Frank Savazzi - Toronto

Frank, 82, came from Milan 65 years ago, in 1951, he was 17 years old. At first it was very hard for him because he didn’t understand English very much. and he thought people spoke more French than English. He started at a very young age.

When he was 9, he would go to school in the morning, and his mother would send him to spend the rest of his day learning the skills of the tailoring trade, because she didn’t want him to hang out in the street and get himself into trouble.

"If I had a penny for every stitch I have made, I would be a millionaire. » he jokes.

«I love very much my trade that I learned in the center of Milan, the capital of fashion among very very good tailors. When I came to Canada, I started to make a lot of suits, twenty five, thirty suits a week for the Hudson Bay.

Now I’m older, so I decided to slow it down but I still make suits once in a while because I love very much my work. »

One of Frank’s boss in Milan, a very very good tailor, filled an application to go to Lebanon to be a tailor. At that time, people in Lebanon were tired to go all the way to Europe to buy a beautiful suit, so he got hired to build a good tailor shop there that became pretty successful. He then had the opportunity to go to Canada, but instead of going, he told Frank to go. Frank had a lot of work in Milan and he didn’t want to leave his family behind. He still went to pass the exam to see if he qualified, and he was accepted. He decided to pass and said he would maybe consider it in a year, but he kept on postponing. He then was told that if he kept on refusing, the Government of Canada would no longer consider his application.

That’s how he decided to move from Milan to Toronto. He came by himself, then after three months, his wife followed him with their three young children. She spoke French, English, Italian and German. She helped him with his French and made things easier for Frank. They bought a house because they didn’t to do like all the other immigrants. When she passed away, he raised his three children by himself and remarried after they were all married. He’s been with his second wife, Connie, for 26 years now.

«Nobody wants to learn anymore. Learning a trade demands a lot of time, patience. Nowadays, people want to make money right away because they want to have a car, a better life. They don’t learn like we did, with some kicks in the back sometime; we learned the hard way. We know to do everything: from the vest to the jacket, to the coat. Not like now where people are chain workers: someone does a pocket, someone else does the sleeve, etc and it’s a different kind of work.»

«I don’t like it when people follow like sheep (…) Create your own style and be yourself for what you are.»

Frank's place is like a museum filled with objects and memories collected through the years. Unfortunately, it's gonna close one day.

Frank loves everything about Canada: from the Natives, the Royal Mountain Police and the mountains of British Columbia and he's very grateful for the life he was able to live in Canada. His shop is filled with paintings and sculptures from and inspired by the Natives.

Philip Mortillaro - New York City

The shop here is Greenwich Locksmiths, I opened this up in 1980, in April it will be 36 years, and this is my life. I love my shop and I think when you look at the building you can tell. I like to make metal sculptures out of keys. I’m a good locksmith. 

Years ago when I opened here, this shop was normal, this was how NYC was, there were lots of little shops across the street from me, there was a place called Casey’s Rubber Stamps, it was this guy from Dublin who opened up a shop just to make rubber stamps, you could make your name, you could make whatever you wanted, that’s all he sold; and up the block there was another guy who would just take pictures of streets in NYC, of people, whatever and he would put them in a frame and sell those. This is how business used to be. 

Years ago I would go to a café, I knew the owner, there was one guy around the corner from Italy, he would have a little café, now you go to Starbucks; when you wanna go to a hardware store, you go to Home Depot; when you wanna go to a book store, you go to Barnes & Noble, so this is the way the world is now, the world is shot; NYC is not really NYC anymore. NYC reminds me of a gift shop in an airport: you go on Bleeker Str. now and it’s all these Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren and everything else I don’t even know anymore. Before there used to be a lot of old antique shops over there and they would give me some business, they would bring an antique lock for me to fix it, now it’s different. But now I’m an old man so it’s ok." 

My son works with me and in the beginning I didn’t think he was gonna go into this with me cos he went to college and everything, I thought he was gonna do something else. But now he loves it, he’s 29 years old, all of a sudden he thinks about this kind of business all the time, and he does lots of IT stuff, so he’s gonna be dealing with all the electronic locks, which I don't do. As long as I'm around I'll be doing the old-fashioned stuff."

Anastacia Fahnestock - Philadelphia

Meet Anastacia "Stacy" Fahnestock, 58, from Philadelphia.
She's been selling antiques for 31 years. She's married to Scott Evans and they run the store together.

They started their business from a very grass roots beginning, back in the early 80's. They both had an art degree, Anastacia was waitressing and Scott was a carpenter.

Anastacia's needed to have her wisdom teeth pulled, in order to gather the money, Scott and her used their trash picking skills to hunt for goods and set-up antiques sale.

They made $500 on their very first week-end and that's how they decided to use their gift of knowing what people wanted to start selling goods they would find on the street.

Twice a month, on Saturdays, they would have a street sale and their following would grow bigger and bigger, weeks after weeks and had to make it more official.

Back in 1985, they heard about the opening of a flee market in a former synagogue and decided to rent a space there for $200 a month.
They moved to their current much bigger location in 1996.

It was a rat infested shit-hole, the neighbourhood wasn't safe but they decided to buy the building from the owner.

They renovated the whole building and rented one of the apartments to a family who needed a place to live. 

"We're in business because we love old things, we love curating, we love finding them, we love the history of it, it just brings an emotion to us. You know it's a capture in time. There are times that I have sold things that I have regretted because I know I'll never see that item again. If I have so much of an emotional attachment to an object, it won't come in here, or it'll be in the back closet, not on the floor. To me, the heart of the store are the puppets. If I sell those, I think I'll close up. But they're very expensive, so... Haha. We've had them for twenty years. I don't know if I could sell them. But anyway..."

Curtis Anthony - Philadelphia

Meet Curtis Anthony, 57, from Philadelphia. He's been in the bike business since 1982.

He opened Via Bicycles 34 years ago with a $5,000 loan from his mother, backed by an antique bed for collateral. 

"I'm blessed, I love what I do. We treat people like we want them to come back. The people who work here, we demand that they treat people fairly and honestly and most people we do want to see again. A small percentage we hope never return but the bulk of the people we want to come back. This is our third location. We focus on vintage bicycles, something that I really like is people who have worked here like it because most of our customers use their bicycles as tools rather than toys. So we really do provide a service for the community, which makes me feel good.

Upstairs, we store vintage bikes that we've collected through the years. Sometimes because I'm a crappy businessman we have to sell nice bikes from our collection to keep the doors open and the lights on. We've had the pleasure of working on some really nice bikes, many of them we ride and meeting a variety of very very interesting people over the years. Our bikes range from the 1880's up until the present. We work on just about anything, if there's something we can't handle, we'll recommend who can do it for you.

I would like to see our business continue when I decide to retire, it's tough finding people that really care and want it to go, cos sometimes it's not about the money, it's about what we do for people and keeping the shop afloat."

Charles Neri - Philadephia

Meet Charles Neri, 81, owner of an antique shop in Philadelphia that has been here for 40 years.

"I just happen to like the antiques, I like to be around beautiful things, listen to good music and it keeps me alive.

I started this business in 1976, I was in another business for 25 years and just got tired of it and didn’t know what to do, I wasn’t educated for anything and I knew I liked the antiques so I bought this building and opened up an antique shop. Gave up half of my other work, I would go do my other work in the morning, come here in the afternoons until I saw after 4 or 5 years that I could make a living doing this, then I gave up all my other work and that was my retirement.

I’ve been here for 40 years now and I can’t wait to get here everyday.

And I hope the shop will be here another 40 even though I won’t. I hope my daughter Cindy will run it after I’m gone."

Mario Antonio Hernandez Y Escamilla - Mexico

Meet Mario, this 74 year old sculptor who restores and creates religious icons. Mario is the 5th generation of sculptors and probably the last one. His story moved me a lot. This man is a true Guardian. I spent nearly an hour with him. At first, he didn't want anything to do with taking pictures. I let him talk, he explained his reasons and I did my best to understand his bitterness. He knows that his craft will die with him after 206 years of family tradition. People prefer to buy "Made in China" artefacts. Mario needed someone to talk to. Someone who'd understand him. I feel so honored that this someone was me, and that he let me photograph him. Don't wait til it's too late, go talk to these passionate people, learn from them and give them the respect they deserve, while they're still around.

Esther Fisher - Montreal

H. Fisher & Fils is an old-fashioned shop specializing in tailoring and sewing supplies since 1921. 

Esther Fisher, 88, took over the shop about 20 years ago when her husband, the son of the original owner, died, and none of her kids wanted to take it over.

“I’m sitting here alone now. It gives me a purpose. I get up in the morning and I come here. I have something to do. Most of my friends my age which is 85, 86, 84 give or take, they get up in the morning and say: ‘What am I gonna do today?’. They have to look for things to do. I don’t have to look, I have to come down to the store. And I meet people, I talk to people, I take orders and I enjoy it very very much. So, as long as I’m able physically and mentally, thats what it’s gonna be.”

Esther Fisher talking about her grandchildren in Toronto

Bill Kasper, aka The Birdman - New York City

The Birdman is this colorful, slightly hunchbacked, 74 year-old character, who openly says he wants to take our money in exchange for music and fun. Nearly 250,000 CDs and audiocassettes, and another 50,000 video and DVDs are buried and piled into his lair. He doesn’t own a computer, a cell phone, or a cash register. He solely relies on his visual memory.

He made a fortune on Wall Street when he was 35 years old and enjoyed it up to when he was 57, before opening his shop Rainbow Music in 1998.

He bemoans the fact that these small neighbourhood shops are closing to make room for Starbucks, Subway, Duane Reade and other big chains. The neighbourhood is no longer the same and he knew that one day it would be his turn to put the key under the door, and that's exactly what he did, a year ago, at the end of September 2015.

“I can dig out anything I want. The thing is, I just don’t want to dig anymore.” he said. (nytimes)


Directed by Jessie Auritt

With CDs, VHSs and old cassette tapes stacked to the ceiling, Rainbow Music is a hoarder's paradise. However, its quirky owner, known as 'The Birdman', knows exactly where everything is. Amidst the Starbucks and Subways popping up on every corner of the East Village, Rainbow Music maintains its mom and pop feel, and is a hidden gem to its patrons. Due to the weak economy, online music sales and pirating, and the changing neighborhood, this charismatic curmudgeon is struggling to sell what he has in his store. Despite these challenges, The Birdman carries on to his own tune.

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