SOUTHINGTON — “Is that an X-ray?” Nathan Nunez asked as Marcy Mongillo, owner of La Vita Vintage as she brought out a collection of macabre antiques from her back room.
After getting a sense what Nunez was looking for, Mongillo said she had some other things he might want and brought out old medical tools, an antique book on venereal diseases and the x-ray which showed a human head with a large tumor.
“I don’t show that to everyone,” Mongillo said.
She’s been selling antiques, collectibles and oddities for 25 years but is closing up her shop this winter. The building she’s been in for 14 years is for sale, but Mongillo also credited changing shopping habits with the store’s closure. The younger generation looking to buy aren’t as interested in antiques.
“They can’t be bothered. They want Ikea, they want it now,” Mongillo said. “What they see on TV is what they want.”
When she started out, Mongillo focused on what she thought of as “real” antiques: furniture and other items from the 1800s. Her customers were informed collectors who knew what they wanted. Mongillo would hunt for specific pieces and know she’d have a buyer.
As the years went on, the definition of antique became newer. It now encompasses the 1990s, which flabbergasts Mongillo.
There are also fewer serious collectors, she said. Her customers range from decorators looking for unique glassware, collectors on the hunt for a rare find, costumers wanting vintage clothing or artists looking to repurpose old items. With such a wide range of interests, she keeps a little bit of everything in her shop. Religious statues, old advertisements, paintings, mason jars, toys, jewelry, fill every room of the house’s first floor.
“I have to carry a little bit of everything,” Mongillo said.
She’s having sales to clear her inventory, some of which is in storage and is being slowly brought to the store. Her last day might be in February depending on how fast everything sells.
When Mongillo first started out, she had to hunt for items. Now they come to her, sometimes dropped off on her doorstep without a note.
“I thank them,” Mongillo said of anonymous donors.
From 15 shops to two
On Wednesday morning, she greeted some regulars as well as first-time customers such as Nunez. He was buying a pile of items for Curioporium, an oddities shop he owns in Parkville, Hartford. He’s looking to decorate with some of Mongillo’s antiques, including a Day of the Dead mask, but also picked up a tea cup and saucer with horoscope signs on it for tea leaf reading.
Nunez said he’s struggled to find stores like La Vita Vintage in the state.
“We depend on shops like this. They’re getting fewer and far between,” he said.
She started out with a shop on North Main Street in a building that’s since been torn down and replaced with a Liberty Bank. She expects something similar will happen with the home from 1836 that she’s been in for the past 14 years.
“They’ll probably put up a bank,” Mongillo said.
The foot traffic was great on North Main Street, Mongillo said, and included workers from the nearby factories which were still in operation. When she moved to Plantsville after the closure of many of those factories, the area was also lively with many other antique shops to draw the collecting demographic. That’s no longer the case.
“There used to be 15 shops. Now there are two,” Mongillo said.
Mongillo described her landlord, Michael Mordarski, as family. Mordarski’s grandmother bought several Plantsville properties in the 1940s and owned Buczko Department Store which closed after a fire in 1972.
Generations of the Mordarski families have lived in the apartments above storefronts owned by Michael Mordarski. He’s selling the last two buildings he owns in Plantsville to Precision Property Management, a company based there and which has already bought one of his buildings.
"It’s time. It’s a little bit sad selling it, but you know when it’s time."