By Joe Anthony Myrick
The Review Special Writer
What do you get when you put a rat inside of a pharmacy?
You get Hamtramck’s brand new dual shop, courtesy of Joanna Komajda-Smith and Monique Given.
On Smith’s half of the shop, you’ve got Rat Queen Vintage, and on Given’s, you have 3-Ring Traveling Apothecary – both located at 10031 Jos. Campau.
Together, they bring to Hamtramck a wide assortment of rare books, clothes, medical supplies, teas, prop skulls, and an entire subcategory which Smith proudly identifies as “creepy weird sh*t.”
The Review got a chance to sit down with Joanna to discuss why they chose Hamtramck as their place of work, and why they opened the store together to begin with.
“We were introduced by mutual friends at El Club two years ago,” Joanna said about meeting her business partner for the first time at the local southwest Detroit venue. “We totally hit it off immediately. Just similar interests and we just started talking and we realized that we had a lot in common.”
Monique Givens moved to Detroit with her son all the way from Alabama. She had visited the city for her personal art shows, and after taking in the atmosphere that the area has to offer, she fell in love with Detroit and decided to take a permanent residence here.
She originally opened a shop in the Jefferson Chalmers area, but didn’t find much foot traffic over there. Upon meeting Joanna Komajda-Smith, the two teamed up to organize some joint pop-up events at the Tangent Gallery and during the 2017 Hamtramck Labor Day Festival.
After discovering there was some magical chemistry between them, they realized they would make great business partners.
Komajda-Smith, meanwhile, has lived in Hamtramck for the past 17 years and is more than happy to not only represent her city, but run her establishment here.
“I love Hamtramck,” Komajda-Smith said. “I like the closeness of the community. I lived here for 17 years, so the thought of me having a job five minutes from home was super appealing and this space was available. We bit the bullet and said ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’”
Komajda-Smith added that “there’s so much going on right now in Hamtramck. You can virtually get almost any kind of food you want here. It’s amazing, in just two square miles. It’s incredible, and of course, there’s other vintage shops, which we thought would also be good to create a destination for vintage (products).
“I think it’s helpful to have a bunch of little places you can bop around to. When you start to see a lot of new activity, it’s super encouraging that something’s happening, and Hamtramck’s kinda badass. I love it here. I love this spot. I absolutely love it.”
When asked why they sell these odd collectibles, Komajda-Smith said that “they reflect our personalities. We figured if we like it, there’s other people who like creepy weird sh*t,” she said with a laugh.
Komajda-Smith said there is one thing you can consistently expect at their shop.
“We don’t want to be too mainstream. We want to have certain specialties and that’s the beauty of vintage,” Komajda-Smith said.
“You’d never go into two, or three, or four vintage stores and find the exact same thing ever. It’s fun to find something that’s 70 years old and it’s so incredible still. Finding new old stock items blows my mind — like it was made and pressed yesterday.”
Many of these vintage collectibles are sold alongside handmade products crafted by Givens herself. In the comfort of her own home, Givens creates candles, eco-friendly soy wax, scents, essential oils, perfumes, room fresheners, liquid and bar soaps, bath oils, face and body creams and scrubs, bath salts, and bath oils. She makes it all from scratch and sells it all at a reasonable price.
After being open for the past seven months, Komajda-Smith is happy to report that business is slowly starting to pick up.
“We knew it would take a while to pick up the pace and get the word out that we’re here, but I think that it’s working out really well,” Komajda-Smith said.
“We’re definitely seeing more business and more foot traffic organically. We get a lot of word of mouth referrals. It’s nice to know that people have similar likes, and they like what we’re doing.”
For any readers wondering if this shop would be a good fit for them and if they should make a stop inside, Smith said that their services are perfect for “people who have an eclectic taste, whether it’s an eclectic taste in wanting to decorate their homes with wall art, taxidermy, or the collectible creepy dolls. We really try to focus on things that strike us, and hope that other people like it as much as we do.”
(Rat Queen Vintage and the 3-Ring Travelling Apothecary is open seven days a week at 10031 Jos. Campau — just a couple of doors down from Jet’s Pizza. Komajda-Smith can be contacted through the Rat Queen Vintage Google and Facebook pages, while Givens can be found at the 3-Ring Travelling Apothecary Instagram page.)
Nov. 9, 2018