Downtown Salisbury Profiles: The People Make the Place

A series featuring the people that have made Salisbury an original place since 1753.

Lost & Found defies a simple description, and owner Iain Rocco wouldn’t have it any other way. Although it’s technically a thrift and consignment shop, don’t go in expecting to score cheap clothes and housewares. More likely, you’ll find a quirky collection of vintage items you remember from “back in the day,” along with a few friends playing guitar and singing while customers browse an extensive collection of classic vinyl albums or take a break to battle it out in a game of Duck Hunt on an original Nintendo system. 

Lost & Found is part hippie heaven, part treasure hunter’s paradise, part downtown hangout, and the rest… well, anything goes. You’ll find treasures and oddities in every nook and cranny: antique typewriters, telephones, cameras and teacups; vintage clothing and shoes; smoking accessories and incense; offbeat buttons and stickers; one-of-a-kind jewelry and handmade items by local artists… and always, the drum set and musical instruments in their designated corner, ready for the next impromptu jam session or the week’s open mic crowd.

Rocco, who jokingly describes himself as having “no fear of failure,” decided to open the shop three years ago, with no qualms about locating it in a dark, unfinished space in an alley, barely visible from the street. In fact, it was the perfect spot.

“I figured if I could get over the initial hump, I could probably make it last,” he said. He’s done just that, as Lost & Found has gathered a loyal local following and new customers discover it every week. With an address of 128-B East Innes Street, the shop is tucked in what is known as Hogan’s Alley, off of North Lee Street.

Rocco, who has lived, worked and shopped in Salisbury for 30 years, said the downtown area was the obvious choice for his shop. “I like the culture, the people and the spirit,” he said. “Most downtowns change over time and have their ups and downs. Right now, I think there is more going on in downtown Salisbury than there ever has been. It drives me crazy when people say, ‘There’s nothing to do in Salisbury.’ There is SO much to do! Restaurants, theatre, live music, cool shops that are popping up…  you just have to get plugged into it.”

Lost & Found hosts an open mic night on Thursdays from 9 to 11 p.m., welcoming local musicians and giving Rocco, who has his own band, Paper Wasps, an excuse to play and hear live music himself. Although open mic night attracts its share of regulars every week, he said it’s “definitely an under-the-radar thing,” much like the shop itself. 

Rocco estimates around 30 percent of his customers are from outside Salisbury and discover the shop when they come into town to meet friends or attend an event. He steals a line from the movie “O, Brother, Where Art Thou?” and calls Salisbury a “geographical oddity… two weeks from everywhere,” because its location and variety of restaurants, theatre, shops and entertainment draw people from across the state and beyond. 

“People view Lost & Found like it’s a secret,” he said, and they tell him the shop has an Asheville or Portland vibe. “I take that as a compliment.”

Lost & Found may not stay such a well-kept secret for much longer, as downtown Salisbury merchants continue to collaborate and connect with the community in creative ways. Rocco recently spearheaded a successful Hogan’s Alley Food Truck Rally with food, live music and local arts vendors, and he’s planning more events in the future. 

For those looking for a true original, Lost & Found is definitely out-of-the-ordinary, just as Rocco intended. “It’s hard to have an elevator pitch for it,” he admitted with a laugh. “In retail now, if you’re going to do a brick-and-mortar shop, you can’t just put up slat wall and hang up a bunch of stuff. It has to be original. It has to deliver an experience and draw people in, like a movie you want to watch over and over again.”