Desperately seeking a Kabbalah from 1874? Can't sleep without an 'N Sync pillow? For treasure, oddities, and other things you never knew you needed, look no further than our nine new favorite stores.
– Words and photos by Bryan Rindfuss
Bearded Lady Emporium
The compelling conversations one might hear in Janessa Consenz and Jedidia Reid's Bearded Lady Emporium can rival the oddities on the shelves. But try not to let the talk of searching for spotted owl feathers and special-ordering skulls distract you from browsing the fascinating spread of antiquarian books (a Kabbalah from 1874 is on offer for $290), screen-prints (including works by Michael Michael Motorcycle for $82), vintage black-light posters ($5), and hard-to-find T-shirts ($28). While the shop sells a fair amount of animal bits and pieces ($8 raccoon penis bones fly off the shelves), Consenz assures its all part of recycling efforts made possible by roadkill collection and a source who cleans up National Parks — no creatures are harmed in the process.
On Saturdays, Midtown bustles and the Blanco Bazaar has been at the center of the action for nearly a decade. Organized in aisles that make shopping the 25 vendor booths a breeze, the neighborhood antique mall offers everything from industrial salvage and folk art to vintage vinyl and comic books. An easy winner in the eye candy department is Debra Zeitung and Dawn Martinez's Retro Haus. Scattered between several poppy alcoves, the duo's settings could easily pass for camera-ready sets from The Mod Squad and Laugh In era. With groovy furnishings and accessories including swag lights, sofas, cocktail tumblers, and other home bar accoutrements, the outfit makes shopping for retro on eBay seem like something of a dated concept.
Jesus (on a rug), Madonna (on a T-shirt), Selena (on canvas), 'N Sync (on a pillow), and Tweety Bird (on a tote) can all be found at After L1fe, a progressive little boutique stashed in a North St. Mary's strip. The collaborative brainchild of Katalya Bustos and Elena Hernandez-Peña, the compact shop stocks a thoughtful selection of vintage duds (think rainbow-colored Wrangler shirts, fanny packs, and nylon ball caps) and truly unique DIY items (crafted by the likes of Chronically Cute, Moontime Gypsies, and 'Y' Clothing) and is also the only retail outfit in Texas stocking the occultish Seattle-based fashion line Actual Pain. In keeping with its roots as a First Friday pop-up, the adaptable space hosts monthly happenings showcasing local artists, bands, and performers.
628 S St. Mary's, alamowasteland.tumblr.com
Resource sharing is a theme at Collective, a multi-faceted venture founded by Rachel Ann Dealy in the summer of 2012. Combining DIY retail, retro resale, and a warehouse workspace where bands can rehearse, the venue specializes in items and services you're unlikely to find elsewhere. Fashioned from recycled bicycle chains and tires, the onsite Cycle Pit produces sturdy belts, industrial jewelry, and giftable black roses that share shelves with groovy garb from Dealy's own RAD Vintage and Thrift, furs and other frills collected by Santa Fe transplant Beth Rose, and rentable cult treasures courtesy of VHS 1138. In addition to art openings (First Fridays from 8pm-midnight) and movie screenings (Sundays at 8:30pm), Collective's headed in a culinary direction with pop-up dinners already in the bag and something permanent rumored to be on the horizon.
1432 S St. Mary's
A Wall o' Whimsy decked with vintage trims, antique dolls, and ethnic giftables ($3-$50) welcomes visitors to Found, arguably the most eclectic shop in La Villita. The handiwork of co-owners Laura Pitt and Patricia Jane Fugitt goes beyond their own assemblages and creations (including Fiesta medals issued by The Order of Adornment and The Order of La Villita) to play out in thoughtful juxtapositions pairing artwork (including photographs by Barbara Riley, block prints by Deborah Mersky, and glass pieces by Lynda Jones) and objects collected from estate sales, flea markets, and auctions. A former boarding house that was later incorporated into the Joy Kist Candy Company complex, the 19th-century structure offers a historic throwback with creaky pine floors, caliche block walls, and an antique farmhouse vibe complete with a resident tabby named Cutie.
418 Villita, Ste. 2400
(210) 224-2484, foundart24.com
Olmos Park's Period Modern aims to be "at once worldly and San Antonio," and passes with flying colors. A visit to the onetime feed store can easily turn into a crash course in anything from Italy's 1980s-era Memphis Group (imagine a "shotgun wedding between Bauhaus and Fisher-Price") to the role oil man Edgar B. Davis played in the evolution of art in the Alamo City in the 1920s. Playing on the strengths of co-owners Stephen Wilson and Ted Allen, the gallery-like shop presents mid-century furniture and objects in impeccably curated vignettes enhanced with artwork spanning early Texas, folk, modern, and contemporary. Among the more fascinating pieces found on our visit was a Porfirio Salinas mural of a bullfighter ($20,000) that once adorned the Fort Sam Houston Officers Club but was later discovered boarding up the window of a private home.
4335 McCullough, (210) 259-3234, periodmodern.com
Family heirlooms, mid-century collectibles, and unusual treasures scooped up in Austin and the Hill Country come together in curious arrangements at Rene's Antiques, a small Midtown shop opened in July of 2012. Attentive customer service, plenty of parking out back, and Texas-friendly touches like complimentary wine on weekends are among the perks that make browsing owner Rene Villegas' ever-changing mix of vintage furniture, fixtures, accessories, artwork, religious statues, tchotchkes, and baubles a no-brainer after breakfast at neighboring Blanco Cafe. On a recent visit, Rene's eccentric temptations included antique flashcards ($2 each), a double-sided U.S. Army recruiting sign from 1959 ($850), a weathered Dr. Pepper clock ($45), and a pair of brass Hollywood Regency peacock tables ($650).
1810 & 1812 Blanco
Austin-based El Paso native Leigh Elena Navarro's accessories and leather goods are sold internationally but the designer only claims two brick-and-mortar boutiques: a flagship on South Congress in Austin and a freshly opened outpost here in the Pearl. Though she's best known for the signature jigsaw cuffs (handmade in Austin in colorful leathers and exotic skins; $75-$110) high-profilers like Barbara Walters, Hoda Kotb, and AnnaLynne McCord have helped land on TV and in the glossies, Navarro's versatile enamel-coated copper crowns (which can be magnetically attached to bases including cuffs and rings) are a close second. Add well-worn cowboy boots and leather jackets, vintage Western shirts, candles, books, and nostalgic impulse buys to the mix and it's hard to leave without a wish list.
303 Pearl Pkwy. Ste. 101
(210) 224-6666, leighelena.com
There are reportedly upwards of 50 vendors in the Ironside Antique Mall and Mom's Hang-ups stands out with a sprawling selection. While the well-organized areas comprise salvaged gas station signs, rhinestone-encrusted costume jewelry, impeccably preserved mod light fixtures, old-timey children's books, vintage gowns, and enough trinkets and curios to fill anyone's cabinet, the main focus of married owners Ida and Henry Escobar is "rescuing" furniture. For a decade the Boerne residents worked the South Texas trade show circuit selling wares he made and she painted. Now the duo takes pride in giving new life to old pieces found at flea markets and estate sales. Despite the obvious attention to details and displays, the prices ($10-$700 storewide) fall in line with the family operation's decidedly homey vibe.
10211 Ironside, (210) 694-0134, ironsidemall.com