10 Reasons Why

10 Startling Things You Can Learn at One of Those “Antique Malls”

1. That antique malls even exist.

Where did these things even come from? Back in the day, when people got together and tried to sell used stuff, it was called a flea market. People set up little tables where they could pile a bunch of dusty things that you could walk by and touch even though you had no intention of really buying anything. Now we have these “malls” that are not actual malls like you would imagine (with food courts and teenage girls giggling in naive packs) but just abandoned stores that have been converted by desperate people who don’t have a business degree. You spend half your time walking around and going “hey, didn’t this used to be a K-Mart?”

2. The concept of “antique” is no longer what you think.

If you believe that an antique is something very old that perhaps Eleanor Roosevelt played with or kept her clothes in as a youngster, then you clearly haven’t been going to the right parties lately. The door has been thrown open and now, apparently, anything qualifies as an antique, from cassette-tape players to Bill Clinton bumper stickers to cracked Chia pets that nobody wanted in the first place. Oh, and those homemade candle-jar things that are in nearly every other booth? You know, the candles that are still warm because they apparently just poured them as you were pulling into the parking lot? I guess “antique” now means “slightly older than the last time you blinked”.

3. People will hoard and then try to sell the most amazing things.

It’s odd enough that you have the final season of “Full House” on old-school VHS. But the fact that you have somehow managed to acquire 36 copies of that mess? That takes it to a whole new level. Did they even make that many official copies in the entire world? I’m guessing several of these must be boot-legged, meaning somebody thought they could make an illicit buck or two by making cheap copies of a once-beloved TV series that had jumped the shark by introducing yet another set of twins. This is a really sad reflection on our society. (Side note: How is it that John Stamos still looks like he’s 27? Bastard.)

4. Some people have a different sense of social etiquette in these places.

You will inevitably run into a couple of people who have rarely left the barn wherein they were raised, and you will probably do so right after you make an ill-advised detour down a less-popular row in the hopes of avoiding the crowds in the prestigious sections. There will be at least two of them, probably more, because these folks run in slow-moving packs. They will be blocking the entire aisle and you cannot get past them, even if you clear your throat, bark “Excuse me!” in multiple languages, and fire a warning shot into the air.

Making matters worse, they will be admiring and discussing some piece of crap with little value, like those odd floppy hats that were all the rage at one time, made by bored people who crocheted pieces of beer cans together despite the clear lack of need for such a thing in anyone’s life. Why are they even needing to review this item? They obviously already own the whole set and possibly own the patent.

5. Questionable social etiquette, Part II.

Apparently, a shared fondness for faded but nostalgic collectibles is all it takes for some folks to transition from complete strangers to best of friends in an alarmingly short period of time. You can be innocently strolling down an overstuffed row of booths, minding your own business, and your eyes just happen to linger for two seconds on a bottle opener featuring the likeness of Velma from “Scooby Doo”. Next thing you know, some woman with very questionable shoes is by your side, her eyes aglow with rapture.

“Don’t you just love Velma? She’s my favorite!”

My response in my head: Um, Velma’s kind of cool, in that “obvious lesbian before lesbians were obvious” sort of way. Are you coming out to me? My actual aural response: “Well, I always appreciate smart cartoon women with a fondness for high-necked sweaters.” I say this hoping she will be offended in some way and leave me alone.

“I do too!” squeals Bad-Shoe Woman, crushing my dreams of escape. “Let’s go have some coffee and talk all about her!”

Me, eying the nearby fire alarm pull-thing on a wall, and wondering just exactly how much trouble you can get in for jacking around with that, even if justified: “You know, that sounds like a lot of fun, but I need to go have some elective surgery right about now. Have a nice day!”

6. The 1970s was a very messed-up decade.

Why were people so invested in plaid clothing, things involving black velvet, polyester, record album covers that didn’t make any sense, macramé plant hangers the size of Montana, and hairstyles apparently designed to keep crows out of the corn? I realize that everybody was on drugs at the time. But seriously, those ten years were just wrong from a design perspective. How this planet didn’t just fall out of the solar system is beyond comprehension.

(Side note: I was not yet a legal adult during this phantasmagorical stretch, so don’t point any fingers at me. I was just happy to watch cartoons and ride my bike. Granted, I was also furtively reading Sartre, helping my older activist friends make posters protesting nuclear power plants, and listening to Barry Manilow records. I was a tween-age anarchist at heart. But still, I couldn’t vote, and that’s where the real power is. Although you wouldn’t know it based on how many people don’t vote these days.)

7. There are no sales people anywhere to be found.

Granted, I’m normally not a fan of people who race up and ask me intrusive questions about how they can satisfy my merchandising needs. I’d rather they just stay away and let me peruse at my leisure. But these places are ghost towns. The little booths apparently have been designed and stocked by people that have since vanished from the planet. Perhaps there was a target-specific virus that only affected people who opened dusty boxes in their great-grandma’s basement.

8. The absence of booth owners means you must talk to women that don’t care.

So, if you have a question about some rusty object that appeals to you in some way, you have to approach the lone employee in the entire building: The Dominatrix in charge of the check-out counter. She is not interested in any type of vocal research you might want to conduct. She is only concerned about the little number-coded tag hanging off the dented candelabra that you relish, so she can credit the proper absent vendor, collect her minimum wage, and then go drink somewhere in a bar where people ask fewer questions.

9. Even if the amazingly-detailed, free-standing art deco wardrobe cabinet that you encounter is the most stunning thing that you have ever seen, if you can’t open the door easily, there’s an issue.

Seriously. You shouldn’t have to break a sweat getting into this thing. If it doesn’t open right, that’s probably why somebody doesn’t want it anymore. Just move on. Let the Velma lesbian that has been stalking you have it. She’s apparently used to closet doors that she can’t get open.

10. The mixed aroma of the 4,000 handmade candle jars will stay with you for eternity.

You can run. But you can’t hide. It’s a lingering, syrupy sweet nightmare that will have you screaming yourself awake at 2AM in the morning. Especially if you stupidly snatched up one of those bootleg VHS copies of the “Full House” final season, watched every grainy episode, and then drifted off to sleep wondering about your poor life choices and what might be in that shed behind Granny Mae’s house over to Arkansas. There’s gotta be some crap in there that some fool will pay good money to own just because it reminds them of good times that never really existed

Wait, I think I just figured out the last presidential election. Cheap candles, fake nostalgia, doors that don’t work, and an absence of people who will take ownership for the useless trinkets they put on display.

I think Sartre had something to say about this. Or maybe it was Barry Manilow. I’ll get back to you…



Originally published in “The Sound and the Fury” on 06/14/12. Revised and updated with extra flair for this post. No actual antique malls were harmed in the production of this post, but there are quite a few that I will never visit again. Because, wrong.


31 replies »

  1. In England, anything less than a century old is called “brown furniture”. When owners can afford better, they leave the stuff at the tip. (The dump in America) I know an antique dealer who said he made it through the recession by driving around to all the local tips, loading up the brown furniture, and several times a year loading it into containers bound for America. He said Americans will buy anything. (I should, perhaps, confess here that my house is basically furnished in brown furniture…)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it’s fair to say that many Americans will buy anything. The culture is so product-placement driven that it’s a wonder we can get anything done. On the flip side, we still have a strong (and possibly growing?) contingent of citizens who actually make their own choices. So there’s still hope. As for brown furniture, I would relish reviewing the contents of the tip containers your friend has been sending our way. Some of my favorite pieces in my house are previously-abandoned examples of whatnot that somebody has given up on, but I haven’t. I love antiquing. I don’t love people who don’t respect what that means…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We don’t have antique malls in Australia, but we have plenty of antique shops scattered across the country. I used to pop in every now and then because I was looking for a butter dish. The last nice one I saw was priced $46. No way. Pleased with the plain $6 one I got at Aldi’s.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We had antique malls in Florida. Some places were enclosed and air conditioned, so their junk was higher priced. If you wanted to brave the oppressive heat, you just wandered around at the top of the hill.
    I, like you, have several pieces of said “brown furniture” only mine has been turned into shabby chic. You’d be surprised at what a little white paint and a little distressing can do to a piece of junk. LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Gawd. None of these things in Utah, the ‘antique’ stores (they’re individual and free from friends and junk on little tables that are just sad and unwanted) actually have antiques in them. But then the question is posed: do Utahans have the discernment to tell a ‘real’ antique from a faux brown furniture bit shipped from the U.K.? I don’t know. The ‘antique’ (hahahahah) malls in Utah are in a series of garage/yard sales on individual’s lawns – some of whom run the things year round. And if finding a treasure in the middle of a blizzard or blistering heat is your thing, well there it is. Me? I avoid all this shtuff. Because at the antique stores? I always find one thing that I just MUST have. And I can’t afford that any more. To my credit, most of the junk is (apparently) a rarity, because I have people enter my home and utter little squeals and gasps of delight at the priest’s bench in the foyer. One woman offered me $4000 for it. Hey! Maybe I’m running (unknown) my own version of an antique mall right here! What an innovative idea! And as usual, I’ll end with an apology for hijacking your comment once again and making it all about “me”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have to be very careful in “true” antique stores as well. I get fixated and can easily make poor career decisions. Granted, I am still quite fond of most of my finds, but the glamour and excitement pales a bit when the credit card bill hits my mailbox with a sickening thud. The things we do for dusty love… 😉


  5. Okay, so OUR antique mall? It’s called The Brass Armadillo. Every aisle is named after a state so if you lose your family, you can text them. “I’m in Alabama, send help!”
    Have to admit, I’m a sucker for the place because of all the glass cases with jewelry & whatnot. It’s not that I wear much jewelry, but I’m fond of watches. Old fashioned mechanical watches, unusual watches, watches with no numbers, watches with all the numbers. Just, you know, watches.
    We make it a family activity. Husband can be found with old tools. Son looks through sheet music and instruments. Daughter makes a snapchat of the excursion creating a story of demonic dolls and rogue ceramic pigs. After an hour or so, we leave, having purchased nothing, and stop for ice cream on the way home. It’s great. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am instantly infatuated with the stately names for the aisles. I simply must experience this at some point. Why can’t Texans be more creative? WHY?
      Trivia Note: We may have chatted about this before, so excuse the possible retread, but the name for my “Crusty Pie” blog was inspired by a moment of epiphany in an antique store. This was the same day that I accidentally (and permanently) deleted hundreds of vacation photos from my phone which I had not bothered to back up. It was truly an emotional roller coaster of a day….

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I love going to these antique malls! We have one here I go to once in awhile. You’re right about no one to help you, except the counter clerk! One of the very best ones I’ve been to several times is in Columbia MO. It’s the Midway Antique Mall, and I could spend hours in there. This place is at the Midway Truck Stop, and even had a TV reality show about it for awhile. We eat at the diner, too, and you can even get a tattoo upstairs! It’s a fascinating place. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve never been able to peruse the treasures/junk at the local antique mall longer than five minutes without one of the two employees “checking” on me. The last time my boyfriend and I were there the man explained they always ask people if they need help repeatedly in case there are questions. (I guess security cameras are too expensive.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, that’s the flip side of the equation, which would drive me just as crazy. I prefer that people hover quietly until I give a discreet signal that I’m willing to participate in social interaction. Actually, that applies to about everything in my life…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I am also from Utah. My husband and I enjoy our occassional “antiquing” jaunts. We both collect certain things, so we usually are looking with a purpose. There are a few good shops in our area that are fun to visit. One shop does have a lot of the “Brown” furniture that the owner refurbishes with chalk paint and cute knobs, etc. For a “shabby chic” look that many around this area like. I realize the chances of stumbling upon in anything truly antique is slim, but there are a lot of vintage items that can be perfect for the home or personal collection. Anyway, I haven’t run into any rude people and just have a lot of fun with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I always have fun as well. I’m in an antique store or mall at least a couple times every month. I was just being a little snarky like I usually am here at Bonnywood. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment!


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