In the 21st century, everything has slowly turned to plastic. You don't need your grandfather to tell you that "they just don't make 'em like they used to." There's something about the past the exudes cool. Shoes that Humphrey Bogart would've worn and the smoking case he would've offered Lauren Bacall a cigarette from, decadent furniture from the 1920s and mod furniture from the 60s, movie posters for classics long before they were classics, outfits of American heroes, movie stars and legends; they're all still around. Just visiting a store full of vintage items, and the past they represent, is an experience in itself. Thankfully, the Twin Cities has a love of vintage stores to choose from. Check out any of the following stores are to get a blast from the past, and to bring a little of it home.
The Bearded Mermaid
957 W. 7th St.
St. Paul, MN 55102
www.facebook.comThe Bearded Mermaid is one of the recent additions to the burgeoning shopping district on West 7th. In the shadow of the Schmidt Brewery (soon to be converted into lofts), the store almost feels like an art gallery as much as a vintage shop. Everything from 1920s furniture to 1960s artwork, to 1980s technology can be found here, and much of the fun comes just from perusing the eclectic selection. Also, where many stores are lacking in menswear, the Mermaid has an entire selection of men's coats, hats, shirts, ties and shoes. This store really is a gem.
781 Raymond Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55117
In the newly renamed Raymond Avenue Creative Enterprise Zone lies the kind of vintage store everyone wants in their neighborhood. Incredibly welcoming and friendly, the owner will tell you all bout each piece of vintage clothing, furniture, record or whatever else is in stock. The colorful store is clean and well organized, so you don't have to dig through piles of throwaway stuff to get at that neat-looking picture frame. That doesn't mean there isn't a wide selection to look through, however, and it's easy to waste an hour just going through and learning about each piece of 1950s kitchenware or collection of old soul albums.
Flamingo's Divine Finds
3404 Cedar Ave S.
Minneapolis, MN 55407
www.flamingosdivinefinds.comFor affordable, eclectic vintage furniture and home decor (and so much more), Flamingo's has got it all. Tucked away in south Minneapolis, Flamingo's has a myriad of different items and weekend sales to get them for even cheaper. Beautiful, painted desk? Check. Comfy, worn chair for the living room? Sure. Unpainted nightstand, begging to be personalized? Yeah, that too. And plenty of other items, like old-school candy machines and games, to make the trip even more fun. The selection is enormous (don't miss the stuff in the basement) so don't expect a quick trip. The time spent looking through everything is completely worth it.
2408 Hennepin Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55405
Looking for a purse like Audrey Hepburn carried in "Breakfast at Tiffany's?" And want a necklace, pair of shoes and hat to go along with it? Via's Vintage is the perfect place to go to find elegant clothing and accessories from glamorous days past. For men, find a blazer that Dean Martin might've worn to a ball in Vegas, and shoes to match. And then add a watch for the perfect look. The store's massive expanse is filled with treasures from all eras (even a lingerie section so ladies really can feel as sexy as Audrey Hepburn), and men and women alike are sure to find that classic, cool outfit that you just can't get from modern clothing.
453 7th St. W.
St. Paul, MN 55102
www.sophiejoesemporium.comEntering the sprawling store is like stumbling into your grandmother's attic: around every corner lies a new treasure, a new piece of the past preserved for you to appreciate. The store is broken up into stalls, each filled with a different collection of interesting items. The selection of vintage jewelry is unparalleled, and you could spend hours perusing the racks of clothing alone. There is also a huge selection of books -- comics, fiction, cookbooks and more -- and the toys and knick-knacks harken back to even your great-grandparents' era. Then there is the furniture and beer signs. If you don't have an afternoon to dedicate to all the wonders of Sophie Joe's, you won't get the full experience. But keep coming back; you'll find something new every time.
Adrian Schramm is a resident St. Paul writer with a passion for all things local. Through his work with Saint Paul Almanac and Minneapolis Examiner at Examiner.com, as well as in the kitchens of bars and restaurants around town, he has discovered what truly makes the Twin Cities tick.
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