Looking for something to make your house, or dorm, a home? Then find a decoration you like, something you actually enjoy seeing for meaningful reasons — not just something that conveys some transitory trend or fading fad.
That’s the advice Louie Torrez has for folks embarking on the journey out of their childhood homes and into places of their own.
Torrez is the founding owner of Louie’s Rock-N-Reels, the poster shop located at 105 Harvard Dr SE, across Central from Main Campus.
“Don’t buy a poster just because of its monetary value, because it might be an image you don’t care about and after a while you’ll get tired of looking at it,” he said. “If you’re going to put a poster up, make sure there is some sort of artistic value to it that appeals to you, that when you look at it, you like looking at it, so you want to keep looking at it.”
With more than 50,000 posters to choose from, Louie’s might be an interesting stop for anyone hoping to give their walls a personal touch.
While the small shop offers a little bit of everything for a diverse variety of poster-seekers, Torrez said he specializes in original movie posters, and he’s personally more fond of the classics.
For Torrez, movie posters these days don’t have the artistic value they did in the past, and are more of an afterthought for today’s mainstream, mass-production studios. Indie films and fan projects, on the other hand, still tend to result in quality creativity regarding movie posters, but by-and-large, they don’t make them like they used to, he said.
The story of Louie’s poster emporium began mainly with an adolescent admiration for Star Wars and a potential fire hazard at a movie theater, he said.
His fascination with the classic space odyssey film and its imagery inspired him to try buying an original Star Wars movie poster, only to find out from the poster’s owner, a movie theater manager, that the only way to get your hands on that type of poster was to work at a movie theater.
A few months later, while working for a movie theater in his hometown of Gallup, New Mexico during the late ‘70s, Torrez said his boss was instructed by district officials to clear out the overfilled theater basement for safety reasons.
“‘Throw everything away and keep everything you want,’” he said, reiterating his boss’ instructions.
That was the deal, Torrez said. “And that was the beginning of my collection.”
Amid the clutter of disassembled popcorn machines and broken theater chairs, Torrez said he found the buried gems that would ultimately become the foundation for his small business: about a thousand posters stashed away in a dusty corner of a basement.
His collection has since grown 50-fold, he said, to more than 50,000 posters dating all the way back to the 1930s.
Long gone are the days when working at a movie theater was the only way to get your hands on an original movie poster, Torrez said.
Nowadays, most folks probably get them on the Internet. But there are only so many places where one can actually see and feel the product they intend to purchase, he said.
“There are other companies doing what I’m doing,” Torrez said. “But across the entire state of New Mexico, (mine is) the only movie poster store of its kind.”
Torrez’ business model involves a steady workload of buying and trading, wherever the opportunity presents itself, he said, whether that be online or on someone’s lawn, at a yard sale.
“A lot of people don’t know what they’re looking for until they see it,” Torrez said. “With as much stuff as I have, people who don’t know what they’re looking for tend to get overwhelmed, and then they give up and then they leave.”
Torrez said he makes an effort to instill in people the idea that it’s better to stop and think about what they want before blindly biting off more than they can chew, so to speak.
“It’s fine, I get it all the time. People just come in and start looking around, but most people give up after a few minutes because there’s so much,” he said. “But if they have some idea of their favorite movie, their favorite actor, you know, a particular movie they saw a particular time that made an impact on them, that helps narrow it down.”
The store also sells music posters, DVDs and soundtracks, Torrez said.
“The people that have the patience to look around, they love it here,” he said. “It’s like a time machine.”
Johnny Vizcaino is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @thedailyjohnnyv.