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A Stroll Into the Past : Canoga Park is home to an enclave of small shops filled with old 'junk' to jewelry, furniture and collectibles.

June 04, 1993|KATHRYN BAKER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Kathryn Baker is a Sherman Oaks writer

Nothing so gratifies the intrepid browser than to find new, uncharted territory. O, pioneers! O, Canoga Park! Miles from the comforting, familiar hostility of the 405, hidden amid a wilderness of strip malls and tract houses, stands a row of antique and "junk" shops on Sherman Way between Canoga and Owensmouth avenues.

Depending on your age, stamina and enthusiasm, you could spend anywhere from a couple of hours to all day mining this mother lode, but here's the three-hour tour, as experienced on a recent sunny Saturday (most of the shops are open all week) when there were just enough fellow explorers to keep myself and a friend company:

10-10:30 a.m.: Aaardvark's Odd Ark, southeast corner of Sherman Way and Alabama Avenue, has racks of old nothing. It's hipper than a thrift store, but cheap enough to be a bargain. Prices range from the low one figures for shirts to low three figures for old motorcycle jackets. One word--flannel! A respectable muted cotton flannel shirt suitable for the next Nirvana tour, plus a rather tasteful, all-cotton Western shirt with pearlized snaps were picked up for $6.

10:30-11 a.m.: Collector's Eye, across the street, northeast at Sherman Way and Alabama. Great joy! This store is devoted to old costume jewelry. Some of the jewelry is authentically antique, and items are marked with their dates, if known. Styles range from kitschy to elegant. Great displays, with everything sorted by color. White-tagged items are 50% off the price marked, so you can trick yourself into guiltlessness. Most items are quite reasonable, however. Anyway, there's a 90-day layaway, plus a registry, so if you're looking for that perfect brooch. . . . We drag ourselves away and continue west on the north side of street, picking and choosing among the many stores.

11-11:15 a.m.: Zulia's and Magdel's Antiques is a small store with wall-to-wall furniture, plus a back room of unfinished items stacked to the ceiling. Prices aren't cheap. A chair marked Windsor, circa 1780, was $900, a Victorian-era sled was $525. The layaway is liberal--20% down and as much time as you need to pay it off. At this point, we still have the energy to actively want stuff. I'm even mentally computing 20% off the price of an old haberdasher's cabinet.

11:15-11:30 a.m.: Sadie's is a browser's heaven. Furniture, books, toys, dishes, clothing, picture frames, all of varying vintage. Reasonable prices. Our eyes are now glazing over with too-much merchandise syndrome, though a first edition of Benjamin Bradlee's "Conversations With Kennedy" for $7 is briefly tempting.

11:30-11:45 a.m.: Old Friends is the best of the furniture stores. We are perked up by major coveting. The furniture is American and not cheap, but prices seem reasonable, considering the quality of the pieces, not to mention the immaculate restoration. A turn-of-the-century cupboard is $1,495; a mission oak secretary, $895. There is a 90-day layaway.

11:45 a.m.-noon: Ye Old Curiosity Shop, across the street, southwest corner of Remmet Avenue and Sherman Way. Sensory overload is beginning to set in, but this is another browser's paradise, displaying the usual assortment of odd, old stuff. It is the place to go for restored antique telephones, including the kind that hang on the wall.

By this time we are sagging, but we're sufficiently motivated by hunger to bypass the X-rated Pink Pussycat Theatre--there are probably chairs in there! We go back to the car, which is parked on a meter and a couple blocks' drive to:

Noon-1 p.m.: Follow Your Heart, 21825 Sherman Way. The restaurant at the back of this natural foods store will restore your energy and make you feel smug indeed--eating healthfully and getting happily stuffed at the same time. We had one of the best Caesar salads in recent memory--organic lettuce, artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes and garlic bread on the side, well worth $5.95. I was so full, I had to struggle to finish my delicious high-protein shake ($3.25), but it was worth it.

On the way out, we perused the fresh vegetables, frozen and fresh prepared natural food entrees, plus greeting cards and novelty items. I got a shoulder strap for my bottled water, which I had taken to toting with me the last half of our trek.

Before our next visit to this little shopping village--which will be soon--we will have the high-protein shake first.

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