On a nice afternoon earlier this week, I had a few minutes to kill so I walked down a set of unpromising wooden steps to an Antique Mall. Having just come back from the Midwest and an extremely satisfying expedition to the I-70 Antique Mall—thousands of square feet stuffed with treasures and junk, most at laughably low prices--I entered with fairly low expectations. And then walked around in amazement. I’d descended into thrift store heaven.
There were vintage lidded Pyrex dishes and jazzy Fifties plates. Plywood serving trays. Floor lamps with topstitched waxy shades, simple low tables with Deco curves and glasses dusted with the kind of gold trim you can't put in the dishwasher. There were old shoes with graceful heels, and new-old hats, big enough to sling cool and low across my brow. Sure, there was junk, too, Smurf dolls and piles of dogeared Life magazines and old baking powder tins and enough salt and pepper shakers to season every table in town.
Twenty dollars later, I made it out of there with a battered green enamel serving tray and last night, with some toothpaste and some elbow grease, I made the black scrapes disappear. I'm now the happy owner of a smart, retro piece of usable art.
Call it what you want—vintage, secondhand, thrift, used—but thrift shopping is the ultimate intersection of penny-pinching and recycling.