stuff is destined for the store.
However, they do eat off chic retro plates – Crown Lynn with big bright yellow daisies. Their coloured glasses are the from 1970s. Nothing’s precious. It all gets tossed into the dishwasher. That’s the beauty of quality, they reiterate.
Mark is particularly enamoured with the 50s, 60s and 70s. Every piece reminds me of my childhood growing up. His personal favourite is a Jetson’s style chair from the 1950s – “a bit space age in white vinyl and curved arms”. Tasha’s is a teal green wing back chair and a Tretchikoff print of the Asian girl. “If the house burned down, they are the two pieces I’d rescue. Every time I see that print, it makes me happy.”
Something else that makes them both happy are plans to share their addiction with the world. “We believe this beautiful retro vintage stuff needs to be loved by everyone. And we eventually want to open in Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and keep going from there. The one stop retro department store could one day be ubiquitous as Kmart. Just maybe.