BEST VINTAGE BOUTIQUE 2007 | Gold Lion | Shopping & Services | Phoenix
With so many people confusing "old" with "retro" and "retro" with "vintage," it's refreshing to have a place like Gold Lion, where true vintage lovers — and newbies, too — can sate the craving for a '70s romper or a '60s swimsuit. Simply, vintage means a rare item at least 20 years old.

Owner Emily Blanche has hit on several keys to success in the resale world: location, inventory and price. Unlike some other vintage shops we were really rooting for (rest in peace, La Dolce Vintage), Gold Lion's actually got a good, accessible location in central Phoenix. And on top of that, once you get into the place, it's tough to leave. The selection is just that good. It's a relatively small space, but it's easy to waste an hour or so in the store playing dress- up with the hundreds of sundresses, heels, belts and purses, as well as the random kitsch floating around, like a brass unicorn statue we spotted recently. The inventory leans mostly toward '60s, '70s and '80s (yes, some '80s items are vintage now... even though we can remember them from the first time around), and best of all, Blanche has done an awesome job at making sure the store is stocked with a variety of sizes, not an easy thing to do in the vintage biz. The shop turns a year old in January — here's hoping Blanche makes it.

Sadly, we can't afford the children's boutique at Neiman Marcus. Not even the sale rack. Not even the sale rack at the N.M. outlet. That's where Small Change comes in. We swear, every bored wealthy mom between Fountain Hills and Paradise Valley must bring her kids' barely worn clothes, shoes and toys here — that's how plentiful the merch is. Everything's in great shape and, somehow, still in fashion. One of our favorite scores of late is a three-piece ensemble — jean jacket, black tee and tulle skirt — all trimmed in hot pink leopard print, with "ROCK" embroidered on the back of the jacket.

Our only disappointment is that Small Change refuses all clothing from Target. Old Navy, too. And even the good stuff we had, they gave back — too worn. That's okay, we don't blame them. We know we're not worthy. Just let us keep shopping there, okay?

The Trunk Space's JRC and Steph are always up to something cool. And lately, they've found a new funky fashion stream of consciousness. Swap-o-Rama is a national thingy that pit-stops in Phoenix on Grand Ave. Just grab your crazy clothes and hand-me-downs that are meant for Goodwill or the Second Hand Rose in your family, and tramp on down to the Trunk Space the next time they host Swap-o-Rama. Throw your stuff into the pile of fabric, and mix and match your favorites until you find the pieces of your almost ready-to-wear puzzle. Take your new load to one of the local sewing machine pirates standing by, and watch as they bodkin and rip up old seams and create a new outfit for you, per your instructions, using the clothes you picked out from the community cauldron.

The idea behind the do-it-yourself workshops comes from artist Wendy Tremayne, who wants communities to explore the reuse of recycled clothing and stop textile waste.

It's like the Build-A-Bear workshop fucked a Mongolian BBQ grill and then inbred with a Christmas Cookie Party and a White Elephant gift exchange — then spawned all-fabric offspring. And we love it.

Most of us might be a little squeamish about digging through the treasures of the recently deceased or even just tromping through the homes of folks who are on their way out of town for good, but lucky for us, the nice guys over at Michael Todd's are not. They use their discerning eye for good design and collectible treasures on our behalf, and pick out the best furniture, linens, and odds and ends from better homes all over town. Then they schlep it all back to their new location over on East Camelback Road, where they carefully arrange it all in such a manner that we see the beauty in every corner. Just ask the hallway in our home, which now sports a giant gilt-framed mirror and side table that we never would have had the nerve to dicker with Granny over. Here's to Michael Todd's, a store that boldly goes where we care not to, in search of wonderfully, gently used furnishings to brighten our homes.
It's a mean old world and when things start to get us down, we head not for our favorite watering hole (or the roof) but straight for Seventh Avenue, where we know great treasures and low prices await us. We start at Seventh and Thomas for a quick run through Willo Antiques, where high-end antiques at affordable prices always tempt us.

Then we scurry out the door and, heading north, stop off at Brandeis University Bookstore (3343 North Seventh Avenue), where we always find at least one slim volume to add to our personal library. Continuing up the street, we crash our favorite thrift shop, Flo's on 7th (4116 North Seventh Avenue), just north of Indian School, where we load up on housewares (last time, our big score was a dozen Mikasa crystal goblets and a set of Norleans china, for which we paid next to nothing; thank you, Flo!). A mad dash into Rust and Roses (4200 North Seventh Avenue) and Retro Redux (4303 North Seventh Avenue) to make sure they don't have that elusive teacart we've been searching for since the 1980s (and maybe, like last time, to add to our collection of tiki vases) precedes a leisurely stroll through Home Again, where we're bound to find some big honking piece of gorgeousness that will necessitate our shifting every stick of furniture back home to make room for it.

Then we pop in to Hollywood Regency (right around the corner at 708 West Montecito), because owner Heidi Owens has the exact same taste that we do, and we always end up maxing out our credit card there because, well, we want to own everything in her store. A quick peek into Qcumberz (4429 North Seventh Avenue) and Figs (4501 North Seventh Avenue), where we get our shabby-chic fix for the day, and we wind up our afternoon exhausted but happy at White Dove Thrift (5035 North Seventh Avenue), where we always score something (most recently, a giant punch bowl set for $18 and a box of funky silver napkin rings for five bucks). Who needs Tanqueray when there's a whole stretch of city filled with so many intoxicating, happy-making bargains?

If Martha Stewart lived in Phoenix, she'd be eating at Tammie Coe Bakery and shopping at Hollywood Regency, a place where the best collection of slightly tarnished treasures resides, waiting for you to discover them and bring them home to your cool shack. Proprietors Heidi Owens and Michael Robertson spend every day of the year scouring our sweet town for perfect examples of "shabby chic," that combination of lightly worn, slightly rusty, expertly white-washed and crackle-painted home furnishings that Martha helped popularize late last century. Our most recent finds at this super-chic furniture emporium include a still-working Deco library lamp (a steal at only $29); a well-loved handmade quilt ($24); and a first-edition hardcover of 1957's Ten Secrets of Bowling by Don Carter (okay, so it's not technically home décor — but it was only $3 and we have friends who bowl). Shabby was never so chic.
We admit it. We've got a thing for what we like to affectionately refer to as Other People's Shit (O.P.S., in polite company). There's nothing better than a bad flea market on the edge of town, and we've traveled far and wide to find several. So you can imagine how pleased we were to find a convenient outpost right in the middle of town, at Qcumberz. This treasure trove of old glass jars (some of them still bearing years-old cookies, a detail we could do without), cast-off artwork and antique furniture is better than any flea market we've ever been to, and feels like one, if you take the time to wander in and out of the countless rooms that somehow connect to one another in a crazy, watch-your-head kind of way. We emerged from our most recent visit with a glass candy jar (clean, thank you very much) and a set of blue-hued Mexican straw baskets — and a list of stuff we hope is still there when we return, next paycheck in hand.
Our new china looks great and has garnered a number of oohs and a couple of ahs, and if we're hesitant to tell where we got it, it's not because we're embarrassed to admit we shop in thrift stores. We're just a little reluctant to let the secret out that we've rediscovered the best one in town. The former Florence Crittenton Thrift Shop is now Flo's on 7th, as in Seventh Avenue, where its new location offers twice as much space and a hundred times more cool bargains in a clean, odor-free secondhand shop like none other in Phoenix. Furniture, dishware, clothing, appliances, even great old 45 RPM records — Flo's has it all, all neatly organized and expertly displayed, and for truly down-and-dirty prices besides. Fans of old linens will want to make Flo's a regular haunt, because vintage tablecloths, napkins, and window treatments are among Flo's specialties. Flow on in Monday through Saturday, 10 to 6, and grab a bargain or two.
There used to be a time when Phoenicians flocked to a quaint chain called Pic-N-Save. Here you would find, amidst a bunch of crap, some of the best bargains in town. Hobby Lobby does away with the crap part of that equation. Several clearance aisles sport some of the finest low-budget home furnishings and accessories around (think Pottery Barn knock-offs and architectural pieces), along with aisles of crafting materials (hence, the name).

Of course, digging and frequent scouting trips are mandatory. Or maybe that's our Hobby Lobby addiction talking. The folks at Hobby Lobby must understand the depth of this illness, and have done their part by providing impossibly small shopping carts in which to haul your plunder. Despite this minor obstacle, you can decorate entire rooms of your house for less than the cost of a tank of gas and, if you are old enough to remember Pic-N-Save, you might just think you've died and gone to bargain heaven.

It was too hot to get out of the air-conditioned car, but we just had to pull over once we saw the brightly painted faade of this, well, curious new Seventh Avenue establishment. What could they be selling inside? While we were straining to see what was displayed in the windows (was that really a Day of the Dead King Kong tableau?), someone came waltzing out with a gun-metal table lamp with a parchment shade, and we bolted from the car to get a gander at what else might be inside.

We weren't disappointed. Crammed floor to ceiling with amazing tchotchkes, Curiouser and Curiouser turned out to be like Grandma's attic, if Grandma were a super-hip connoisseur of cool junk and went thrift-shopping every day in search of it. Among this mother lode of marvelous fun, we spotted a Fab '50s turquoise ice crusher, a tidy lineup of old soda bottles, and enough vintage barware to open up four swanky saloons. Everything here is organized based on where it might live once you get it home, so all the kitchen stuff (like the Vernonware highball set we knew we had to have) is displayed in one spot, while all the old toys are wedged into a sort of clever nursery display in a room off to the side. Who needs an Internet auction when one can visit such cool stuff in person? We don't, not now that we've gotten Curiouser and Curiouser.

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