Jeff and I went antiquing in Alton, IL last weekend. Spending hours browsing musty halls of aged linens and rickety furniture isn’t exactly Jeff’s idea of “fun” (or really even his idea of “tolerable”), but he does occasionally indulge me. The Pappy’s that we ate on our way out there probably helped his mood, too.
I’d never been to Alton before, but had heard it was somewhat of a St. Louis-area antiquing mecca. A cute little town nestled on the banks of the Mississippi, Alton seemed like the perfect place to find a few items from my ever-growing mental antiquing checklist.
Like so many other things in St. Louis, though, this too was a disappointment. Though I freely admit to being outside perhaps the most common antique-shopping demographic, I was really – unpleasantly – surprised by the selection available and by the way we were treated in each shop.
In my experience, antique shops tend to fall into one of three categories:
1)the gentrified, lovingly-maintained shop full of mint and/or impeccably-restored items, where prices are either carefully hand-written on tags and string (never tape!) or, worse, “available upon request”.
2)the run-of-the-mill shop, with an ever-changing but always-constant mix of carnival glass fruit bowls, darkened prints of the Blue Boy, splintered “rustic” plant stands and stacks upon stacks of mismatched dinnerware, and tags are scotch-taped on with wild abandon.
3)the glorified flea markets, where you take your chances and dig a bit, and almost always find a 1970’s repro of a 1930’s Coca-Cola sign, a 1980’s Superman thermos sans lid, or a dusty box of great Aunt Mable’s macrame.
The majority of the Alton shops fell into Category 2, though the first place – the one where the shop’s owner scurried to the door when we entered and followed us from room to room as we browsed – fell firmly in Category 1. In another shop, a small group of dealers stood in the corner glaring at us as we walked around, appearing (oddly) increasingly ill-at-ease as they overheard me telling Jeff the style of that end table, the use of that unwieldy iron kitchen tool, and explaining the difference in value between two seemingly-identical plates. Rather than thinking, “Hark! This young twenty-something couple seems to have a moderate degree of interest and knowledge in our wares! How unexpectedly surprising! Surely they will not prove nefarious; we will leave them alone to browse in peace”, the cluster of smug dealers leered from the corner, fairly ready to pounce (or maybe just boot us out the door) at any moment.
Guess none of them are acquainted with the Design*Sponge demographic.
But that was OK, really. Because in the half-dozen shops that we went to, I found a whopping three things worth purchase – a small plate for my hopeful eventual plate wall (inspiration here), a cute little tourist’s-souvenir decorative tile, and a few more bobbins to hold my handspinning. We browsed for 3 hours, and found less than $15 worth of “stuff”. Everything seemed exceedingly picked over – likely by other day-trippers from St. Louis. Certainly not anyone under 50, though, since we were clearly such a suspicious oddity.
Oh, well. I’ll just stick to my favorite haunts in Kirksville and Kansas City from now on 😉