If you love picking through old junk in search of new treasures, you'll find some of the country's best antique malls and shops within an hour's drive from Philadelphia.
The city's Mid-Century Furniture Warehouse (1701 N. Second St., 267-934-4218, www.midcenturyfurniturewarehouse.com) and seasonal, traveling markets — like the Franklin Flea, Clover Market, and the Philly Flea — are excellent places to score amazing old and repurposed furniture, clothes, housewares, art, tools, collectibles, toys, records, ephemera, and random oddities you never knew you always wanted.
But the prices — especially for the increasingly popular mid-century-modern (MCM) pieces everyone is going gaga for these days — are often significantly friendlier when you hop in the car and escape the city. Plus, road trips are the best.
You can spend days picking dusty gems in nearby places like Adamstown and New Hope (and Lamberville, its New Jersey neighbor across the Delaware River). With so many options, it's hard to know where to start. So here are a few antique malls a short hike outside of Philly that you should check out.
First, a warning: You may want to rent a van because there's nothing more humiliating than lugging that perfect Lane coffee table out to the parking lot and discovering it doesn't fit in your compact car.
About 30 miles past West Philly, you'll hit the Pennsbury-Chadds Ford Antique Mall (640 Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford, 610-388-1620, pcfantiquemall.com), a huge two-floor compound that has been around since 1975 and contains more than 100 vendors. A strong selection of Oriental rugs, vintage signs, MCM furniture, and original art you won't see on anyone else's walls.
The last two times I visited the Quaker Antique Mall (70 Tollgate Rd., Quakertown, 215-538-9445, quakertownantiques.com), there were free cookies and snacks on the counter. More important, there are tons of peculiar toys, fascinating kitchenware, and some reasonably priced furniture hiding out in the huge backroom.
Antiques abound in Lancaster County, and the Cackleberry Farm Antique Mall (3371 Lincoln Highway East, Paradise, 717-442-8805, cackleberryfarmantiquemall.com) is the place to be. With more than 120 dealers (plus a general store and a small dining area), look out for primitives, pottery, signage, trains, strange tools, bizarre art, beautiful small furniture pieces, and a million more mysteries.
With more than 150 vendors, be prepared to spend a couple of hours at the sprawling Weil Antique Center (2200 31st St., Allentown, 610-791-7910, weilantiquecenter.com). There are a ton of clocks and affordable MCM lamps and rare kitchenware. On a recent trip, I bought an $8 brass lamp that only needed some Brasso and a new shade to pop, and an immaculate slab of reclaimed wood for $5 that can be easily flipped into a table.
There are plenty of traditional antique stores in New Hope, and the Creeper Gallery (7 W. Bridge St., New Hope, thecreepergallery.com) is not one of them. If you scare easily, stay far, far away. This small shop specializes in gothic art and haunting antiques — macabre taxidermy, life-size witches, dolls with vampire rabbit heads, and other spooky items you might see on an episode of American Horror Story.
Hop the river from New Hope to Lambertville, and hit the People's Store Antiques Center (28 N. Union St., Lambertville, 609-397-9808, peoplesstore.net). Back in 1838, it was a home-goods store, and for the last 60 years, it has been a shared antiques destination and artist studio space. Four floors are packed with curious finds, including original art and unique primitive, repurposed, and industrial pieces. (Back in Pa., the same folks run the New Hope Antiques Center.)