My mission: to collect enough vintage items to get through a glorious summer in Monterey – swag for soirees, funky-fresh home decor and any other little thing catching my fancy – in just a couple of hours.
I begin at the small metropolis of thrift stores near the Carmel Barnyard that include Yellow Brick Road, the SPCA Benefit Shop, Joining Hands Benefit Shop and John’s Consignment. I’m immediately struck by the outdoor display of used books at Yellow Brick Road, which benefits Carmel Presbyterian Church. Old, fabric-covered hardbounds rest in boxes, hidden among newer tomes. A few of these puppies in stacks here and there make for unique, simple decoration – and makes me look literate.
Inside the shop, smiling volunteers, mostly retired, are busy stocking shelves and creating displays. Circular fixtures filled with anything from 1950s pencil dresses by Henry Lee to 1980s rompers dominate the first half of the store. Prices range from cheap to overpriced, but there’s always a sale. In housewares, I score a mid-century ice bucket and glass tray for $8.
Across the street at the SPCA benefit shop, a similar operation exists. Jewelry cases full of vintage brooches shaped like tennis rackets and cherries, beaded clutches and old cameras seem irresistible. Prices range from $5 to $50. After making my way through miscellaneous furniture up front, including a 1960s Danish chair ($15), I head to the back shelves full of everything from dog bowls to wine glasses. I skip over the corn-on-the-cob holders and place settings to a darling set of vintage Mikasa mugs (the poppy collection) for $4.
Just down the block is John’s Consignments, a bit more pricey and much more curated. Impressive collections of Fiestaware and hobnail glassware seduce. A collection of carefully sewn antique aprons hang on a hook. This is where designers who sell items in stores like Anthopologie find inspiration. A small selection of sales items exists, but it’s not enough to alleviate pepper shaker prices that pass $30.
Joining Hands sits a few doors down, benefits Interfaith Outreach of Carmel and carries household and collectible items ranging from sheet music, crystal, and luggage to clothing and shoes. The man cave toward the back stashes vintage briefcases, golf clubs and typewriters.
Next, I visit Reincarnation in Pacific Grove. Inside I find racks of frocks from the 1930s to today. In one room of this unique little house, hangers full of 1950s, ’60s and ’70s dresses for every occasion make my heart flutter. A black and white beaded gown with kelly green bow makes me wish I had a summer wedding on my calendar. A burnt orange, floor length, velveteen dress with cap sleeves and empire waist would have been perfect if I were Audrey Hepburn (or at least had her figure.) Several floral print dresses, with varying sizes and colors of flowers, paired with a cardigan and flats for work, or booties and a jean jacket for a trip to farmers market, would surely get me through the coming months. I grab three for $58 each.
Then the Goodwill’s Lighthouse location, straight to housewares, where I snag an orange 1970s juice pitcher with giant daisies on it ($2.25), perfect for summertime sangria. I fumble through a decent selection of records and pick up Dusty Springfield and Simon and Garfunkel (also $2.25). An early 1980s leather Coach purse also makes its way into my loot for $10.50.
I save the Cannery Row Antique Mall for next to last, because you can pretty much consider it a one stop shop for all things vintage. I browse through two floors of vendor spaces filled with everything from paper ephemera to vintage Coca-Cola signs. I decide I’d need some mid-century bar tumblers to go with my ice bucket. Plenty to choose from. Other favorites include a shabby chic candelabra ($42) and enough Pyrex to fill a Pebble Beach mansion ($10-$40).
My final stop is the dump. Glorious items await at The Last Chance Mercantile at the Monterey Regional Waste Management District. Outside, an old two-tiered industrial cart ($10) speaks to me. (Its precise words: “Pick me, Mama.”) After a bit of sanding and a couple coats of paint, a mid century bar cart fit for a vintage queen.
As the sun sets, I realize I’ve traveled from Carmel to Marina as I’ve traveled back in time. I picked up a parking ticket along with my fine assortment of vintage and blew my spending plan without even touching Olio, Milestone’s Antiques, Habitat for Humanity, St. Vincent De Paul, Cat’s Meow, Carmel Valley Community Chapel Thrift Shop or Moss Landing. What I really need, it seems, is an endless summer – with a budget to match.