Phoenix New Times celebrated the cream of the crop with our 37th annual Best of Phoenix edition. Here are our top picks for vintage and resale shops in metro Phoenix.
Best Place to Buy Vintage Clothing
A friend visiting from England whined, "Your vintage clothing stores are a downer. More like costume shops." So we took her to Antique Sugar and she shut the hell up. This is the place for fabulous yesteryear threads, and its expanded stock in its new location (Sugar recently relocated from midtown to groovy downtown digs) is even better than it once was — and that was pretty darn good. There we typically find couture attire, '70s garments perfect for those pesky disco parties people keep throwing, and the best selection of midcentury lounging pajamas you'll ever see. Recent impossible-but-true finds include 1940s still-in-the-box navy blue silk stockings, dyed-fabric pumps (in our size!), and a 1963 Elizabeth Arden frock coat with the tags hanging off. Also surprising is this boss boutique's wide array of men's duds, a rarity in any vintage clothing store.
Best Mid-Century Antiques
When it comes to Retro Ranch, the priority is given to quality over quantity. The store is not as big as some of the others in Melrose District, but that just means the midcentury finds are more concentrated. The staff fills the limited space it has with the best pieces it comes across when hunting for midcentury furniture, clothing, and accessories. But then Retro takes it to the next level by creating eye-grabbing displays with its wares. Its slogan is "Swagger on in . . .," but we think you'll be walking with more of a spring in your step when you're walking out with something you just can't wait for your house guests to ask about.
Goodwill Redesign Scottsdale
Sure, there are plenty of places around town with great resale items to purchase, but none boasts cheaper prices than Goodwill. And out of all the Goodwill locations in Arizona, it's the Goodwill Redesign in Scottsdale where we find our favorite and most reasonably priced antique treasures. Unlike other Goodwill stores around the Valley, the Goodwill Redesign stores focus on furniture and decorations, leaving clothing to other locations. We don't know whether it's the neighborhood surrounding the Scottsdale Goodwill Redesign or the alignment of the stars, but we always have the best luck at this particular store. Try your luck and stop by. Maybe you'll walk away with a well-loved but nicely preserved '80s armchair that will perfectly fill that one corner in your living room
Best Place to Buy Antiques on a Budget
A Shawnee Farmer Pig cookie jar for 30 bucks. A telephone table painted turquoise. A lady-head vase with barely any chips on her hat. A mantel clock, a painting of a dog wearing a raincoat. An Oxfordware bowl with only a little crazing. We practically needed a wheelbarrow the first time we shopped at Ilona's, the stuff was so cool and the prices so reasonable. Did we need that mantel clock, that amber glass centerpiece vase, the Harker Corinthian gravy boat? No. But we had to have it, because who knows when we'll find such fun stuff at such low prices ever again? (Actually, we do — always, and always at Ilona's.
Best Mid-Century Design
Modern on Melrose
When you walk into Modern on Melrose, you may think you've walked into a mid-century design museum instead of an antique store. The staff has created such well-designed miniature room setups with all of its midcentury furniture that it's difficult to walk away from each one not wanting to purchase everything and re-create it exactly the same way in your own home. Because, c'mon! Would anything go as well with the pattern on that 1953 couch than those orange wool throw pillows? Plus the staff is helpful and knowledgeable without any of the pretentiousness too often found in high-end specialty stores.
Best Adult Clothing Resale Shop
My Sister's Closet
From Urban Outfitters dresses to Prada shoes, My Sister's Closet has everything a fashionista on a budget could need. The deals on clothes, shoes, and accessories couldn't be better — we're talking about $35 for a Diane von Furstenburg dress and $60 for Stuart Weitzman pumps that originally cost nearly $500. But don't think My Sister's Closet is all about the labels. The buyers here know that stylish, nearly new clothes from any brand are worth reselling, which means you'll also find great buys for less than you'd usually spend on lunch. For the best deals, wait for the seasonal progressive sales, when everything in the store gets discounted between 20 percent and 70 percent. We've scored a vintage leather skirt for $25 and a designer dress for under 10 bucks. Plus the staff is always friendly and the aisles easy to navigate.
Best Antiques Mall
We needed a 1960s Underwood typewriter (with intact ribbon), a wire dress form, and a set of French Saxon Star-Flower dishware, and we needed it now. We didn't realize, of course, that all this vintage stuff was lacking in our lives or that we could get it in one place and for pennies on the dollar until we found ourselves at Brass Armadillo, where all this and more lay in wait. Conveniently located just off Interstate 17 and chockablock with gorgeous old stuff, the Armadillo is open till 9 p.m. seven days a week, for those of us jonesing for a post-dinner hunt for a mint-in-box Howdy Doody rag doll or a pair of Everwood side tables in mint condition and priced perfectly. Nicely organized with street signs, the Brass boulevards of merchant boutiques are neatly arranged and frequently restocked, so repeat trips are a must. We love the rows and rows of glass cases full of rare and pretty small items (Hey, is that a 1959 Barbie doll?), and the friendly staff who wraps our purchases so carefully, too.
Best Kids' Clothing Resale
The staff is friendly, the selection changes constantly, and you can't beat the prices at Love Child, our favorite resale shop for children's clothing. We haunt the $1 (yes, one dollar!) rack and have found everything from a Gymboree velour sweat suit to Abercrombie and Fitch cutoffs. There's a wide selection of used leotards and tap shoes (a dance mom's dream) and a shelf or two of books to keep the kids busy while you browse. Offer up your e-mail address and you'll get plenty of sale notices and coupons — although the regular prices are good enough to keep us coming back to Love Child.
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Best Place to Buy High-End Antiques
Scottsdale must be the place to go for big-ticket, high-style old furniture. Right? Nope. We head to downtown Tempe and Rare Lion, really the best place to find Napoleonic desks, a Virtuoso bookcase, or a pristine Paimio settee. Vintage smalls also are available at this superb shop filled to the rafters with exquisite old jewelry, super-collectible high-end ceramics, and even some vintage paper products. Rare Lion also offers appraisals of your collectibles, and its on-site gemologist can help you determine whether that 90-year-old cocktail ring is clad with gemstones or just pretty glass.
Best Midcentury Modern Furniture
Here is what you need to be happy (and to furnish that groovy Ralph Haver home you just closed on): Six Mario Bellini for Cassina leather cab chairs, an Adrian Pearsall walnut slate and upholstered sofa, and a Carpathian elm and brass sideboard designed by Harold Schwartz. In that case, there's only one place to go, and it's to Red. This longtime purveyor of high-end, pristine-quality midcentury furnishings and art has what you need if what you need is a little better than the stuff at the local antique mall. Beautifully restored sofas and chairs, still-perfect end tables and lanais, and that chrome bar you've always fantasized about. It's better to be Red.