A treasure trove for the die-hard curio collector
Walls of hand-painted ceramic plates. Unique lamps, figurines, tapestries, vintage jewelry —you name it. Fond Memories has it all — gadgets and gizmos of plenty, packed like sardines in a quaint antique shop.
Fond Memories houses some of the favorite findings of Maria Augusta Rita Vas Andrade, but just “Rita” will do for this curio collector.
Rita picked up the hobby of collecting old antiques about eighteen years ago when she first moved to the U.S. And after stowing these treasures in her home until there was no more room to hold them, she knew she had to open a shop and share her trove with the public.
“I called it Fond Memories because I created memories as I found the items. I remember the people I met, the stories they shared about the items, and who I was with as I searched for them,” Rita said. “Often, I go with my mother. She also loves old things, and she’s gotten a good eye, as well, over the years.”
While some of the items are bought at auctions, Rita also visits estate sales and even homes where she is invited to take a look at old heirlooms and see if she could fetch a price.
“I buy what I like,” Rita explained. “And if I like them, I try to find out where they came from and what story they have.”
A lover of old things, Rita conducts research on her inventory. She can tell stories about most of the items in her shop — there’s the ceramic doll made after the image of a beautiful young girl by a mother years ago. And the blown glass from Venice. Royal Doulton kitchenware. The native American busts made in 1981.
Of her own life, Rita has as many stories as she does items in her shop. Some of her fondest memories were made where she was born in Tanzania, a country in East Africa occupied by the British during the colonial era.
“I have lovely memories of Afri-ca,” Rita said. “There was no crime that I can remember, no prejudice. There were all kinds of people living there. I had a happy childhood there.”
Rita’s family decided to move to India in 1966. They enjoyed the beaches in Goa and the busy streets of Mumbai, or “Bombay” as it was called in those days. And when she married, Rita moved to Dubai where she worked as a teacher until settling in Georgia in 2001. Shortly after arriving, she began working at Gwin-nett Medical where she stayed until three years ago when she opened her shop.
When completing paperwork to receive her U.S. passport, Rita considered shortening her name, but then thought better of it. “Maria Augusta” was her grandmother on father’s side, and the history was too precious to lose. Although “Rita” is her chosen name, she responds if someone calls the name “Maria “as well.
Many of her customers share her appreciation for history. Rita shared a story of one man who entered the shop hoping to find something that bears unique meaning to his family. Her Second Amendment Plate was just the thing.
“One day, a gentleman came in, and said he knew he wanted to buy something, but he didn’t know what. I told him that I knew just the thing. It was a plate emblemized with the Second Amendment, and he said, ‘Yes! I can keep these to teach my grandkids and their kids and so they will never forget its importance.’”
Other customers enjoy the experience of browsing the items, searching for one that speaks to them personally. It’s like an Easter Egg hunt, and the searching makes the find even more worthwhile. The inventory ranges in aesthetic and style. There are Western pieces, Egyptian, and retro decor. There are old cooking utensils, cast iron pans and vinyl records —a treasure trove for those who enjoy hunting.
And for those who lose patience, Rita has other arrangements.
“One man asked me to keep a lookout for a banner for his man-cave. It was of dogs playing cards, and I told him I’d look. You don’t see those often, but if I find one, he’ll be the first to know.”
Nestled in the Publix shopping center near 316 in Lawrenceville, Fond Memories is addressed at 4850 Sugarloaf Pkwy #603. Those who are game for a unique window or gift shopping experience can visit Mon-day through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., or give Rita a call at (678) 225-5118 to check if there might be an item for them.