We were meandering through an antiques store when my 12-year-old daughter stopped dead in her tracks. "What's that?" she asked, mystified. Being (ahem) of a certain age, I instantly recognized the ancient restraining device. "That," I said, "is a girdle. It's what we wore to look shapely before the invention of crunches."
Metro Phoenix may seem an unlikely spot for antiquing, but three major neighborhoods offer plenty of options. Like us, you'll probably find more collectibles and great junk than real antiques (anything that's 100 years old or more), but the hunt is the fun - especially if you bring along a cohort, take time for a meal or a drink, and make an afternoon of it.
Scottsdale's Main Street may be known as an arts district, but between the galleries, look for dealers carrying some of the best antiques in town.
On a recent visit, my daughter and I walked east down Main Street, starting at J.H. Armer Interior Design & Antiques (closed Sat-Sun; 6926 Main St.; 480/947-2407). The store features 18th- and 19th-century European furnishings. We also found an ornately carved Chinese altar, and a bit of bathroom humor: 19th-century commodes.
Down the street, Richard II Antiques (closed Sun; 7004 Main; 480/990-2320) peddles estate jewelry, china, and silver. I was intrigued by an antique French vinaigrette, a decorative silver vessel historically filled with vinegar and held to one's nose when passing, say, an area where chamber pots were emptied.
Bates Collection (by appointment through Oct, then open Mon-Sat; 7034 Main; 480/970-3025) sells furniture, architectural pieces, mirrors, and religious statues from Mexico and South America, such as an early-19th-century statue of San Ysidro. Among the antiques and reproductions at Christopher Galleries (closed Sun; 7056 Main; 480/941-5501), we found a 19th-century Turkish fabric trunk and 1920s Egyptian revival armchairs.
After pausing for spicy Thai food at Malee's On Main ($; 7131 Main; 480/947-6042), a longtime arts-district favorite, we drove the short distance to a strip mall, where two vast shops yielded a bonanza of collectibles. Antique Trove (2020 N. Scottsdale Rd.; 480/947-6074) has 138 dealers' wares displayed in a 25,000-square-foot space. My daughter was smitten by a 1950s dinette set, while I pored over the cases stuffed with vintage Navajo jewelry and Arizona artist Ted De Grazia's kitschy barware from the 1960s to 1980s. Next door, Antique Centre (2012 N. Scottsdale Rd.; 480/675-9500) has a similar setup, with more than 100 dealers spread out in a former bowling alley. The coconut bikini top and colorful Fiesta dinnerware were my daughter's choices. I gazed at the Civil War relics.