The haberdashery shop Retrosaria Bijou and its neighbour, Arqui Chique, are both Historic Shops. In addition to being close to each other – they are only a few doors apart – they can also be considered sisters. They belong to the same owner and represent two facets of the same trade, a trade that has established itself as a theme or almost a raison d’être for the whole of Rua da Conceição, so much so that it was frequently referred to as “Haberdashery Street”.
Bijou stands out in the street for its attractive, rare façade – a blend of Art Nouveau and Rococo currently painted in shades of blue. On the painted glass sign one can still read Retrozaria (with a z), the old spelling of the Portuguese word for haberdashery. The shop opened in 1915 as a haberdashery shop but also existed as a shop before that, and the fabulous furnishings, ceiling and façade are all elements that were already there and have been conserved. Only the wooden floor has been replaced. In the 1920s it was bought by the d’Almeida family, in whose hands it remains today.
Inside, the old cash register is famous. It bears a sign saying, “The total sum for the customer’s purchases will be shown on the display”. It is a relic, but a relic that still works. And whilst it is true that Bijou is a beautiful jewel that has to be seen, a veritable curiosity, everything it sells makes it a commercial establishment in its own right. It is not just a visual delight, a stop for contemplation or a museum. The profusion of forms and colours of the articles on sale is indeed something to can be appreciated, but it hides much more: buttons for every need imaginable, threads and wools and threads, silk threads for embroidery, glass and wood beads; small beads and ribbons, stoles and more, much more. The shop even has its own silk thread brand. Production has been discontinued but as long as they’re in stock the customer will still be able to buy housed-branded silk threads here. What is no longer possible, is to marvel at the iron swan that marked the entrance to the shop. It was indeed a distinctive sign but had to be taken down for security reasons. There are rumours that it is being kept, in good health, in a nearby store, so perhaps one should not give up hope it returning one day, perhaps even seeing it swim on the incongruous lake that is Lisbon’s Baixa district.
Haberdashery articles: wool, threads, buttons, lace, embroidery, zips, buckles, ribbons, appliqués, decorative cords and braids, fringes, needles, needlework canvases and frames, dressmaker’s items, articles for all kinds of handicrafts, etc.