By Gray Chapman
Antiques — the very word conjures up images of grandma-scented velvet chairs and dusty bureaus strewn with lace doilies. But once you enter the doors of the dark, vast and mysterious Paris on Ponce, you tend to abandon those musty preconceptions as soon as the owners, George and Judi Lee, welcome you in and offer you a drink. The Lees have spent the past eleven years stuffing the 50,000 square foot building with every curiosity one could imagine, and some that are even beyond imagination.
Nothing about Paris on Ponce suggests a quick “in and out” ordeal. A serving table with cookies, coffee, hot chocolate and occasionally mimosas sits amidst the vintage rubble, offering customers sustenance as they spend an hour or two picking through the wares. While the actual antique furniture is usually quite pricey (i.e. not in the average Spring House resident’s dorm-decorating budget), perusing the cavernous space and all it has to offer is a priceless outing alone.
Gingerly stepping through the artfully arranged piles of, well, everything, you might find that perfect cement gargoyle for your Gothic mansion. Or, if your Macbook isn’t doing it for you anymore, check out one of the late 19th century typewriters stowed away in a seemingly ancient armoire. Human-sized wrought iron Victorian birdhouses, chandeliers worthy of “The Phantom of the Opera,” creepy baby dolls, sky-high velvet ladies’ hats, back issues of Playboy older than your father — the place truly is stacked to the rafters with likely the most slapdash collection of furniture and trinkets that exists in Atlanta (or the entire South).
But don’t get too lost in this French forest of novelties. Every Paris on Ponce visitor has to find their way to the most intriguing part of the whole store: Le Maison Rouge, a dazzling event space in the back of the store. The entire room is like a seductive boudoir, with nearly every surface draped in rich red velvet. A stage, dance floor and bar all serve their purpose, but the space features oddities not commonly seen in your average party venue. Dressed-to-the-nines mannequins lounge against the antiques, and plush, ornate bedding lines the wall (complete with curtains for the discreet partygoer). The opulent space is so reminiscent of Paris’ famous Moulin Rouge that you almost expect to see Toulouse-Lautrec sketching courtesans in the corner. Best of all, the event space is open to the public when not in use—so make sure to venture into the seductive space when you’re finished examining the store’s collection of vintage cameras.
While much of Paris on Ponce’s merchandise is pricey, going to the store is like going to a museum of oddities (with free admission). Paris on Ponce makes for a great weekend afternoon outing, and you never know what kind of collector’s item or weird treasure you could find hidden in the dark warehouse.
For more information, including store hours, directions, history and more, visit their Web site at www.parisonponce.com.