Back to the Future

The Emporium of Pop Culture is an homage to awesomeness past


Though it may be a little hard to find – located a little ways off Smith Street in a warehouse-like building marked only in the back – the new Emporium of Popular Culture, or POP, is a can’t-miss site.

When you walk into a small entranceway, a door greets you on your left and on your right. POP boasts two separate spaces that host different features – the door on the right leads to the main store, while the door on the left leads to the gallery and performance space. Owner Darren Hill first leads me into the gallery space. A Homer Simpson statue in a Santa hat sits on the small stage in front of a microphone. Funky art hangs on all of the walls. The gallery space will host art shows and musical performances, he explains.

I’m then led into the main room, as he explains the kind of items he collects. “I try to focus on pop culture antiques, primarily from the ‘50s through the ‘80s,” he says, “But I also have some dinosaur bones, other stuff that’s a bit older than that,” he adds with a laugh. The room is breathtaking. The ceiling is extremely high and the walls are completely packed with a range of old posters, signs and paintings – from abstract art to a giant glass lit cinema case with an original Jaws poster. There’s everything from chic couches and tables to old carnival rides from Rocky Point, playful Richard Nixon and other political masks to antique gas masks, a section of all sorts of medical equipment to a section filled with retro board games, comics and paper dolls from the 1980s.

The space is incredibly fun. I’m not exaggerating when I say you could explore
it for hours. The range of featured pieces would appeal to everyone of any age – there are nostalgic children’s toys and games as well as grown up items, like furniture, art pieces and more. “I was a musician for many years so I traveled around the world quite a bit and have always been interested in cool old things.

So I would accumulate and accumulate, and after years on the road I filled up many storage spaces,” explains Darren.

POP was originally located in East Greenwich, but then the opportunity arose for Darren to buy and renovate this building here in Providence. It’s big enough to feature the gallery and performing space that he really wanted. There’s also basement space in this location equal the size of the first floor. When I visited, Darren was still in the process of opening and the basement wasn’t quite ready yet, so I was sadly unable to check it out. But if it’s anything like the first floor room, which it probably is, it’s surely marvelous.

The first art show is scheduled for this month featuring artist Mark Freedman. Visit the website or Facebook page for more info on upcoming shows or for photo previews of some of the amusing finds at POP. Swing by for a truly fun antique exploring experience, or visit for an art show or performance in the gallery space.

Emporium of Popular Culture
219 West Park Street