José Manuel da Silva Reis, owner of Luis S. Fernandes, now Retrosaria Brilhante, nº 79 and 81 of Rua da Conceição, is one of those rare individuals capable of reporting the history of Lisbon, his city, better than any guide.
In 1952, being only fourteen years old, Zé, known as Reis, first glimpsed the beauty of Rua do Carmo for the first time, where were the Warehouses Grandela, a huge and busy place where he would spend his youth, working, discovering and to learning. In the midst of the excitement and rush, they would tell the young Reis, hired as an assistant to the counter, to go and do some errs. It turns out that one of them was to decorate the shop windows and, as they say, no task is too small. The dedicated, hard-working young man made such a brilliance, that he mounted the most astounding shop window the owners had seen to date. As expected, the management tried to make due use of the talent of the young Reis, making him the official decorator of the Storefronts. Fifty years later, Mr. Jose himself confesses to us, with pride, devoid of any presumption, that he was once the best paid Lisbon clerk / decorator.
Grandela went to work for the Retrosaria Luís Soares Fernandes, bringing with him the experience, the zeal and the good taste that are peculiar to him. He turned out to be a painstaking worker, quick in gaining the trust of the owner. Clerk and later Manager, he began by being responsible for decoration and shopping and, over the years, for the totality of the business. Mr. Reis has seen the years fly by in this well-known house, and he is also part of the history of the city, with all its aplomb and familiarity.
Later, for not having heirs in Portugal, the owner proposed the purchase.
Nevertheless, in all his years in Retrosaria Brilhante, the greatest joy came not from some article on display, but from his daughter Ana, who would come, years later, to take over the business. Thus was the transformation of Luis S. Fernandes into Brilliant Retrosaria.
This change, however, resulted in a new lease that forces the establishment to move, unfortunately for Mr. Reis, already accustomed to the experiences in Rua da Conceição. The street they moved to is still in the neighborhood, but the old address could not, however, be more correct. Ana explains to us why: centuries before, the urban organization, carried out by the Marquis of Pombal, separated the activities by street. Conceicao Street was baptized in honor of the saint with the same name, patroness of the caretakers, in which the retroseiros are perfectly mirrored. They were, therefore, among their professional colleagues.
Ana, a graduate in marketing and advertising, has always been fascinated by the environment provided by traditional commerce and, along with her father, mentions some concerns, namely the de-characterization of downtown Lisbon. This is explained by the desertification of residents, who, faced with incomparable rents, have no choice but to leave, thus leaving business, also maligned by high rents, discarded. For these two owners, local commerce is important because it is based on relations of proximity and trust that should be preserved.
The change is, however, a constant in life and the establishment knew how to update itself, opening doors to unique craftsmanship that complements its excellent offer. For Ana, craftsmanship, rich in history, is a means of contact with customers who seek to know the origin of the articles. She proudly recalls episodes in which tourists recognized the technique of papetagem (adaptation of the technique of paper marché), used in some pieces in the store, but assumes that it was a little bit surprising.
Apparently, Portuguese talent is well known out there. In here, with stores such as Retrosaria Brilhante, it’s already guaranteed.