The State of Vintage Shopping

Above you can see the sad remains of what was once a thriving vintage and antiques market.  Held on the first weekend of every month, there was a time when this entire space would have been jammed full of dealers in old stuff.  I’ve been going to the Metrolina market for around fifteen years, and over that time I’ve watched it shrink and shrink and shrink.  This week the word was out that the owners are retiring and selling the property.

The reality of the show I attended yesterday is not quite as pitiful as my photo would lead one to believe.  To the right are two large buildings that contain vendors.  The scene inside them was livelier, but still there were plenty of empty spaces for absent vendors.  To the left are a row of smaller buildings which are occupied by little shops that open only when the show is in progress.  These people are now scrambling to find new spaces for their shops before Metrolina closes in June.

I could go on for hours, reminiscing about all the wonderful things I’ve found here over the years.  But I’ll not, mainly because my keyboard couldn’t take the tears.  Just know that a sizable amount of my collection was purchased in this empty lot.

It’s not all bad news, however. One thing that I’ve found to be true about myself is that I find the same amount of stuff to buy regardless of the size of a market.  A lot of this has to do with the fact that knowing there is less ground to cover lets me take the time to give everything a closer look.  I love old photographs, but if time is tight I’ll pass by a stack  because looking through them takes so much time.  Yesterday I took the time to sort through some I found and was rewarded with a wonderful Victorian woman on a bicycle and a fully documented shot of a 1923 beach with bather.

And there is a section of dealers that I always seem to leave for last because I just never find much there.  Yesterday I had the time to pass through that area and found another 1930s chenille beach cape.  Because there was extra time, I stopped at a favorite restaurant for a pimento cheese burger and a craft brew, and then did a walk-through of a nearby antiques mall.  There I found a superb early 1920s dress with embroidery and a sweet little change purse with Florida tourist destinations.

This mall has been in business for about three years, and is located in an old textile mill.  It’s is huge, and has been pretty much full since opening.  Unfortunately I noticed that one big room has closed, and there were a few empty spaces.  Worst of all, I’m seeing more new decorative objects.  These are not a good signs.

I’ll show off all my plunder later this week, but here are a few things I loved but did not buy.

I see a lot vintage prints, and I just love the ones showing women involved in sports.  These two were new to me.

This is a counter display, and is three-dimensional.  I love stuff like this, but I just do not have the space for it.

My regular vintage clothing dealers were not there, but I did spot a few nice pieces in various booths.  This was a lovely 1960s dress and jacket ensemble from maker Dan Millstein.

I pretty much limit myself to buying only fashion magazines, but this The American Magazine cover was just too fantastic not to share.

I’s love to hear what other vintage shoppers are finding in their geographic areas.  Are sellers of old stuff all moving to the internet?




Filed under Shopping, Viewpoint

32 responses to “The State of Vintage Shopping

  1. Pat Setzer

    I, too, mourn the closing of Metrolina Flea Market. I guess I will go one more time before it closes, to stroll leisurely as you did. Is the nearby antique mall you went to in Concord at Gibson Mill? Thank you!


  2. poppysvintageclothing

    Sad to hear about the demise of the market…happy to hear that you still found some lovely items to add to your collection!


  3. My friend has a brick and mortar vintage shop. It’s not doing well and I doubt if she can stay open. I don’t know if this is because fewer people are interested in older vintage (anything pre mid-century or mod/pop/groovy) or if it’s that buying has moved over to the internet. People treat it like a museum. They look but don’t buy. Sad.


  4. As the mom of a 30 something and a 20 something, I can tell you this generation does not give a hill of beans about anything old. You could not pay my kids to go into an antiques store! If it does not come from Pottery Barn, Ikea (shudder), Crate and Barrel, or an electronics store, they are not interested. We have lost an entire generation of young folks who have no curiosity or the desire to collect anything vintage or antique. Of course there are exceptions to this, but being in the design/furniture business since 1974 I have seen the handwriting on the wall.


    • That is interesting. What I’ve noticed in younger shoppers at markets is that they tend to buy the new stuff that looks old. And none of my 6 nieces and nephews is a bit interested in “old junk” as far as
      I can tell.


      • My sons are vintage and thrift crawlers, as are a lot of their friends. Granted, the elder son is all about Polo labels from the 80s, but the younger likes his suits 40s style. Both would kill for a good pair of wingtips.
        My reliable vintage shop friend retired a couple of years ago, and the shop died shortly after. I am finding more pre60s vintage online than in person, and Seattle used to be crawling with vintage shops. Mostly I hit the estate sales, where the good pieces were cared for. Because my peers are dying off I guess, and their children don’t know where to sell them.


  5. That’s too bad. Usually moving inventory to the internet means inflated prices. Not that stuff should be priced below what it is worth, but I’m noticing that stuff that you used to be able to pick up in a flea market for a couple of dollars (or even just some spare change) now lists for lots of dollars online. I suppose prices are what the market will bear. Your flea market still has some wonderful finds, though!!


    • Yes, it does mean inflated prices. Markets like Metrolina have been great hunting grounds for resale items. Of all the items I bought Saturday, there is not one that I could not turn around and sell on etsy for a very good profit. And I do not mind paying what an item is worth. Heaven knows I’ve done it plenty of times!


  6. Very discouraging to read this, Lizzie, but haven’t done the rounds over here yet, so can’t advise.


  7. I think markets are still healthy over here (the UK). It does feel as though decent quality stuff is less easy to find at places like charity shops and car boots, though, you need to pay specialist dealer prices more.


  8. Ruth

    I haven’t been in a good antique store or thrift in five years and I do miss it. Don’t know for sure how it’s going here in WA state anymore. We live in a very small town and there’s only one thrift store in this entire portion of the county! it’s a pretty sad one, run to benefit the senior center, and I think most of it goes home with the staff as I know there are quite a few hoarders here. We had a wonderful little mall in my previous town and I found many interesting things there, especially vintage cookware. I’ll have to ask my sister in OKC how it’s going there as she loves to hit them about once a week. She collects 50’s clothing jewelry, and hats. I don’t think any of my kids go (I suspect because I had to shop at them when they were kids), or are even interested in any kind of vintage beyond cars or motorcycles.


  9. I know how you feel-wonderful Saturday excursions to the countryside shops in Md./Va. and DC-When my Grand parents were still alive we would spend the night-my grandmother would go with us(she inspired-instilled the fervor) Hours looking/finding/learning! You have your fantastic collection to remind you!


  10. Interesting that this should come up in my FB feed today. I’ve been struggling to sell vintage clothing lately both locally and online, so haven’t even had the spending money to go hunting the way I used to. But I had a little “extra” money this weekend so took my daughter and her friend to the antique mall, something she and I have enjoyed doing together since she was small enough to ride in a stroller as I shopped! This is the place I found my first Shaheen sarong dress, a 1940s Salvador Dali silk tie, a silver and gold metallic 1950s swimsuit….1920s beaded dresses, etc. Yesterday, and the last few times I’ve gone, there were easily 10 empty booths and as you mentioned, lots of “modern” decor done in a vintage style. Nearly NO vintage clothing or accessories. There was another antique mall just a couple miles away that has closed down, had to have been there decades. It’s depressing and sad to see the antique places and dealers vanish.


  11. Marie

    Say it ain’t so Lizzie! You and Brooke and I had some great times at Metrolina and always found treasures.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This post hit really close to home. In Portland there is the Antique Expo that had been going on for decades. And originally held four times a year. Then it within the last ten went to three times a year (spring, summer and fall). And over the years the shows kept getting smaller, going from four buildings, and outside during the summer show, to three to two. And then only a portion of the second building was full. And the spring one was just held this weekend and my dad visited and gave me a full report that it was the smallest he has ever experienced.

    The antique/vintage market is an interesting one. On one level you have a the population who is fed up with the Ikea/Wal-Mart/etc. way of living and becomes inspired to go to these sorts of shows and shops. But then you have a group who the Ikea, etc. way is the only way, they don’t know any better, so they continue to support that way of shopping. I thought that with the economy the way it was antique/vintage/re-sale/thrift would have more support. And some days I see it and other days I don’t.


    • Ruth

      I think Janey is right, some places can support the thrift/antique market in a store and some can’t anymore. Where we lived before had a nice Goodwill, a thrift store, and a little antique mall that served four or five largish cities. I think perhaps it depends on the mean age of the population who does the shopping, too. More of the middle age and older (40 +) generation and they go shopping in those places, Under 30 hipsterish types and it’s Ikea or Pottery Barn or something. I’m not knocking Ikea, they have some handy furniture, but the rest of it is cheap crap for the most part, designed to wear out within a few months. i would rather have something vintage that will last the rest of my life!


  13. Pingback: A Good Shopping Day | The Vintage Traveler

  14. My 22 year old son has certainly been surrounded by antiques and vintage all his life, but he does not care to own old things unless they are family things. He too wants new/modern furnishings. Hates kitsch.
    My question though: where did all the stuff go that used to be bought/sold at these large markets and shops? I don’t think it’s been thrown out. I think it’s packed away awaiting a resurgence of interest. It’s got to be somewhere.
    As for my friend I mentioned who has a shop, she is talking ever more about starting a website and selling online. I’m not sure that’s the answer either. I sell online but only sell if I keep my prices very competitive. I had to keep dropping the price recently on a pair of vintage Stuart Nye sterling dogwood clip-ons (you folks in NC would know about Nye jewelry). Eventually I cut the price 20%, offered free shipping and got the sale. Good thing I don’t make a living off my selling.
    But then I see ads online for HUGELY inflated prices for stuff my friend sells. 50s cocktail sets for $500 that she could only sell for about $55 at best. Seems like a few tres chic dealers clean up and everyone else struggles. Maybe they sell heavily abroad!?


    • Ruth

      Very true, Japan is big on vintage right now. Sorry to keep butting in here, Lizzie! This is a subject I have been reading about a lot lately–not just on your blog, it’s led me to many other blogs and this seems to be a big thing right now. Japan, and some of the European countries are very, very into vintage. Fifties stuff, denim in any way shop and form. They have a lot of the older stuff already so they are more interested in our “antique” stuff.


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