WILLIAMSBURG — On her latest vintage spree at the robustly stocked Atlantis Attic thrift shop, Sam Frons scored a pink silk button-up, a green Lucky Charms cereal t-shirt, two other tops, and two belly button rings (to wear in her ear cartilage) all for just $34. Elated with victory at the deal, she gazed up and spotted the best item yet: a red "Batman" comics shirt suspended from the ceiling.
But when she asked to add it to her purchase pile, the manager met her with flat-out rejection.
"I offered him over $100 for it," said Frons, 24, who learned from an employee that the manager had "sentimental" attachment to the shirt. "It bothered me. I think about Batman every night."
Frons is not alone in her frustration — at least once a day a customer in Atlantis Attic tries to buy a knick-knack or piece of apparel hanging overhead, the manager Antonio Flores said. But to Flores, the objects' emotional value far outweighs any fiscal profit they could offer him.
"Everything up here reminds me of my home in Guatemala," Flores, who moved alone to Williamsburg from the Central American country eight years ago, said in Spanish. "I miss it a lot, my family, all my friends...It's hard to be away from them."
So since Flores began working at Atlantis Attic (eight years ago, right when he arrived in the States), the shop's owner let him pick items to buy and hang for decoration — and now the dangling pieces comprise a kind of museum of Flores' memories.
"I saw 'Batman' when I was 12 years old, it reminds me of being a kid at home," said Flores, now 30, of his reason for keeping the coveted red shirt. "Someone came to the shop to sell it, and I decided we should keep it here."
Flores has also purchased and hung traditional indigenous Guatemalan clothing, a Barcelona (his favorite team) soccer jersey, and a T-shirt imprinted with the image of Pope John Paul II.
"My family is very Catholic and my brother is studying to be a priest," Flores explained of the T-shirt, and pointed to a hanging candelabra and a light-up Christmas tree T-shirt that also reminded him of their religion.
The often colorful objects he chooses also serve to attract customers to the display — especially those who share roots in Central America, Flores and regular clients said.
"My husband is from Honduras, and we always come here," said Sarah Garcia as she browsed in the store a recent afternoon. "I tried to buy a vest from the ceiling once and [Flores] wouldn't let me...but it didn't bother me."
Not only does Flores keep pieces that remind him of his youth in Guatemala — he also displays one that represents his daily purpose in the States.
"Yes, I hung that," he said of the American flag nailed to the wood above him. "I have gratitude for being here...Thank God I've had work and I've been able to help my family. I send them money, whatever they need."
He may have come here to profit financially for his family, but Flores said he couldn't imagine accepting any exorbitant price tag for his sentimental collection.
"I saw I'm sorry to someone if it bothers them," he said of his steadfast refusal to sell the objects. "I wouldn't sell them for anything."