a 69 year old man in a black leather jacket stands next to a table of varied antiques and knick knacks on the sidewalk
Justo Garcia, 69, sells antiques and other wares at 22nd and Mission streets. Photo by Anlan Cheney on Dec. 14, 2021.

Justo Garcia’s motley assortment of antiques and curiosities is an almost permanent fixture at 22nd and Mission streets.

The 69-year-old is there at the southwest corner nearly every day, rain or shine, with his wares spread on tables and blankets. The exception, he pointed out, is when he takes one weekend a month to go to flea markets to replenish his stock.

He usually goes to Oakland and Sacramento to search for things he thinks his buyers will like. The important thing, he said, is to have a variety of items, since “some people buy antiques, some people buy regular stuff.”

Today, his wares include at least 20 wooden African-style masks, ornamental jewelry and storage boxes of varied colors, a flute, a typewriter, silver and gold dishes and other knick-knacks, a miniature model of a ship, clocks, radios and a vintage toy train. The latter is a full set, he points out, which makes up for the fact that it is plastic.

The trick is to find things in one piece, he said. And he doesn’t bother to polish anything up. “They say it has to look like that,” he said of his customers; antiques must look like antiques.

Shoppers tend to gravitate to the masks, which are “more expensive,” he said. He favors the masks, which cost between $20 and $60, as well as the jewelry boxes, which also start at $20.

The father of five and grandfather is a native of Honduras, born in Nacaome, in the southern coastal state of Valle, which borders El Salvador. He came to this country when he was 36 or 37, he said, and has lived for 30 years in the Mission.

He began this gig in 2020, after 20 years working for a local company. Now that he’s 70 — he rounded up since his birthday is in March — he said most companies won’t give him a job. “So I have to look at how can I pay my bills,” he explained, chuckling.

Plus, he noted, it works as gifts for his kids.

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"Annie" is originally from Nebraska, where she found her calling to journalism as editor of her high school newsletter. Before returning to the field, she studied peace and political science in the Balkans, taught elementary and middle school, and worked as an epidemiologist during the COVID-19 pandemic. Follow her on Twitter @anlancheney.

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