There’s light in Oeiras
The project masterminds ask that the exact location of the warehouse where they have kept their treasures since 2017 be kept secret, but we can say that it covers about 1,500 square metres, although lacking a roof in places, which forces Paulo and Rita to move the items about to keep them dry on rainy days. While it is not open to the public, the collection is organised by type. For example, in the area closest to the entrance you will find the "glassery", such as storm doors and glass signs, some with gold leaf lettering. These include the exterior sign of the Casa dos Carimbos, which opened in 1914 and closed in 2015.
While more than 90% of the collection comes from Lisbon, there are also pieces from farther afield, often thanks to the growing community of Letreiro Galeria fans, who let the couple know about signs in need of rescue all over the country. Either because they are closing or because they've been replaced by more modern signs, as was the case with the Charcutaria Riviera, in Alvalade. The couple can be contacted at any time: "We just need a photo and the address. I take a grinder and ladders on holiday with me," says Paulo, in case he has to climb up, as he has become accustomed to, to save a bit of history. The expenses are paid out of the pockets of these two image professionals who protect an unclassified heritage.
The pieces only come out of the warehouse for exhibitions. Or for a Netflix film. That's right: some of the signs were used to "help recreate the 60s and 70s atmosphere" for the movie Heart of Stone, Rita says. "We aren't profitable and Netflix helped to pay the bills. But we don't rent for parties or event decorations," adds Paulo.
Not all the pieces are that old. For example, they have a Hard Rock Cafe Lisboa sign from 2003. "One day it will be a part of history," says Paulo, demonstrating that he has not yet lost hope in the future of this project. There are other memories of Lisbon: the signs from century-old outlets like Pastelaria Suíça, Casa Pereira, Retrosaria Arquichique and Casa Frazão. One of the company's stars is a giant Ritz Carlton hotel sign, one of the highlights of the "Brilha Rio" exhibition, which at the end of 2021 occupied the car park of the Prata Riverside Village, in Marvila. Just one of their many exhibitions in recent years.
The public interest is clear. The "Brilha Rio" exhibition alone welcomed more than 16,000 visitors, even though it was only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. "But we had to be the ones there every weekend, watching over it, taking care," says Paulo, who also noted the emotions of some passers-by. "Some people cried because it brought back some special memories."