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Our Favorite Places to Thrift, Antique & Treasure Hunt in N.Y.C.

August 29, 2017

We talk a lot about "props" around the office, which is a very loose blanket term for anything we might consider using in a photoshoot. Some of our props, like these porcelain paper plates, are sold in the Food52 Shop, but many of our favorites are treasures amassed over months and years, things that get snatched up when we spot them in a favorite thrift store. 

florida props
Sometimes our Art Director Alexis cheats the system and goes thrifting in Florida. 

So where do we go treasure hunting? Often, it's not in New York City, since, as our Art Director Alexis puts it, "the prices and the demand are high, making for fewer options at a higher price." We even drove up to Brimfield, Massachusetts this year for one of their tri-yearly road shows. But when we need an antique in a pinch (and yes, sometimes we do), here's where we go for prop shopping in New York City:

 

Manhattan

furnish green
Furnish Green is cool, calm, and collected. 

Furnish Green (Flatiron)

Shop the Story

A few flights up in an office building off of Broadway, Furnish Green is a shop I've been going to since it was a fraction of its current sprawl. The owners clean, restore, and photograph each piece, constantly updating their website so it's a great place to online thrift. The store is far more curated than some junkier shops—and yet they keep their prices fair. Numbers are never rounded, so you'll see a lamp for $23 or a desk for $201. 

Go for... furniture and design inspiration.

 

79th Street GreenFlea Market (Upper West Side)

Our Contributors Editor Sarah is a fan of this open-air flea market near her home, which has been around for thirty years. It's "reasonably sized and organized enough to not give you a conniption," she says, "Plus, there's a Shake Shack (and a farmers market!) across the street." Vendors set up in tents, and the proceeds benefit local public schools. 

Go for... tchotchkes or a jar of pickles. 

 

antiques
Any place with a sidewalk sale this excellent (A+ to you, Fleamarket Antiques) is a friend of mine. 

Fleamarket Antiques & Collectibles (Chelsea)

I happened upon this indoor collection of vendors recently when walking on a street near our office. The selection of objects isn't overly curated, meaning it does get junky in places, but I found tons of pretty things—from old mason jars to transferware pieces and decent (if earnest) art—for very low prices. Employees were helpful and fair, but didn't hover: 10/10

Go for... art and tabletop accessories.

 

Housing Works (Gramercy)

With a dozen appealing locations around the city, Housing Works is perhaps NYC's most well-known thrift store, with a mission of "end the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS through relentless advocacy" through various initiatives. You can bid on higher-priced items in their online auctions, which are addictive, and pick up all kinds of kitchenwares for lower than low prices in the store. 

Go for... clothes, pint glasses, and small furnishings like lamps.  

 

Brooklyn 

brooklyn junk
Yes, the store Junk is junky, but digging for the good stuff is half the fun.
 

Brooklyn Junk (Williamsburg)

Housed in the basement of a corner building near McCarren Park, Junk is a Brooklynite's dream: heaps of furniture, records, and accessories make a maze throughout the space, so you have to do a little digging (the enjoyable kind). Most large pieces aren't restored, which means you can get them for a lower price than somewhere fancier—and with a little elbow grease spiff them right up. 

Go for... records and larger unrestored furniture. 

 

Unique (Downtown Brooklyn)

Not for the feeble-hearted, this sprawling thrift store that's part of a nationwide chain has a branch in downtown Brooklyn (not the hipster part). "It's HUGE," says our community manager Madeline Muzzi, and "great for practical home stuff, not just kitschy sweaters." It's inexpensive, and they price art by how big it is, which is funny if nothing else. 

Go for... teapots, shoes.

 

fort greene brooklyn flea
Fresh from brunch, Manhattanites and Brooklynites alike flock to a parking lot in Fort Greene that's taken over by the Brooklyn Flea. 

Brooklyn Flea (Fort Greene)

"If you are short on time and/or patience, the Brooklyn Flea is a great place to shop because the items are already curated by the vendors (meaning less junk to sift through," says Alexis, who frequents this market-style flea before photoshoots. You're definitely going to pay up for what you buy, since this is Hipster Mecca Number One on a Saturday morning in Brooklyn, but you're going to find something you want—no, need!—every time you go. 

Go for... whitewashed furniture and old, blue mason jars.

 

Build it Green (Gowanus)

More of a salvage yard than something the term "thrift store" might imply, BIG is located to the right of the Gowanus canal. They source from demos, so there's a bounty of excavated home goods like sinks, tubs, and appliances—plus porcelain doorknobs, handles, and a whole oft-overlooked kitchen section where treasures can be found.

Go for... old wood planks for floors or shelves, or a funky green sink. 

 

New Jersey

the golden nugget
If you're in the market for a pink casserole dish (or any casserole dish in any color), The Golden Nugget is your place.

The Golden Nugget (Lambertsville)

About an hour's drive from the city limits, The Golden Nugget is located on an otherwise-country road and spills into the parking lots of a few buildings. Being outside of the city, the prices are incredible (chairs for a few bucks, a very good oil painting for $40, old cast iron for as cheap as it comes) but you have to haul it back with you in whatever vehicle you came in. 

Go for... wooden furniture and food photography props.

 

Do you collect old things with as much abandon as we do? How do you find a deal? Let us know in the comments.

Photos by Alexis Anthony, Furnish Green, author, Brooklyn Junk, Brooklyn Flea, and author, respectively. 

This post was originally published in October 2015.

11 Comments

Danny November 25, 2017
I was in Valley Stream Long Island for Thankgiving and I stumbled upon a huge thrift shop that was filled with more than anything I have ever seen. I pulled into 7-11 parking lot and next door is this hidden treasure. The address is 100 Sunrise Highway, Valley Stream, NY
 
Sheri W. September 26, 2017
NY Showplace is a four story vintage and antiques mall full of costume jewelry, fashion, furniture and decorative arts. 40 W 25 St New York
 
BerryBaby August 29, 2017
Found a lid that I needed for a Revereware pot at Goodwill for $2.00, beautiful vases at Value Village for $1.00 each, a vintage tiny Royal typewriter for $10.00 and a real treasure a Wolford hand blown oil lamp for $3.00 that sells for over $70.00! I had one we bought in Carmel back in the '70's so now have a pair. Fun shopping!
 
Michele July 11, 2017
There is a great new store on Long Island not too far from the city. It is called Vintage Salvage & Supply in Lynbrook. The store is mostly open on the weekends and always has new things.
 
Stacey January 26, 2016
FYI Brooklyn Flea takes place in a school yard, not a parking lot and, during the winter, it is located indoors at 241 37th St, Brooklyn. Open every Saturday + Sunday, 10am-6pm.
 
By T. January 26, 2016
I travel for work so if I can I'm always looking in antique/collectible shops , I've picked up amazing buys in remote locations especially in southern small towns
 
chefrockyrd January 26, 2016
Another great place to look is estatesales.net <br />my friends and I have gotten many wonderful deals at their sales. Some upscoming sales even have photos of what will be available, so you can see if its worth it to go. Sign up to get a list of what is for sale in your neighborhood. And no, I do not work for them. <br />Type in the state you are in and the city and get an email. <br />Our best sale so far was at a large home owned by a previous chef to the Queen of England! It was jam packed with terrific items at low prices since he was moving back to Europe from the US.
 
Lauren's P. January 26, 2016
Florida is a treasure trove of vintage!
 
mrslarkin October 21, 2015
If you ever find yourselves in Pound Ridge, NY, a must-see is Antiques & Tools of Business & Kitchen, where 80+ year-old Joan Silbersher sells many beautiful, old, odd, junky, and not so junky, very cool things.
 
Panfusine October 20, 2015
I love rooting around Fish's Eddy in NYC for their collection of cutlery. and surprisingly Nordstrom's (yep, not kidding) clearance rack has disproportionately been a source for odds & ends. like rustic Indian earthen kulhads (tea cups) and enamel tin plates & bowls retailing for about 2 $<br />Other than that my neighborhood spring Yard sale and trips to India (esp the smaller towns off the beaten Path) are goldmines for props.
 
AntoniaJames October 20, 2015
Good bets: Church rummage sales in wealthy neighborhoods (annually), and thrift stores (i) located near expensive assisted living facilities and (ii) run by the Junior League in high income neighborhoods. Also, if you want quality items to use for entertaining (not just as props), get on the private mailing list of the best estate sale professionals in your area. I long ago stopped hunting and gathering "stuff" for my house or for any other purpose, but in the past, these have been the places worth the limited time I have available. ;o)