There is something so captivating to me about a vintage store. Perhaps it’s the smell of musty items, all packed into a small space, inviting me on a treasure hunt through decades of delicious history. Or maybe it’s the sight of so many items from my youth, the intricate textures of retro fabrics and furniture that has witnessed dozens of martini parties and late nights (and probably has hundreds of stories to tell).
On a road trip to Los Angeles last summer, my family and I spent a considerable amount of time perusing mid-century gems and hipster furniture in and around the Los Angeles area. We chronicled our adventures here.
Along the way, we learned a number of things about vintage stores and vintage shopping.
First, when seeking out the best vintage stores in any city, it is important to know the difference between a vintage consignment store and a thrift shop. Generally speaking, a vintage shop focuses on curated, old, unique, and rare items with higher price points, while thrift shops offer a broader variety of new and old items. Vintage shops are generaly small and independently owned, while many thrift shops are owned by charities such as the Salvation Army and other groups (which usually means that proceeds go back to the local community).
We also learned a number of important tidbits about where to go vintage-shopping in Los Angeles. Here are three of our top picks.
4th Street Retro Row, Long Beach
Affectionately called “Retro Row,” 4th Street, in Long Beach, California, is about a 45-minute drive from Los Angeles and offers an eclectic mix of more than 40 independent merchants featuring vintage and contemporary clothing, furniture, accessories, art, antiques, and collectibles. If you only have time for one store on 4th Street, visit InRetroSpect for incredible vintage finds including 1960s suitcases, mid-century modern furniture and retro 1970s owl jewelry. (I am a HUGE fan of vintage owl jewelry.)
Una Mae’s, Los Angeles
On my next trip to Los Angeles, I plan to check out Una Mae’s, in the Los Feliz neighborhood. Recommended by Los Angeles Tourism, this small boutique is the second store for owners Karen Prendergast and Nancy Becker; the predecessor and flagship store, which has the same name, is in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. I can’t wait to dig into this wellspring of vintage men’s and women’s clothing and jewelry. Una Mae’s also has new clothing and apothecary items that seem perfect for gifting.
Viewfinder Tip: Not all jewelry offered in vintage stores is vintage. Always ask shop owners about the history of a piece before purchasing.
Lemon Frog Shop, Los Angeles
Whether it’s the fun name, 1960s hippie vibe, or the extensive selection of brighly colored floppy hats and shoes, rustic jewelry, and slouchy handbags, Lemon Frog Shop is another place I will be checking out on my next power vintage shopping trip to Los Angeles. Located in Echo Park, Lemon Frog Shop offers a motherlode of one-of-a-kind clothing and accessories from the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s in every price range.
I look forward to stumbling upon more great L.A. vintage gems over the years. For me, the best part about shopping a vintage store is that no matter how many times you visit, there will always be a new treasure to discover.
Which decade makes you swoon when shopping vintage and why?