If you’re looking for vintage Playboys, memorabilia from Soviet Russia, Miley (Destiny Hope) Cyrus posters, or any other collectible that you would NEVER think of, drive over to Wild Bill’s Nostalgia Store.
Bill hasn’t thrown anything away for all sixty-three years of his life, which inspired him to start a retail store in Middletown twenty-five years ago. He is a cheerful hippie who greeted us with a smile and friendly banter–instantly recognizing us as Wesleyan students. Bill says that “people seem to just find [him]” and sell him boxes of random stuff. His first big purchase was 70,000 vintage posters, including an autographed Picasso, from a warehouse in San Francisco, helping him launch his career as a retailer. Bill still has posters left over from this batch, and along with the various other hippie artifacts, his store is a little taste of Haight and Ashbury in our very own Middletown.
The outside is colorfully decorated with exaggerated portraits of rock legends, circus performers, and miscellaneous historic figures such as MLK Jr. Bill commissioned his friend Chris Hausbeck and other artists to decorate the exterior.
Hausbeck’s famous “Trapman” is staged in the back of the store along with a steel bear—both are large-scale sculptures made out of hunting traps. The two are price at $50,000, making the set the most expensive item in the store.
The second most expensive item is a creepy porcelain clown worth $25,000, which “has been with [Bill] for decades” (I wonder why).
Unfortunately, neither of us had $25,000 to spend and therefore walked away with much less pricey souvenirs; Chachi bought herself a one of a kind flask from Communist Russia and I bought, at Bill’s suggestion, a Wild Bill custom bobble head doll signed by the one and only Bill himself.
Whether you’re looking to furnish your dorm room, discover all those random collectables you couldn’t find on eBay, or maybe just to have a nice conversation with a loveable hippie, this place is certainly a must-see.
Photos by Chachi Hauser