RIVERSIDE: The Mission Galleria carves special downtown niche – Press

Craig Johnston, who has owned the downtown Riverside Mission Galleria for 20 years, keeps expanding.  The popular Hideaway Cafe is a lounge at night. (LAURIE LUCAS)

Craig Johnston, who has owned the downtown Riverside Mission Galleria for 20 years, keeps expanding. The popular Hideaway Cafe is a lounge at night. (LAURIE LUCAS)

OK, I admit it.  I love the Mission Galleria.  Yeah, there’s a lot of dusty junk but if you hunt hard and carefully, you’ll find some jewels among the detritus.

I’ve bought jewelry, clothing, books and a yard ornament shaped like a cat for a feline-loving friend.  Every corner is filled with another little exciting tableau where you just might alight on a treasure.

Craig Johnston can’t rattle off every item in his store’s inventory, but he’s sure of one thing.

The Mission Galleria that he has owned for two decades in downtown Riverside sells a whimsical, wacky hodge-podge of “the new, the old, the used and the weird,” he said. “The stuff changes every day.”

All four floors of the 54,000-square-foot building at 3700 Main Street overflow with mostly discards — from doilies and dishes — to sofas and stuffed deer head mounts. Some of his 30 employees have been with him from day one, he said.

Craig Johnston replenishes his stock at estate sales and auctions.

Craig Johnston replenishes his stock at estate sales and auctions.

Johnston, 56, a fastidious, highly-organized entrepreneur, is proud to have turned the 90-year-old Sears building across from the Mission Inn into a flourishing emporium fully-occupied with 150 renters known as dealers. “If you can’t make it here, you can’t make it anywhere,” he said.

He offers a month-to-month lease, charging from $2.50 to $2.65 per square foot and takes 12 percent of each dealer’s monthly gross.

Some of them, like 73-old Sandy Shuster, started renting space from Johnston in 1996 in a former building he owned at 4205 Main Street, Crystal’s Antique Mall. In 2008 he sold the consignment store to Ronaldo Fierro, who morphed it into The Salted Pig gastro pub.

Shuster, whose prices range from $10 to under $1,000, rents two spaces in the Mission Galleria filled with Lladro and Hummel figures, dishes, glassware and tchotchkes she culls from estate sales and auctions. “There’s a lot of foot traffic, but we all live for the Festival of Lights when it’s nuts in here with wall-to-wall shoppers,” said Shuster. Last December alone, her antiques and knickknacks fetched $7,000.

Ninety-nine percent of his customers are women, primarily those who don’t shop online, Johnston said. “They come here for a find, a treasure hunt.”

Read the whole story online and in business in The Press-Enterprise on Tuesday, July 23: