“Retrograde”

A Cairo Store that Takes You on a Journey to The Past
Wide shot for Retrograde store from inside, Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt. By: Salma Adham.
Section of classic fiction books in Retrograde store, Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt. (by Salma Adham)

Do you want to go back in time? Own a classical record or music in different languages? Are you searching for a specific old book or do you want to buy a vintage camera?

In the heart of Egypt, in Al- Zamalek district in Cairo, Retrograde store is probably the place where you can find them and dive into the world of antiques. It is a space for classic vinyl records, rare books, fine art, and vintage electronics.

THE START

The store is owned by Clinton Alexander, originally from Texas, the United States who he came to Egypt around 5 years ago to teach art in an international school. As Clinton was doing that, he discovered that he wanted to start his shop. He rented an apartment above an empty shop, so the chance came for him to take the serious step. What encouraged him also is that he had his collection of records and books that he had brought from home.

"After I had read all the books and listened to all the records, I decided to put them in this shop so anybody could buy them," Clinton said to Majalla.

The other reason for his starting the store was that Clinton was burned out from teaching and wanted to do something that caould make an income by not spend all the time teaching or working on his artworks.

"I am a painter and sculptor, so I wanted to do something where I could be my own boss, so I am working to get money to pay the rent but still have the time to make my art work," Clinton said.

Five persons work in Retrograde - they are art students who were customers and liked the place. Then they offered to help Clinton in his project.

Clinton Alexander, the founder of Retrograde store, standing in his store. (by Salma Adham)

THE SECRET BEHIND THE NAME

Retro means vintage and it comes from the term Retrograde which is an astrological term that means that at certain points of the year, the planet orbits the sun then when it goes in Retrograde, it appears to go backward in time.

When Clint thought of the store's name, he wanted to get one that suited the content of the place. So what is closer to the place that mainly sells antiques more than Retrograde?

Retrograde first was smaller and selling only vinyl records and books. What happened was that people saw that there is a place doing that, then they started wanting to sell their records and books and portraits. From there, Clint started to build up collections. Records are number one, then books artworks, cameras, typewriters and so on whatever the customer wanted but related to the theme of vintage things.

COLLECTIONS

"We have a big CD collection - 45-rpm records,  cassettes and DVDs like all are absolute technology that nobody uses anymore because now people have their computers and phones, but the most interesting thing is that most of my customers are from 18 to 24 years old, who have all this and can download any of this online without having to buy it, but they want something of their ownwhich speaks of a different era, to put it on the player physically," Clinton said.

In the late ‘eighties, when cassettes came out, people stopped buying  records and started owing cassettes. "My collection goes from 1920 to 1989 and then stops, it is very hard to find a record from the nineties," Clinton told Majalla.

There are different genres of records from all over the world such as rock, which is the most popular with five sections, pop, jazz, folk, African music, Arabic music and classical and original audiobooks. Also, original posters for movies, film cameras, and artworks done by fine arts students. In brief, it is like a mix of artistic pieces.

"I guarantee myself that everything here works and you can use it, for example, the cameras, they are beautiful objects but they are all functioning," Clinton said to Majalla.

"Over the past couple of years, I have become like a repairman, a film guy who repairs cameras. So I can check them and make sure they are working properly before selling them and this applies for all the pieces such as books, typewriters, and other electronics," Clint added.

"In the beginning, to build my store, I needed to go and search for records and books and find them! I went to different antique markets and searched there, but after being in the business for over 3 years now, people know me, I do not have to go anywhere, people just come to my store with boxes of books and records. 90% of most of everything here comes from Cairo," Clinton stated.

Retrograde contains a big section for  French books and also a big one for Arabic books and the rest are in English. The sections include different themes like art, philosophy, fiction, history, poetry, drama and politics.

Some vintage cameras in Retrograde store, Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt. (by Salma Adham)

WHY NOSTALGIA

Why do people prefer to buy antiques and old stuff? Some people prefer to live the experience of returning to the past, some like to own things like having a full record for a music album not downloading it online and others, as Clinton said, prefer the physical quality and feel of the things as in dealing with books. "Some people love the smell of the old books," Clinton explained.

Retrograde Instagram Page: https://www.instagram.com/retrograde_store_/?hl=en