BEST THRIFT SHOP THAT DOESN'T SMELL LIKE PEE 2006 | Assistance League Thrift | Shopping & Services | Phoenix
This place used to be tied on our list with the Florence Crittendon Thrift Shop on Central Avenue as our fave odor-free find-a-bargain hot spot, but now that Flo has closed, Assistance League tops our list solo. Roomy, well-organized, and always chock-full of fabulous finds, Assistance League is the cleanest secondhand store in town. Its recent expansion has added another whole room of high-end, low-priced goodies; there's no crap to wade through to get to the best stuff. On our last visit, we bought a still-sealed Andy Williams Christmas album; a '50s chrome-and-plastic kitchen canister set; and a never-used electric pizzelle iron, all for just $16. But beware: This chic shop shuts down at 3 p.m. every day, and the blue-apron-clad workers begin advising customers of this fact about an hour before. We like to think that's because they need to get back out into the world to find us some more great stuff for next to no money. For which we're thankful.
We know someone who's taken to inviting people she only barely likes to visit her at home, just so she can show off the swank boomerang table she bought at Vintage Solutions, a shop we can barely stand to stay out of ourselves. We have yet to figure out whether the owners of the store formerly known as The Garden Party have the same eclectic taste in furnishings as we do, or if our taste was completely formed by shopping in this cool collection of early- and mid-century furniture and accessories. The Nylon Frizee-covered barrel chair ($60) we bought there this past summer looks great alongside the fringed lampshades ($6 apiece!) and the hand-painted '50s occasional table ($22). And don't get us started on the gorgeous set of like-new 1950s ceramic dishware we bought here service for 40, plus serving pieces, for only $150! No matter how often we go, Vintage Solutions always solves our decorating needs as well as our need to shop for cool stuff.
If you want a '60s-vintage lounge chair yesterday, you need to hit one of the mod joints in the Seventh Avenue Melrose District. However, that's a fairly pricey option, as vintage furniture on Seventh tends to be expensive at least in comparison to Antique Plaza Annex, a cool little furniture/antique emporium located in Old Town Mesa. If you've got loads of patience, you'll turn up some great finds at this store because of its high turnover of goods; there's a whole new load of old stuff on a weekly basis. Some of our pickups have included a three-piece set of old movie-theater seats, several examples of blond-finished wood furniture from the '50s, and an H.R. Giger-meets-Ward Cleaver Contour Chair Lounge with Viverator (i.e., built-in massager) manufactured by the Lounge Co. of St. Louis, Mo.
If Commandant Klink of Hogan's Heroes was alive today and needed some fancy fascist dress epaulets for his National Socialist Party duster, he could find 'em at this little gem of a store in Old Town Mesa, known across the Valley and the state as the place to find antique and vintage militaria. While Nazi collectibles are not particularly rare, they're increasingly hard to come by (what with eBay's ban on sales of the controversial mementos) and are duly cherished by collectors. History by George caters to hard-core Nazi nuts with a full slate of Third Reich regalia, from daggers to badges to armbands to medals. Shhh just don't tell the skinheads.
Looking for cowboy/cowgirl collectibles? Good luck. They're getting harder and harder to find, even here in the West. But if you've just gotta have a Ranch oak end table, an old Gene Autry metal lunchbox, a mask worn by Clayton "The Lone Ranger" Moore, or an autographed Tex Ritter guitar, High Noon is the best "brick and mortar" place to look (especially for those who demand the absolute authenticity that eBay can't). The Los Angeles-based company takes its memorabilia show on the road every year, and Phoenix is always one of the most successful stops, with more than 300 certified dealers in Western and Native American goods hawking their rare wares. The 17th annual edition will take place in January at the Phoenix Convention Center.
The first thing you need to know about Janet's is that there is no Janet. The company namesake was bought out a few years back by a couple of characters named Ms. Sieni and Mr. Bill, and the duo kept the handle because of its recognition value among local estate-sale mavens. The second thing you need to know about Janet's is that it's the hardest-working outfit in the Valley, bar none, hosting (re)sales approximately 45 weeks out of the year. And third, we highly recommend Janet's because it serves the urban core. Sure, there are numerous excellent crews operating out of Sun City the estate-sale Valhalla but who wants to drive that gas-guzzling beater to hell and back when you can search for that perfect vintage wig (or Sunbeam Mixmaster, or Royal Worcester finebone-china set) right in your own backyard?
Enter IKEA and take a quick left turn before escalating into the twisting maze of kitchen and bedroom vignettes, past the Bistro (okay, you can stop for a frozen yogurt), and head straight to the "As Is" room just on the other side of the checkout lines. Find discarded display furniture, overstock, and slightly dinged furniture and accessories. We found a fully assembled, lighted shelving unit with glass doors for $50, headboards for $5, thermal cotton bathrobes for $9, and a large solid wood kitchen island for $80. Aside from the price, the real bonus is that it's all already assembled! Bring a vehicle to transport your goods, though, as you must take the items the day you purchase them. No holds past the purchase date. We also found salespeople in this department willing to help load heavy items onto rolling carts (yes, you take them right through the checkout), and they were actually, on occasion, willing to mark down clearance merchandise even further!
If you've been to a Valley gallery recently, there's a good chance that you saw some fine work, and we're not necessarily talking about the art thanks to John Kitts' custom framing store. The store provides professional services for artists, galleries, and corporate and private collections. Frames are handcrafted and milled in the shop. These people are so good that they possess exclusive rights to build and design the Weston Series frames for Kim Weston's center in Carmel, California. The main room features rotating photography shows opening with receptions every third Friday, and a tiny office houses silver gelatin prints from photography legends Alfred Stieglitz and Brett Weston. 422 also designs and builds contemporary furniture including cabinets and tables, as well as unique art displays such as sculpture pedestals and rare book stands.
Swatch out! There's a new kid in town, and "her" name is Jessica. This recent addition to Valley knit shops is a much-needed breath of fresh air with a warm, well-organized feeling. Yarns are attractively arranged in traditional baskets and bins throughout the store. Everywhere you look, the latest titles in knitting literature are prominently displayed, so you can gain inspiration while sneaking a touch of the latest cashmere. Comfy sofas provide another good reason to stay a while, and the communal work table always seems to be buzzing with a generous cross section of the new knitting generation. Even the Web site is a tribute to modernity. Jessica Knits successfully creates a cool environment where men, women, and children of all skill levels feel comfortable and welcome. The stitch is back!
Packed to overflowing with cool yarns and fibercraft implements, this Old Town Scottsdale staple is to local knitting stores what Durant's is to Phoenix restaurants. In terms of yarn selection, you won't find a more extensive array of commercial and hand-spun fibers. And while that's a definite plus, the thing that keeps yarn fanatics going back to AZ Knitting is the wealth of knowledge that dwells within this stitchin' grotto. You'd be hard-pressed to stump owner Rebecca with a project question, and if she's occupied (she has a legion of fans in fact, she refuses to give out her last name, because she'll get calls at home from eager knitters), her staff is among the friendliest and most helpful of any Phoenix business, graciously imparting "purls" of wisdom upon the masses.

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