Since childhood, I’ve adored all things vintage, antique, and historic: houses, furniture, books, ephemera, bric-a-brac. For the past twenty years, I’ve been a collector. Given free rein, I would buy everything under the sun, so I’ve had to slowly hone my collecting chops over time. Now I focus on a few favorite vintage things: books (always!), sewing notions (especially wooden thread spools), sheet music, picture frames, fabric, and photographs and postcards. (Yes, I know, it’s still a long list.)
No matter where you live, chances are there are at least a couple of thrift stores, consignment shops, antiques malls, and a Goodwill or a Salvation Army store within spitting distance. Here are some of my favorite haunts in Bradenton, Florida, just up the Gulf Coast from Sarasota.
Community Thrift Shop
Located at 5704 Manatee Avenue West, this shop benefits St. Stephen’s Episcopal School. It recently expanded into the space next door to accommodate more furniture. Separate rooms highlight women’s, men’s, and children’s clothing; shoes; children’s toys; household goods; craft supplies; books; and a boutique of better-quality women’s clothing. You’ll find everything from fine and costume jewelry to picture frames, purses to linens, and lamps to crystal. (Note: This store is not open during the summer.)
This is a consignment shop (despite its name), which means that each item has a tag with three dates and corresponding prices. The longer the item has been in the store, the lower the price. This is good and bad: good because if you spot something you like but don’t want to pay full price, just wait a few days or weeks until the price drops; bad because if you wait too long, someone else might scoop up what you had your eye on.
During a recent visit, I scored some lovely treasures at the Community Thrift Shop. The vibrant, German-themed tablecloth ($8.50) is in near-perfect condition. The unframed needlepoint panel ($5.25) is a bit off-kilter but fixable. The red picture frame ($3.50) and ivory rose earrings ($2.80) aren’t vintage, but, then again, not everything has to be. I’ll use the rolling pin ($3.82) to roll out clay for crafts projects.
Manatee Memorial Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Shop
Situated just down the road from the Community Thrift Shop at 4517 Manatee Avenue West, this thrift store employs volunteers and benefits Manatee Memorial Hospital. This store also expanded its interior to create a room devoted to books, magazines, and holiday décor.
You’ll find just about anything you’re looking for here: furniture, clothing, linens, shoes, toys, stationery, household goods, games, craft supplies, and jewelry. The prices are virtually unbeatable. Here’s what I found during two recent visits.
The most expensive item was the 1956 Better Homes & Gardens Decorating Book ($6.00), which is chockfull of color photos and adorable illustrations. Everything else was $3.00 or less. Vintage postcards are 20¢ each unless otherwise marked. (Some are $1.00.) Bags full of sewing notions are usually $3–4.00. Since you can’t open the bags in the store, the fun part is getting home and discovering the goodies you didn’t notice earlier.
I’ve saved the best for last. This is a true antiques shop brimming with everything vintage. There’s so much to see, you’ll have to go more than once. Located at 817 Manatee Avenue East, Rosie’s offers an entire room stuffed with clothing from the early part of the twentieth century through the 1970s, including military uniforms and lots of lovely Lilly Pulitzer. This is the local go-to destination for outfits and costumes from another era. There’s also bridal paraphernalia, books, lamps, furniture, and loads of vintage jewelry.
In addition, a converted garage behind the shop is home to The Warehouse, in which you’ll find owner Lisa Mead’s eclectic collection of estate sale finds as well as her signature cellophane packages filled with antique photos, ephemera, keys, buttons, metal gears, and unique findings. Even her price tags are cut from ephemera such as wrapping paper, photos, and catalog pages.
I hit the greeting card jackpot on my most recent visit! On the $1 table just outside the front door, I scooped up a bunch of packages filled with vintage cards, some with postmarked envelopes and handwritten notes, making them all the more interesting. The most expensive item here was the old film reel ($5.00), which I found in The Warehouse.
If you live in the area (or are just visiting) and love antiques (or just old stuff), get yourself to one or all of these shops in a jiffy. And stop by often, because the selection changes every day. There’s always someone cleaning out a garage or even an entire house full of things collected over a lifetime. All that stuff has to go somewhere, and lots of it ends up at places like these.