By Mariah Beckman
Strolling idly past shelves lined with memorabilia can impact everyone a little differently. Whether it’s a Victorian-era bustle, a 1959 Wurlitzer jukebox or a 1981 Lite Brite, iconic signage, logos and textiles can be a breath of fresh air for the soul. Locals know to stop in at popular vintage-inspired boutiques such as The Elquists and UrbanXChange for their fix of retro redux, but fewer know that just a quick jaunt up the street is a whole wide world of antiques and collectibles ripe for the plucking.
It would take the better part of a week to give each shop the proper time and attention, but an afternoon is just enough time to browse the cluster of shops known as Antique Row. However, for those who find themselves curious for a taste of what Tacoma’s renowned vintage markets have to offer, there is no better place to start then on Broadway, just outside of the Theater District.
Sanford and Son offers a taste of all things vintage…
Sanford and Son is arguably the beating heart of Tacoma’s Antique Row. The building is something of a relic in and of itself, established officially in 1985. A maze of shops and storefronts are housed in this turn-of-the-century edifice, a sprawl spanning three floors which steers patrons through a tour of old-world, eclectic and vintage curiosities. The owner acquired the building during the 1970s, and the primary storefront is easily recognized from the street by its bold yellow sign, which is located near the most plentiful parking on the street.
An ornate stained glass entryway welcomes visitors to a kitschy set-up of typewriters and phonographs, old tomes and miscellaneous paraphernalia of eras gone-by. From this topmost level, Sanford acts as the entryway and exit to more than 20 different shops. “Our antique village is as much an experience as it is a store,” said Alan Gorsuch, owner of the venerable institution. “People can see so much here that it isn’t hard to spend a full day browsing, and there’s something for everyone to appreciate.” Visitors can begin their tour at either Broadway or Commerce Street, taking time to appreciate the labyrinth of vendors known as the Middle Floor Merchants.
The Middle Floor Merchants offer a whopping 20 unique storefronts…
Counted among Sanford and Son’s shops is Terracrux Games, a tabletop gaming shop and space. Every Friday evening a Magic the Gathering tournament is hosted here, and the shop rents out tables for private events upon request as well. Terrible Mischief Studios offers up steampunk artwork, vintage clothing and obsolete weaponry for the shopper looking for Renaissance-themed wares. Elliot Orange is another geek-chic gem squirreled away inside this sprawling venue. This store sells curated jewelry and accent pieces for those who appreciate art with a certain edge. Satisfy a sweet craving on the way out of the Middle Floor shops with a stop at OCD Candy Company, where shoppers will find an array of candies assorted compulsively and coordinated by color.
Across the street on Broadway is more vintage fun…
It’s easy to feel drawn to Broadway’s Best Antiques, above which an iconic, blinking vintage marquee advertises for the Silverstone Restaurant and Lounge. For the truly eclectic collector, this shop peddles some outstanding statement décor. Iconic signage, retro frocks and the sort of hard-to-find big-ticket items that attract serious collectors. This shop is well-organized by antiquing standards, not overly crowded but also chock-full of retro swag. The owner, Ron Adamson, has curated a fantastic collection of lighthearted memorabilia and show-stopping statement pieces.
Lily Pad Antiques, just a door down, specializes in the sale of youthful memorabilia. This shop sells an incredible selection of action figures, comics and collectible novelties, as well as other terrific hand-curated Americana. From Big Boy to Batman, model trains to McDonald’s Happy Meal toys and pick-up-sticks to Pee Wee Herman dolls, this shop offers something to delight kids of any age.
Just a door down from Lily’s, visitors will find Lick’s Antique Mall. Collectible items here offer visitors a slightly less curated feel, which can be fun for those pickers who love to ferret out that diamond in the rough. The owner here, like many on the row, is open to a reasonable amount of haggling, which is another fun element of the antiquing experience that is not to be undersold.
Across the street, Poppy and Co. offers up a quaint assemblage of wares with a bucolic and upcycled bent. This shop communicates a polished urban blend of mixed media and rustic repurposed décor that includes ornate papercraft ornaments and bouquets, one-of-a-kind wall hangings and accents big and small designed to delight the creative collector. “My partner, [Julie Hart], and I make almost everything you see here,” owner Liz Rango explains. “Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always loved the idea of making things with my own two hands. Our hope is to inspire people to reintroduce already-loved articles into their homes in sweet, innovative ways.”
For the fashion plates…
For fashion mavens, Antique Row offers no shortage of shops to delight retro-chic sensibilities. London Couture‘s windows are dressed with high-end and carefully selected ensembles, handbags and hats perfect for garden parties or galas. Glenna’s is another renowned boutique where shoppers can find vintage, trend-right antique clothing and jewelry in abundance. Prim polka dots and feminine lace pad the racks here as well as at the nearby Vanity Fashion Boutique, where shoppers will surround themselves not just with purposefully picked consignment pieces and well-preserved accessories but also an authentic vintage atmosphere. For those with slightly more boho-chic tastes, Anew Thyme offers charming high-end vintage and maternity clothing that is both free-spirited and timeless.
The shops themselves are as much on display as their hard-to-resist wares in these boutiques. Chaise lounges, ornate velvet couches, framed relics and other tasteful wall dressings set the tone in each of the boutiques along the row. There is one shop, however, that doesn’t offer authentic retro styles, but its selection of romantic Gothic and Renaissance-inspired fashion earns it an esteemed spot on the Row’s roster. Le Noire Bazaar is popular among pin-up aficionados in the Pacific Northwest. Stop in to check out the wall of fame where local girls photographed by local photographers — styled in all-Noire ensembles, naturally —are the toast of the boutique.
And this is just the beginning!
A complete map of the shops on Antique Row and beyond can be found here, as well as in the accompanying map below. This list is by no means exhaustive, but represents an excellent place for lovers of all things vintage to meander for an afternoon or a weekend.
Before the end of the summer, be sure to check out Tacoma’s Broadway Flea Market on North 9th and Broadway. Every Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. vintage and homemade vendors will descend upon Broadway through October 2, 2015.