The word La Galcante is a mix between galerie (gallery) and brocante (flea market / second-hand store). Hidden behind a big blue door, away from the brouhaha of the rue de Rivoli, is a gold mine for those of you interested in old press. Make sure you have a couple of hours to spare because once you enter the arched glass doors, time will run away as you lose yourself amongst its treasures. And if you like your piles super organised, i.e. arranged alphabetically, then just leave that to one side for your visit.
The first thing that hits you when you enter is the smell of old paper: then again, with items that date back to the French Revolution this makes total sense. Books, magazine, illustrations, theatre programmes, postcards (and more) fill drawers and shelves - ladders are required to access many items. I spent 45 minutes alone in there on my last visit to take some pictures: I unearthed a postcard of boyband Take That (post Robbie) and a sizeable back catalogue of New Yorker magazines.
Opened in 1975 by French journalist Christian Bailly, the first store was actually at number 43 of the same street until 1995. To attract more than amateur enthusiasts to his store, Christian came up with the idea of the birthday paper - anyone looking to commemorate a special date (birthday, anniversary etc.) could actually buy an original paper or magazine of their desired date.
Today the store has an estimated 8 million items in its possession and around 10 members of staff. With no online store there’s no way they can bring serious money in, which on the one hand is a shame because it would be a tragedy to see La Galcante disappear, but it’s also part of the shop’s charm. Here is an opportunity to experience something authentically French. The Louvre is fabulous but you’ll discover just as many treasures (if not more) at La Galcante!
Juliette, who knows the store like the back of her hand, was on duty during my last visit. She doesn’t respond to "How are you?" with a mere "ça va". Juliette will tell you about her apartment leak that comes from upstairs and how there’s nothing she can do until the end of the day because her colleagues are all in the French countryside for a wedding. I appreciated her candour and made some sympathetic French noises that I hope made her feel a bit better.
I unearthed an online interview with another staff member, Romuald Kostecki, a researcher who has been working there since 1983. He’s the guy that well-established directors call when they need authentic props for their films: it’s financially advantageous for them to buy from La Galcante as opposed to a super expensive archivist where you have to also pay for the rights of an item.
Hopefully, nostalgia will win out and La Galcante can afford to stay open. On my next visit, I’d quite link to sink my teeth into their celebrity boxes (Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, Edith Piaf, Serge Gainsbourg etc.)