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The mysterious old shop
July 11, 2008 2:41 PM   Subscribe

The Lido was a shop on a busy road in East Vancouver that was always closed -- yet clearly occupied and maintained. It's been an intriguing mystery for locals for many years. Following the recent death of the owner, an elderly woman who lived above the shop, cleanup crews found old furniture, cans of dry goods -- and more than $400,000 in antique banknotes.

The cash is from the 1930's and may be worth twice its face value. Crews almost threw it away thinking it was play money. The article doesn't say exactly when the cash was printed, but for comparison, here is the Bank of Canada's 1935 and 1937 series. Would you recognize this as cash?
posted by PercussivePaul (30 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Or, even, better: this!
posted by PercussivePaul at 2:46 PM on July 11, 2008


I use to wonder about that place and there was another one on main street that was like a
private museum of some kind called exotic world ?I noticed recently that it was gone
posted by SatansCabanaboy at 2:51 PM on July 11, 2008


This is actually really cool.

There used to be a place in my 'hood on Court Street, that was open, but just really weird. Some old dude who sold odds and ends. Never saw anyone actually in the store, but he showed up every day, and plied his wares.
posted by Debaser626 at 2:59 PM on July 11, 2008


the recovered money could be worth as much as double its face value depending on the condition of the notes.

That's nothing to what it'd be worth if it had been in a bank earning even 5% APR.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:01 PM on July 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


There's a shop like this in Providence, on the corner of Westminster and Winter, that has all kinds of junk. I passed that store every day for a year before I ever saw any life there. I was passing by one morning and an old man was standing in the doorway. I thought he was there tearing it apart (there was construction next door) so I asked him if I could buy this Adam brand hatstand which was in the window (a friend of mine named Adam had a birthday coming up and I thought it would make a nice gift) and he informed me that the store was a going concern. I've never seen any life in it since, but then I don't pass by there very often anymore.
posted by Kattullus at 3:10 PM on July 11, 2008


Bizarre, though I've heard of multiple possibly-urban-legend finds like this in NYC apartments after a rich person who had lived through the Great Depression/Weimar Republic/WWII, or was just a hoarder, passed away. Actually, here in Germany I've met people who don't believe in banks due to family lore passed down from earlier runs on the banking system here which they didn't even directly experience, so I guess if they go suddenly they'll be leaving bill-stuffed mattresses themselves.

Makes me happy that the caretaker did the right thing, and I hope the woman's family does something really nice for him or her in return.

Hidden among the [....] 1950s-era electronics

If I was the caretaker, a shop full of this would have already made me completely giddy. The closet full of antique bills would have just been proof positive that it was the best day evar.

the recovered money could be worth as much as double its face value depending on the condition of the notes.

I wonder if that "double its face value" idea accounts for how this find is going to affect the market for those bills.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 3:13 PM on July 11, 2008


The Lido was such a mystery. I used to go past it all the time, wondering what was happening there, looking for any sign of life... sometimes the walls would be covered with newspapers for a few weeks, and when the newspapers were finally taken down (by a seemingly invisible hand) a few weeks later, the shelves of the store would be filled with... dozens of yellow boxes. Or a few old lamps and lampshades. I worried, sometimes, about the old lady rumoured to be living there. I never saw her, though. Just the strange empty windows of the Lido and the locked door...
posted by jokeefe at 3:26 PM on July 11, 2008


there was another one on main street that was like a private museum of some kind called exotic world ?

Yeah, the people who ran Exotic World decided to retire-- it's a record store now.
posted by jokeefe at 3:34 PM on July 11, 2008


Would you recognize this as cash?

Uh, yeah.
posted by ericb at 3:38 PM on July 11, 2008


This is so damn cool.
posted by arcticwoman at 3:44 PM on July 11, 2008


Ummm...

Also found in the house was a suitcase containing old German passports dating to the 1940s and '50s

Was the money related to criminal activity? Is that why it was in a sack that the old lady never touched?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:14 PM on July 11, 2008


I can't decide if the big sack of money in the closet from the 30s makes it more or less likely that this was a really badly maintained criminal front. Reminds me of the smart house that continues to tend to its owners long after they have died—like the woman was tending to a tiny part of a criminal empire that had long since vanished.
posted by chrominance at 4:32 PM on July 11, 2008


Interesting story—thanks!

Would I have to be Canadian to not think those images were of cash?
posted by languagehat at 5:11 PM on July 11, 2008


You know, it occurred to me after I posted that the really old Canadian money looks a lot like American money. Have you Yanks ever noticed how old-fashioned your currency looks?
posted by PercussivePaul at 5:27 PM on July 11, 2008


Looks like old Canadian Tire money.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:38 PM on July 11, 2008


Also found in the house was a suitcase containing old German passports dating to the 1940s and '50s, and a remarkable 15 cubic yards of rusted food tins -- evidence of The Lido's working history, though few in Vancouver can recall ever seeing the shop open for business.

The passports, the large amounts of cash, the era, and the coastal location make this interesting. My reading of this story is that the couple were spies, foreign agents (possibly German operatives) or people smugglers. With that said, Vancouver harbours eccentrics like virtually no other place on Earth; I love it there.
posted by Deep Dish at 6:11 PM on July 11, 2008


I can't tell you how many times I've gone past The Lido and wondered what was up with it.
posted by monkeymike at 6:30 PM on July 11, 2008


Lido missed the boat that day he left the shack
But that was all he missed and he ain't comin' back
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 6:39 PM on July 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't know about play-money, but this is about the first time that I've seen a twenty-five dollar note. Not a denomination I see on a regular basis.

But yes, going on a strictly cultural interest basis, screw the money; the passports and the old, apparently well-maintained 50's-era electronics are more fun. :-)
posted by the cydonian at 6:43 PM on July 11, 2008


Well, I've never seen the '37 series in circuation, but I do recall the '67 series from my childhood. So, yeah. It's money. What of it? My personal favourite is the Newfie firing squad.
posted by djfiander at 7:27 PM on July 11, 2008


Walked by there many times, with many curious thoughts!

I'm glad to see the mystery of the place continues.
posted by Kickstart70 at 8:01 PM on July 11, 2008


Sweet. I've been by The Lido many many times. Always the generic yellow-boxed "Food" in the windows. No one entered, no one left. No one ever behind the old counter in a butcher's apron waiting to fill your order, no old ladies having a natter while waiting for "Next, please!" I always looked at it as being a strange kind of art piece, an echo from ages ago when stores like this were meeting-places for people in the neighbourhood. The attitude I got was it was always open, but the lack of any humanity said "closed, back in 10 min.", but ten minutes from how long ago? How many years ago?
posted by Zack_Replica at 9:05 PM on July 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Maybe the money they thought was monopoly money was pre-1935 Dominion of Canada notes.

This looks like play money to me.

Here's the Vancouver Courier story discussed in the flickr set comments that talks about the owner, after she had newspapered over the windows.
posted by aninom at 9:06 PM on July 11, 2008


I passed by that place from grade 6 to the end of university, first on the number 9 and then on the 99 B-line. The whole time I thought that store only opened an hour or two a day and I just never saw it when it was open. Great post!
posted by reformedjerk at 9:48 PM on July 11, 2008


On reading all the links so far...

"Its faded displays and old-style furnishings, from a fake wood panelled radio table to a decades-old refrigerator and deli counter, make the store appear suspended in time. Shopworn tins of beans, peas, sardines, Campbell's mushroom soup and No Name vegetable soup line the shelves, the bleached out labels all facing the same direction. Boxes of Rogers sugar cubes artfully deck the back shelves and yellowed copies of the Courier blanket rusty wire window boxes at the front. It almost looks like a still life. But two calendars near the front window almost always reflect the appropriate month. (...) The shop and its accompanying apartment are registered to Margaret Rothweiler (...) When the Courier phoned Christian Rothweiler at 518 East Broadway for an interview, the man who answered said, "We're not interested, thank you," and hung up."

"A cleanup crew hired to clear out the place -- which operated sporadically as a deli and general store before closing for good more than a decade ago -- found $950 in old $100 and $50 notes hidden under a rug.

But it was the caretaker who made the greatest discovery, stumbling on a bag containing a whopping $400,000 stuffed inside a bedroom closet.

Inside, Fuss said, was "like a time warp (...) There were some crazy retro things in there ... nothing modern at all."

Also found in the house was a suitcase containing old German passports dating to the 1940s and '50s, and a remarkable 15 cubic yards of rusted food tins(...)"

...there is, perhaps, a very quiet and Gothic novel to be written here.
posted by Zack_Replica at 10:27 PM on July 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow! I wonder why it isn't in the news here (yet?)? Great post!

I *love* old money, but it's hard to figure out if the people who used it at the time liked it or not (despots putting their own mugs on banknotes, &c.).

Anyone have a link to an issuing government's take on these bills? Face value?
posted by porpoise at 12:16 AM on July 12, 2008


Have you Yanks ever noticed how old-fashioned your currency looks?

Almost every time I see a new design for european currency. I think the barely changing face of American money is an attempt to improve confidence in our economy. For me at least, it is not working.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:45 AM on July 12, 2008


aninom: that $0.25 bill is what used to be called a shinplaster.

I had a great-aunt who owned a drug store. it had been in the family since before the depression, and she had all sorts of strange currency samples that had crossed the counter over the decades.
posted by djfiander at 4:49 AM on July 12, 2008


It's almost guaranteed it's part of a money-laundering scheme. There are a few of these in Providence, RI, as noted above... stores that are never open, but could be opened if an IRS auditor was scheduled to put in an appearance. They're all owned and operated by the mob.

The weird part about these schemes is that they can be self-perpetuating. I bet that lady has an account with monthly operating expenses piling up into it, even now, as part of an insanely complicated and automated system. Long after the gangster or spymaster who set it up is gone from the scene, the returns on investments made with laundered cash will still keep flowing.
posted by Slap*Happy at 2:53 PM on July 13, 2008


This reminds me of a story I heard on This American Life about a house and store that were abandoned. They were full of stuff and looked as if the people just got up one day and walked out leaving everything behind. It's a haunting story, both sad and compelling.
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 3:17 PM on July 13, 2008


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