Everything about Tony Stamolis’ life right now is a bit surreal.
Like, he owns a dog. He didn’t know he even wanted a dog until he found one wandering in the middle of the road. And, even then, he had no plans to keep the thing, but no one claimed it at the shelter, so he took it home and it turned out to be the best dog ever.
He’s also back living in Fresno after spending 20-plus years in New York as an artist and photo-book author. During that time, he returned to the Valley only for quick visits, and he never imagined he’d love living here again. Yet he does.
And now he’s opening his own retail store.
“It’s just bananas,” says Stamolis, standing behind the glass counter at Scraps, the “eclectic gift shop” that opens Thursday on the Tuolumne Street side of the Warnors Theatre Complex. He admits that opening the shop was a rash decision. The entire store came together in less than a month and was inspired almost exclusively by a single conversation he had with Kirk and Cassey James, whose own boutique, Root, hosts its own grand-opening/one-year anniversary Thursday night on the Fulton side of the theater complex. The store had been on Fulton Mall proper, next to Peeve’s Public House.
“They are the hub,” Stamolis says.
Once they put the idea in his head, he couldn’t get it out.
Of course, Stamolis is not new to retail. His first job was behind the counter at the novelty shop Penny Candy. He was 15. And he’s actually been working flea markets, helping to sell some of the inventory that was left when Penny Candy’s owner, Carole Gostanian, died last year.
In many ways, Scraps is Stamolis’ slightly less cluttered version of Penny Candy. Gostanian would have had the place packed with stuff, he says. Scraps feels a little more sparse and clinical, with its glass counters and white walls. Some of the inventory here comes from Penny Candy’s old stock. That includes a collection of vintage shirts, ball caps and period posters. There’s a shiny Mylar print of Kris Kristofferson that is amazing to look at, as well as a number of sex-and-drug-referencing black-light posters. There’s also a collection of one-inch buttons that Gostanian had printed in the late 1960s with slogans such as “Fresno: Armpit of America” or “Fresno Sucks.”
Those are augmented by Stamolis’ own, more contemporary buttons. One reads: #your #hashtags #aren’t #working.
There are also boxes of brightly colored shoelaces and a random assortment of novelty socks. There are old brass belt buckles and books and vintage ’zines, although many – like the “Cocaine Testers Handbook” – were printed before ’zines were even a thing.
The shop’s inventory will evolve, Stamolis says. Invariably, it will be a mix of all of the stuff he likes and collects himself, along with his own T-shirt designs and special one-off art print collaborations.
Remember, Stamolis is the guy behind the Fresno unicorn T-shirt. He had list of ideas for possible projects before he even had a lease on the space. It was 30 people deep and includes guys like Alex Gutierrez, whom Stamolis discovered via his work with the local hip-hop collective, Sagey.
There’s a joke hidden in Stamolis’ shop’s name. On the branding, it’s spelled out as “crap” with a dollar sign at each end: $crap$.
“I can sell whatever I want here,” he says. Hence, the collection of not-entirely accurate California coffee mugs – one has a beach scene above the words “Life’s a Beach” and “Fresno”– and a bowl full of plastic California Raisin figures.
Stamolis borrowed his business model, without realizing it, from Gostanian and Penny Candy.
“I do things more to entertain myself,” he says, “which is sort of what Carole did.”
- 2019 Tuolumne St.
- Noon to 5 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and by appointment
- 559-222-7000, scrapsshoppe.com