- Bryan Rindfuss
- Alamo Antique Mall
San Antonio may not be the shopping destination of everyone’s dreams, but what it may lack in metropolitan cachet it easily makes up for with something far more important: authenticity. Whether you’re in the market for a truly unusual gift or simply need the distraction of some quality browsing, our list of usual suspects and lesser-known gems should rise to the occasion.
Alamo Antique Mall
With roughly 30 vendors spread across three floors, the maze-like Alamo Antique Mall can feel a bit like a time capsule smack in the middle of downtown. Vintage hats and bags, well-preserved issues of Life magazine, kitchenware from the Atomic Age, military relics and tchotchkes galore are among the treasures to be found here, but the hands-down fan favorite is upstairs at Alamo Records — a goldmine of more than 90,000 vintage and rare albums collected by knowledgeable music lover Will Day. While you’re in the area, keep the old-school vibes flowing with a visit to nearby San Antonio landmark Paris Hatters. 125 Broadway, (210) 224-4354, alamoantiquemall.com.
Mario and Ginger Diaz’s bright and bubbly boutique Feliz Modern pretty much exemplifies the term “retail therapy.” Built around a mantra of “Art/Life/Fun,” the intensely colorful and playful shop is like a brick-and-mortar mood enhancer thank to racks and shelves stocked with a curated selection of quirky cards, pillows, pins, stickers, housewares and affordable prints made by local artists. In addition to totes, tees and jewelry from hyper-local outfits like BarbacoApparel and VeryThat, shoppers can expect to spot giftables inspired by some of the Alamo City’s favorite things — from tacos and avocados to Selena and Frida Kahlo. 110 W. Olmos Dr., (210) 622-8364, felizmodern.com.
Fiesta on Main
Heralded by the seasonal piñatas dangling from the trees out front, there’s always a celebration in the works at Fiesta on Main. Although it’s a no-brainer for anyone planning a Fiesta party (cascarones, confetti, papel picado and party supplies in every color of the rainbow are all mainstays here), the shop is a year-round destination for traditional Mexican and Tex-Mex wares including guayaberas, embroidered dresses, ceramics, folk art, T-shirts and talavera kitchenware. 2025 N. Main Ave., (210) 591-8144, alamofiesta.com.
Striving for a balance that’s “at once worldly and San Antonio,” Olmos Park midcentury authority Period Modern is a cavernous hunting ground for those who appreciate the furnishings of decades past. A deserved winner of Best Furniture Store in the Current’s 2018 readers’ poll, the shop creates inviting vignettes seemingly plucked from a ’50s movie set with an ever-evolving inventory that complements “high-quality midcentury modern furnishings and decorative objects” with “soulful folk art, early Texas paintings and dashes of other unexpected eye pleasers.” 4347 McCullough Ave., (210) 902-1217, periodmodern.com.
San Angel Folk Art Gallery
Named after a quaint, colorful suburb of Mexico City, Blue Star mainstay San Angel boasts “one of the world’s most provocative and comprehensive collections of folk, outsider, visionary and vernacular art, featuring artists from Mexico, Latin America, the United States, Europe and Africa.” Run by collector/curator Henry “Hank” Lee along with contemporary artist Leigh Anne Lester and writer/performer Paul Bonin-Rodriguez, the shop abounds in curiosities. Ceramics, masks, baskets, crosses, paintings, textiles and Día de los Muertos figurines share the artfully arranged confines with one of San Angel’s signatures — 16-pleat guayaberas custom-crafted in Mexico from whimsical fabrics. 110 Blue Star, (210) 226-6688, sanangelfolkart.com.
From the incredibly imaginative mind of revered interior designer and Uncommon Objects co-founder D’Ette Cole comes GOOD goods, an eclectic shop that mixes up well-preserved midcentury furniture with found objects, jewelry, quirky home furnishings and lots more in between. Housed in an aptly retro storefront in Dignowity Hill, the cozy shop and its Instagram-ready arrangements are likely to spark a few decorating ideas, even if you don’t snap up an item or two. 904 Nolan St., (210) 606-7334, goodgoodstx.com.
A Midtown favorite on a particularly eclectic stretch of Blanco, Karolina’s is the family-fueled operation of lifelong picker Maria Vega and her gay sons Anthony and Uriel Diaz. Putting a funky, LGBT-friendly spin on the antique mall format, the large, multicolored space comprises between eight and 15 vendor booths stocked with vintage clothing, vinyl, kitschy collectibles, artwork, costume jewelry and even new furnishings and gifts. Winner of Best Antique Store in the Current’s 2018 readers’ poll, Karolina’s strives to carry what Vega sums up as “a little bit of everything for everyone.” 1705 Blanco Road, (210) 731-9787, karolinasantiques.com.
From an unassuming corner just below Brick at Blue Star, Jane Bishop’s bright and colorful shop Mockingbird Handprints presents shoppers and browsers with “an eclectic mix of art and home accents.” While Bishop’s own handiwork can be seen in imaginative wallpapers and vintage chairs reupholstered in hand-dyed textiles, the shop also carries a curated assortment of affordable pieces created by local artists, including ceramicist Diana Kersey and jewelry designer Laura Quiñones. 1420 S. Alamo St., Suite 108, (210) 878-5711, mockingbirdhandprints.com.
No. 9 Florals, Chocolates & Gifts
A retail extension of Laredo native David Garcia’s successful floral design business Statue of Design, No. 9 is anything but your run-of-the-mill flower shop. Visually and stylistically inspired by the mystery and magic of New Orleans, the Midtown emporium creates stylish arrangements in vessels that truly make a statement — including ceramic skulls, Mexican pottery and vases depicting Frida Kahlo’s iconic visage. But, as the name suggests, it’s not all flowers: No. 9 also offers unique gift baskets, candles, pillows, cards and jewelry, not to mention one of the city’s finest chocolate counters. 1701 Blanco Road, (210) 232-4471, no9floralandgifts.com.
Papa Jim’s Botánica
Both a San Antonio institution and a local rite of passage, Papa Jim’s is a one-stop shop for veladoras, herbs, bath salts, incense, religious paraphernalia, santería books, magical potions and myriad other items that might leave you scratching your head — and quite possibly afraid to even inquire about. Organized on a website with categories that span from Cleansing Items and Esoteric Gels to Tarot Card Decks and Voodoo Dolls, this mega-botánica is a no-brainer when you’re in need of a pregnant Santa Muerte statue, a Protection and Abundance Amulet, a Destroy Your Enemies Kit, handy Court Case Oil or a bottle of Reversible Herbal Liquid Yard Dressing promising to “remove and return all evil doings that have been done to you.” As the mainstay’s motto reminds: “Whatever works.” 5630 S. Flores St., (210) 922-6665, papajimsbotanica.com.
Yeya’s Antiques & Oddities
In keeping with its moniker, Yeya’s Antiques & Oddities bills itself as an “independent, creative, antique, random-objects junk shop.” If that distinct descriptor doesn’t conjure anything tangible, imagine industrial salvage, carnival relics, vintage signage, light fixtures, license plates, mannequins, patio furniture, iron gates, severed baby doll heads and truly unidentifiable items spilling out of an old house and into an equally cluttered yard. If that reminds you of that time you dropped acid and binge-watched an entire season of Hoarders, keep in mind that there’s a method to this madness. As suggested on the East Side curiosity’s website, it can take a little imagination to incorporate rescued oddities into your everyday life — and there’s a special talent to “finding great items in a junk coma just waiting to be revived and repurposed.” 1423 E. Commerce St., (210) 827-5555, yeyasantiques.net.