There’s something luxurious about spending a sunny afternoon poking through vintage shops. You’re not shopping for anything you really need, you’ll probably spend way too much, and shouldn’t you be making the most of the Washington sunshine? But that doesn’t stop many of us — and you know who you are.
Luckily for Puget Sounders, three South Sound cities have developed impressive clusters of vintage-and-antique shops in the past few years, creating walkable districts of just a few blocks where you can happily poke around for hours, each with its own distinct vibe. We cruised Tacoma, Puyallup and Olympia to check out what’s new on the vintage scene.
TACOMA: SHABBY CHIC
AND SHEER BIZARRE
Tacoma’s Antique Row has a whole lot more to feel confident about. Newish businesses like Nine Thymes, Poppy & Co. and The Little Road Said Go have appeared and old-timers like Sanford and Son are constantly reinventing. The block-long cluster along Broadway just north of South Ninth Street has seen a facelift in the last year, with newly renovated buildings, sidewalk plantings and a paint-over for the graffiti garages. Add in a sidewalk flea market that’s happening every Thursday and funky new businesses up on St. Helens Avenue, and you can almost pretend you’re in Europe.
Along the west side of the street, Linda’s blends high ceilings with beautifully curated shabby-chic and artist-upcycled decor to create a shop that feels like you’ve stepped into a Tumblr blog. New items like Barr-Co candles in 1950s Mason jars of aqua and tangerine, slumpy pottery and humble little clay birds by artist Melissa Balch and owner Linda Morrison’s own paper-straw chandeliers and lacey wings rub shoulders with old dressers repainted in chalky pink, window frames, silverware and tea sets, and 1930s swimming caps. The entire experience is so beautiful you’ll want to stay just to soak it in.
Nine Thymes, meanwhile, is unabashedly ’80s, with lilac walls and old rock songs. Formed two years ago from Nine Lives Vintage and Anew Thyme maternity, the vintage clothes are a mix of stylish and odd — think crochet tops and red leather shirts — and the baby/maternity goods are charming.
Farther along, Lily Pad Antiques specializes in vintage toys like a 1970s Ronald McDonald doll, old Disney heads, wooden fire trucks, 25-cent comics, hot rods, Smurfs, Transformers, board games and more. It’s all sandwiched into a cleverly-constructed maze of aisles that prevents small items accidentally walking out of the shop. Shepard House Antiques gets more 1930s and 1940s sophistication with Tiffany lamps and desks right out of “Mad Men.” What Shoppe is plain geeky, with some vintage posters; but Broadway’s Best earns its higher prices with some completely bizarre antiques: a Navy signal light, an old English-style phone box, old Coke fridges, vintage tin and fluorescent signs, a saddle barstool and even an oak coffin.
Don’t miss Glenna’s, which has been carrying glam-vintage women’s clothing, hats, gloves and jewelry for many years.
Along the east side of Broadway, you’ll find more handmade upcycled decor at The Little Road Said Go, along with ’70s-style clothes, Scrabble tiles and local jam. Lick’s Antiques is a claustrophobic mess with excellent collections of glassware, lamps and small furniture. Brandy’s Attic does bigger pieces with bicycles, trunks, knick-knacks and more. Poppy & Co. sells magazine-worthy Parisian vintage furniture repurposed with chalk paint. Goldie’s — another long-time business — focuses on china and jewelry.
But the centerpiece of Antique Row is Sanford and Son, and rightly so. Three floors of endlessly winding and descending corridors, filled with various merchants selling everything from art to African baskets, and Sanford itself offering auctionable antiques plus everything you’d never think of: stained glass, canoes, totem poles, mummies (yes) and Chinese statues, all with a marble staircase leading to a koi pond and ceiling-high library like the setting for a murder mystery.
Don’t miss Sanford’s latest venture: Jenny Aarde, daughter of owner Alan Gorsuch, is making jewelry out of the copper tiles Gorsuch salvaged from Tacoma’s Old City Hall. With the blue-green patina and salvaged leather backing, they have a bold, Western look.
COUNTRY AND KITSCH
The vintage block along Meridian Avenue in downtown Puyallup (from Main to Meeker avenues) goes from just-opened to been-there-27-years. And while each of the seven shops has its own distinct specialty, there’s an overall feel of country and kitsch, with figurines and old wooden signs galore.
Junk and Disorderly is the first shop you’ll see — and the newest. Just opened last week, it’s a delightful collection of rustic decor, from authentic wooden shoe scrapers and milk glasses to orange 1970s tub chairs and bowling pins. With distressed walls and chalkboard window frames, the atmosphere’s pleasant, and the cutesy aprons and figurines are offset by excellent prices and unusual vintage items like bicycle pumps. Her Shabby Chateau, up the other end on West Meeker, is in a similar vein with more hand-refurbished furniture and birdcages. In the middle are four older antique stores: Kings Row, a tiny space brimming with silver, china and midcentury kitchenware; Pioneer Antiques, a 27-year veteran specializing in restored lamps and western-country items like the enormous Washington Fair sign; Victoria Sells Antiques, a spacious corner store with a wide range of periods and styles but quite a lot of quilts, brass beds and dolls; and Just a Memory, which in two years has become a mecca for 1970s pinball machines, 1950s jukeboxes, 1920s gramophones and 1900s music boxes playing tiny metal rolls. Owner Kurt Morrison restores all of them to working order.
Down Meeker Avenue to Third Street Southeast you’ll find the 3rd Street Antiques mall, a treasure house of everything from vintage Victorian hats to 1960s chairs. Round out your shopping with a trio of consignment clothing shops: Charisse’s Corner and the slightly more upscale Ashley’s Room on Meridian, and Kristy’s Outlet on Meeker.
Olympia’s vintage scene got a boost last year with the Olympia Flea Market on Thurston Avenue Northeast. Open weekends in a wide warehouse building, the flea market began as a family garage sale and now features dozens of vendors with goods from twee teacups to military memorabilia. Next door is a more prosaic furniture thrift store Furniture Works and an artist cooperative, the Oly Artisan Annex, where you’ll find groovy gifts like knitted Daleks and felted mice.
Walk a few blocks back into town to Dumpster Values, an Olympia standby for lovers of quirky hipster vintage where you’re as likely to find a valuable midcentury leather jacket as a backpack dug out of — well — a dumpster. There also is Peacock Vintage on Fourth Avenue East.