Try and picture a place full of wooden crates filled with broken doll’s heads, skeleton keys, coffin handles, empty spools, rusty pharmaceutical, pill boxes, and even packets of 1930s toilet paper. Are we talking about Tim Burton’s attic? Not at all!
Fittingly located in Paris’ districts like the gritty Marché aux Puces de Saint Ouen (Clignancourt) and the vibrant Montmartre, Tombées du Camion (literally translating to “fallen off a truck”) gives justice to the saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
If you love bric-a-brac and try to avoid Paris’ (sometime) expensive flea markets and (grumpy) antiques dealers, then you might want to drop by this shop. For the past eight years, Charles, a former flea market dealer, has been touring old abandoned factories all over France, in search for unwanted items once manufactured in bulk. There are three shops Tombées du Camion: one located in Montmartre, and the two others in marché Vernaison (Puces de Saint-Ouen) – one specialized in fixtures and lighting, while the other (nearly 100 m2) has just opened.
“I focus on objects that have no market value, but an emotional and nostalgic value, things that, without imagination, are worthless”.
How did this adventure started? Well, with the purchase of MILLIONS of small leftover cheap jewelery. “One day while I was still junk shopping, I bought a large batch of costume jewelry that I did not managed to sell afterwards. And I had several cubic meters of those!” recalls Charles. “At that time, I was tired of the flea market business. I wanted to pursue this adventure, but without all the speculation that goes with it. So I started selling worthless things. “
Tombées du Camion literally showcases a multitude of objects from all eras and all usefulness: 6 € doll heads, 15 € brushes for infants, 20 € padlock Pooh, 2 € vintage postcards, € 5 fake tattoos, 23 € toy cars, colorful beads or old glass eyes that once belonged to WW1 veterans (“broken faces”), etc. You name it.
“I focus on objects that have no market value, but an emotional and nostalgic value”, says Charles. “Many things that, without imagination, are worthless”. And if there is one thing that Charles has, it is imagination. Before becoming a flea market merchant, Charles was a sculptor. That explains the peculiar set up inside his stores. At home, the objects are woven into coded messages, unnoticed, much like a hidden puzzle. “In my shop, these are only associations of objects”, said Charles. “One day I will sell a 33€ Christ [ed: the price refers to the age at which the Christ died], and another day, I will place a sign “I love him but I cheat on him” just beside two tiny figures featuring an ideal couple. “
Despite the incredible number of objects – sometimes strange – brought together by this impassioned man, everything is in its place, carefully organized in salvaged crates or on old recycled shelves. The specialty of Tombées du Camion? Vintage wood types used a long time ago by stores to create headlines.
“People sometimes spend hours looking for the perfect letter to write the name of their loved ones,” says Melissa, who works with Charles. Besides, if you look closely, these wood types are visible from the front of the shop as they make up the letters of the sign Tombées du Camion. A nice mess, which is not so crazy as one could think at first.
Tombées du Camion
Where: 17, rue Joseph de Maistre, Paris, 75018
When: Mon-Sat 1:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Public Transport: M12 (Abesses) and M2 (Blanche)