Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Stationery Store Series: Katsikas in Athens, Greece

The stationery store of Mr Katsikas calls itself a bookshop and toy store too. It is very spacious. The walls are totally concealed by shelving. Stacks upon stacks, rows upon rows of unidentified books, notebooks, folders, paper, printed matter, what else? One cannot browse but only marvel at the quantity and one can only wonder at the identity of all this stock. Does Mr Katsikas know? Is he the wise keeper of all this paper? Does anyone care? It is August. 40 degrees Celcius and rising.

Mr Katsikas - if it really is him behind the counter - is riding the heat wave that has Athens in its grip. A few customers come in looking to play Lotto or pay their water bill (Mr Katsikas shop offers these services too. It also sells plastic footballs, stamps, newspapers, cigarettes and paint brushes). Tucked in a narrow street off a wide road of a central Athens neighbourhood, Mr Katsikas stationery store is tortured by heat, pollution, double-parked cars and the absence of pavement.

I am certain that it still sells the cheap school supplies of my childhood. I grew up ten minutes away from Katsikas' shop. The pink marble floor of the shop fits exactly with the memories of obedient-blue exercise books and BICs. It seems that all writing instruments are covered with a thin film of dust. Once I reveal my penchant for pencils Mr Katsikas brings me two clear plastic boxes full of colourful pencils and confesses that in his spare time he marvels at them "like a child."

In Katsikas' shop stacks of stationery are offering themselves to a study in the archaeology of disorder by their sheer volume and disregard for contemporary display. Display, the commercial flamboyancy of display, is not in Mr Katsikas agenda or immediate plans. People are perhaps not expected to browse in his shop - not expected to make their minds up, to be lured and buy something extra enticed by the appetizing placement of objects. It is most likely that customers ask for the object of their desire trusting in Mr Katsikas authority and in his capacity to procure it.

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