BEST JUNKYARD 2005 | Ecology Auto Parts | Shopping & Services | Phoenix
Where can you shop in the Valley where destroying the inventory to get at something you want isn't against the rules? The Ecology Auto Parts junkyard, that's where. This used car parts oasis features the usual next-to-nothing customer service, car parts infested with bird feces, and shoppers covered in greasy oil. What distinguishes Ecology from the other guys is the organization. Yes, we said an organized junkyard. For just $1, navigate along the wide footpaths and into the well-marked bays of old junk heaps, prearranged into four categories: Ford/Lincoln/Mercury; Chevrolet/Geo; Dodge/Chrysler; and Imports, a section that includes BMWs and limited SUVs. Parts for '60s vehicles are rare; pieces of '70s autos are easier to come by; and junked cars from the '80s to the present are abundant, especially if you're looking for parts for your Geo Metro or your Chevy truck. Ecology also has a car and scrap metal buying program, and it's open pretty much all the time, barring Christmas Day. Get junking.
There must be fabulous garage sales in Europe. How else to explain the amazing castoffs that turn up in this store? Like a 250-year-old santo from Prague; a 60-year-old steel medical table from Belgium; and a three-foot-high, 150-year-old ceramic water jug from Crete. Oh, and don't forget the set of four-foot-tall clock faces from a tower in Holland. (A local richie turned one into a wall clock for his mansion.) Owner Todd Zillweger won't reveal exactly where he finds this gorgeous stuff. Trade secret, he says. The stuff here isn't cheap -- an iron transom from a 19th-century Egyptian doorway runs a couple hundred bucks, and the stone window surround from an 18th-century Gothic cathedral runs into the thousands. But Relics is where you come when Home Depot won't do. Drop in, and you'll be tempted to splurge, because in a city where everything is new, old seems exotic.
Location, location, location. What's gospel for Realtors also holds true for antique malls, only in reverse. This Grand Old Dame's address on the Valley's eastern fringe means lower prices -- typically by about a third -- than those at similar antique emporiums located in the urban core. There is also, in our opinion, a better selection of quality items on the shelves than you'll find in the city. Why? Well, there's the far-out factor, for one. Additionally, the 75-plus vendors who hawk their wares in AJ are typically older and less technologically inclined than the sellers at malls closer in. This is not intended as an insult; we consider it a godsend, because it means that more of the good stuff remains in the stalls and off eBay. This, in turn, creates the sort of dealer loyalty that keeps buyers coming back for more. As a case in point, we drive twice as far and visit the Grand twice as often as we patronize other antique malls, and we never leave empty-handed -- a classic win-win for buyer and seller. City folk, take note.
Sometimes, even on days when antiquing isn't in our budget, we drop in on this elegant collection of old furniture and art, because it's almost like visiting a tiny museum of what was once considered beautiful in-home decor. Although Phoenix is lousy with antiques shops, Willo Historic District Antiques is the only one that reminds us of the super-stylish shops popular on the East Coast, full as it is with precious artifacts from the not-so-recent past. We ended up redecorating an entire room around a pair of leather-covered end tables we found at Willo and honestly didn't have room for, just because they were so admirable and so admirably priced. The guys who run this cool collection of pretty, shiny old things have an eye for rare artifacts, and they're great about sharing that talent -- along with better-than-fair prices -- with us.
The middle of the desert Southwest is not exactly where you'd think to look first for Asian antiques and decorative accessories. But Scottsdale's Echoes of Asia is where you'll find some of the finest Asian and Southeast Asian pieces we've seen outside of tony boutiques in L.A., San Francisco and New York.

Located in the Scottsdale Airpark, this relatively new shop is owned by Khanittha and Balint Kocsis and started out as an eBay selling experiment of their private collection of mostly Chinese and Thai antique items. The couple was so successful that their personal collecting passion ballooned into a full-scale antique business that will soon be moving to even bigger digs.

Beautifully carved wooden screens, old and new Chinese ceramics, pottery, jade carvings and lacquered pieces, dazzling antique Buddhas from Thailand and Cambodia, offering tables, old doors and intricate window panels, gorgeous ethnic silks and embroideries -- these are just a few of the items Echoes of Asia offers up to the lover of Asian antiques and artifacts. We're especially appreciative of the fact that each carefully selected piece on display is accompanied by a tag that identifies the piece as new or old, its approximate date of creation, and its place of origin. Add to all this the owners' sincere eagerness to share with any customer or window shopper their considerable knowledge about what they are selling and you get a little bit of Beijing and Bangkok right here in Salt River City.

When it comes to home furnishings, Tuscan is as over as Michael Jackson's career. Modern is the new new thing: sofas on skinny metal legs, TV lamps, faux abstract-expressionist sofa art. Dave Alvarez (d.a., get it?) scours estate sales from Beverly Hills to Palm Springs looking for vintage high-end modern furnishings. He comes home with some treasures.

d.a.'s has gorgeous Heywood-Wakefield, yes. But the shop also has stunning, one-of-a-kind pieces, like the pristine 1940s-era Paul László hutch we saw on a recent visit. All apple green enamel and art deco curves, you could imagine Ava Gardner keeping her liquor in it. There was a 1950s-era end table designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and a cubist-influenced watercolor of the New York skyline circa 1930 by an uncelebrated but accomplished artist.

Alvarez says he sells more of his retro cool gear on eBay than he does to locals. "People here don't seem to know modern is cool," he says.

Now they will, Dave.

What's old is new again, as they say in the fashion and furnishings biz. And if it's old you're looking for, as in 1940s, 1950s and 1960s old, Modern Lighting is a not-to-be-missed destination for any connoisseur of vintage funk. From goofy to gorgeous, this small store has stuff literally hanging from the rafters and taking up every available inch of surface space. We found a 1940s green-and-gold glazed doggy lamp here, along with a foofy chandelier dripping with capiz shells, probably from the late '60s, among the vintage tiki treasures and Hawaiiana sprinkled along Modern's jammed aisles. We were also impressed by several Chinese carved serpentine vase lamps and a pair of those Murano glass table lamps that were so terribly hip in the late '50s and early '60s. But the pièce de résistance was found overhead: a chrome Sputnik ceiling fixture priced at a cool $3,500. We're still thinking about it -- and about where we're going to scrape up the dimes so we can go back for it.
This place has umpteen thousand shiny rocks -- for jewelry, for metaphysical conjuring, for decorating your home. Whether you're looking for amethyst, quartz or feldspar, this is the place.

What drew us to the store originally was its collection of what appeared to be African animal and death masks (turns out they're Indonesian, but they're still cool). We had just bought a house, and the previous owner had left zebra wallpaper in one of the bedrooms. At first we were horrified, and then we decided to just go with it. We set out in search of decorations. Boy, did we find what we were looking for at Black Market! If you're into masks, you'll get your rocks off perusing the bulkheads of this place. There are many varieties of authentic wooden ones, and they're cheap. For under $20, you can put an elephant's face on your wall, or a zebra's or a giraffe's or a leopard's. For those into the macabre, there is a variety of skull masks.

We bought beautiful rocks for our planters, masks for our walls, and wooden wind chimes that are music to everyone's ears.


Furniture Row, Bell Road at 28th Street

There's nothing conventional about a couple of the stores on Furniture Row, where you could accessorize your entire home without leaving the parking lot. The best of the places along the strip offer cool secondhand stuff. There are about half a dozen businesses here, the crème de la crème being Eclectica and Cupid's Furniture. We purchased a killer retooled dinette set at Cupid's -- you know, the kind you used to see on I Love Lucy or in your grandmother's kitchen, only black and silver instead of orange and yellow. And we bought a gigantic ceramic wall hanging of three exotic nudes fading into the ether at Eclectica. Neither was cheap (both in the $400 range), but they were unique, and when we surveyed the prices at conventional furniture stores for stuff we wouldn't dream of putting near our contemporary digs, we were satisfied.

Eclectica is famous for its exotic merchandise. On last inspection, it was selling a stuffed pirate swinging down from a rope, red phone booths straight out of Piccadilly Circus, a mint-condition standup bass, gigantic Alice in Wonderland chairs, three-foot-high statues of Elvis, and that's just the beginning. The funky lamp selections at both Cupid's and Eclectica are out of this world.

Another store on the row that will usually have something unique is J&K Furniture. We bought some glass-topped metallic coffee and end tables there, and the place always has great prices on couches and beds. (Last time we visited, there was a canopy bed big enough for Henry VIII to have slept on.) Here's a perk: Right in the center of Furniture Row is Fuel Motorsport Café and Bar, an interesting place to stop for a cold one on a hot day of furniture-store hopping.

If you're in the market for key tassels, beaded fringe, tiebacks, bullions or similar trimmings, you've come to the right place. H & R carries a wide assortment of the fancy stuff, as well as related items and accessories for home-decor improvement. Depending on your mood and needs, you might find some new legs for that vintage couch or a cool hide to re-cover a tacky kitchen chair. H & R is also one of the Valley's go-to places for hard-to-find fabrics like glittered vinyl, tanned leather, Ultrasuede, and shantung silk. And while you're there, why not check out the store's prints? Our favorites are the Copa Cabana (a nifty repeating pattern of fez-wearing monkeys) at $12.95 per yard, and the appropriately named Beach Umbrella at $11.95 per yard. Be sure to ask for Larry, who'll escort you around with his scissors, hacking off swatches at your command.

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