I step into Emporium 31. Florescent lights light up the interior, a slight smell of old things lingers. Different booths with different themes, most not even having a theme actually. Just a jumbled mess of items waiting to be sifted through. Pieces that the booth owners probably got from actions or estate sells in pallets or collections then setting it up on shelves and bins, waiting for each item to be found by the right person at the right time. Some of the things are vintage and antiques, others are movies from the early 2000s, still, others are toys, clothing, or decor that were once loved but are now out of sight and out of style.
I love going thrifting. When I stroll through a thrift shop, it’s not always aesthetically pleasing, but there is something about it that I want more of. I want to hunt for that item that has been on my list for a while, or maybe stumble across something that I was not expecting. I mainly look for vintage, eclectic items. I know I could just go pick up something similar or a replica of a vintage item at the local Home Goods or Target, but it’s much too satisfying to find the original when you’re hunting through a plethora of things. Finding the item that has already been used and loved at one point in time, and you want to give love back to it. As much as it compliments your story, you are continuing its story.
A lot of the vintage items I find aren’t perfect, but not all things have to be new or perfect to be beautiful. Sometimes things with little scratches, worn spots, or imperfections are the most beautiful because they hold life. They have human stories behind their worn spots and love edges.
I love giving pieces new life, reinventing them to be beautiful within themselves. The other day I was talking through a thrift shop and found a piano — two pianos actually, one black upright piano and one brown spinet. If I had my own space, I would’ve bought one of them then and there. They were both out of tune. The sheet music stand was off of the spinet. They needed to see the light again, given a but of love.
I would’ve loved to know who had these pianos in their houses. What fingers trilled the keys and what songs they played during hot summer days or on Christmas Eve. The wood wasn’t perfect, it has collected a few bruises, but it was once loved. Ending up in a thrift shop might have not been its plan, maybe it thought it would be a family heirloom forever, but this happens to the best of things, sometimes the best of people too.
I wanted to take these pianos home and make them mine, give them a new place where they would’ve been played on the days I find myself longing for a song on the soft keys. Or teach my Love how to play the duet, “Heart and Soul”, with me. But those pianos weren’t meant for me, not right now. Somebody will come along soon and see their bruises, scares, and potential then show them some love. And one day I’ll find the right piano at the right time to do that myself.
I love discovering the stories behind the pieces I thrift. I recently acquired a set of baskets from an auction in Indy that I’m going to resell in a vintage shop I’ve recently started. After picking up the collection and taking it back home for further examination, I found a name printed on a piece of masking tape on the bottom of one of the baskets. Out of curiously and my slight sleuthing tendencies, I Googled the name. What came up was an obituary for a woman who passed away last year that lived in the area where the auction took place. She worked with children who had disabilities. She was an artist who loved pottery and baskets. She was once apart of a band where she played the dulcimer that she built herself. I looked up from my phone and to the baskets that sat on the floor. With a slight chance that they weren’t, I was holding this woman’s baskets. Her collection of beloved things she left behind. One of the baskets even looked handmade, and I wonder if she was the one who made it with her own two hands. Some people might find this odd but I’m enthralled. And I’m determined to continue these piece’s lives and add on to their rich stories.
A lot of people that I’ve sold things to tell me that they already had an attachment to the item they’re buying or they’re excited to use it because of a significant reason. A set of glasses are ones like their grandma used to have. The salt and pepper shakers match a tea set they thrifted last week. A set of bowls to go with a big set of plates of the same design that their mom gave them. The sugar and cream set will be their friend’s birthday present and they know she’ll love it. I love being apart of these stories. I love being apart of the reinvention process, continuing life to vintage pieces that will bring even a little bit of joy to someone’s life. And also being connected to the lives that these objects once belonged to. Objects and things aren’t our saviors or of absolute need, but they collect unique histories. Histories of the humans who once held them cherished them, or loathed them, humans with names and stories of their own. To me, being connected to the stories behind the pieces is more valuable than the piece itself. They are thrifted stories of the heart.
Originally published in my newsletter, Narratives. Sign up for the newsletter, here.