Small towns in the United States tend to have great vintage goods for reasonable prices. And Missoula, Montana is no exception. A visit to Missoula is not complete until the local antiques stores have been thoroughly perused and the best treasures have been snatched up.
One of the reasons I like to buy antiques is that older things are generally made out of durable materials like wood and metal instead of veneer-covered pressboard like much of today’s furniture is. Plus, vintage stuff looks cool—lived with and worn. And because I’m very neat and tidy, the roughness of used things offsets my orderliness. The previously-used part skeeves some people out, but when you think about it just about everything has been touched by another human in some way, so why not go the distance and own something that has been loved by someone else? I also like knowing I’m not contributing to additional manufacturing waste and greenhouse gases emitted by transporting new products from China, where most of our goods come from.
In downtown Missoula there are three great places to find antiques, all within walking distance of each other. The Montana Antique Mall is by far my favorite. With four floors of vintage treasures sold out of vendor “booths,” there is something for everyone. As I wander the Antique Mall I consider whether some of the vendors rents spaces just so that they may visit their collections, as many items aren’t priced to sell. But there are lots of things that are true bargains, and many vendors’ spaces are themed to their taste. The Antique Mall is a fabulous place to find a funky piece of accent furniture or pick up something to add to a collection—like a glass insulator, for instance, or a rare coin. Or even a retro-hip tee shirt. Some of my favorite finds from the Antique Mall are a yellow formica table, lots of cool mid-century glassware and bright, shiny kitchenware from the ’60s.
Down the road at Fran’s Second Hand you’ll find lots of stuff neatly curated—vintage toys, vinyl albums, glassware and tools, among other things. During my latest visit I noticed a large collection of percolators. Those probably aren’t going anywhere soon.
Sporting their “we buy anything” motto proudly on the front of the building, Circle Square 2nd Hand in downtown Missoula is a cramped shop loaded with, art, tools and jewelry. But the best part of this place is the chairs. Years ago I found a pair of shiny metal chairs with bright red cushions (oh how I love red things!) at Circle Square for $25.
Like the Montana Antique Mall, the Antique Market houses various vendors selling out of booth spaces. The front is filled with dinner sets and breakable items, while the back of the building is home to large furniture, housewares and turn of the century-era trinkets. Of note at the Antique Market is an old double sink that has converted into a bright yellow planter. I think it’s the coolest and would make a great outdoor accent piece.
On North Avenue on the southside you’ll find the Curiosity Shop, a large industrial space packed with furniture, antique toys, bed frames and the like. The owner buys from “pickers” that deliver items to her shop daily. I saw a couple of vintage metal chairs like the one I restored at the Curiosity Shop. If I still lived in Missoula, I would have snapped those puppies up!