At Joyride, the store next door to a place called Elsewhere, Robert Houston says he sells "anything a man would have worn, carried on his person or decorated his room with from Victorian times until the 1960s." A stuffed alligator named Ginger oversees collections of hand-carved pipes, Edwardian pocket watches, Kodak Brownie cameras, horn handle razors and Badger shaving brushes — all displayed in nifty glass cases.
Nearby, at Mr. C's Rare Records, the selections of LPs and 45 rpm records from 1946 to 1986 total about 400,000. A mono copy of the Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night" will set you back about $200.
One of the stalls at Antique Station specializes in pristine vintage refrigerators and stoves. At Grand Avenue Antiques, the shop window is devoted to canine collectibles — bookends, figurines, paperweights and tie racks ("good for hanging leashes," owner Diane Zalay says). Down the block, George II specializes in European furnishings from the 1800s.
Block after block, the city of Orange's claim to the title "antique capital of Southern California" is bolstered by about 60 shops selling vintage collectibles in and around downtown, bound by Walnut
PHOTOS: Orange antique shops, a slice of vintage Americana
Avenue to the north, La Veta Avenue to the south, Batavia Avenue to the east and Cambridge Avenue on the east. Thanks to the foresight of town founders Alfred Chapman and Andrew Glassell, two lawyer-landowners who laid out a 1-square-mile town center in the 19th century, visitors today have a pedestrian-friendly business district to explore.
Even the two cater-cornered Starbucks are design sights — one in a 1928 Classical Revival building designed by Morgan, Walls & Clements with a don't-miss coffered ceiling, the other in what had been the 1920s Orange Daily News building. And when you can't look at one more Fiesta bowl or weathered watering can, the town plaza provides a classic fountain, mature trees and benches where you can rest tired feet.
Hungry? Graze on a gourmet waffle sandwich (strange but good) at Bruxie on Glassell Street, or sample a lime phosphate at Watson's Drugs & Soda Fountain, in business since 1899. Most of all on this Fourth of July weekend, you can delight in a town that has managed to keep its vintage Main Street USA ambience intact into the 21st century.
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Country Roads Antiques & Gardens
204 W. Chapman Ave.; (714) 532-3041; http://www.countryroadsantiques.com
Seventy vendors of vintage furnishings fill three buildings, one formerly a soda bottling plant. The eclectic mix includes vintage chandeliers, McCoy pottery and architectural elements such as columns and corbels. Check out the open-air nursery at the back of the store for watering cans, Adirondack chairs and concrete statues, as well as Space 5B up front for industrial steel tables, filing cabinets, stage lights and tractor rotor blades — functional artifacts, ready for your wall.
131 W. Chapman Ave.; (714) 771-2116
The 1923 brick Marx Building has housed a pool hall and a dry cleaners over the years. Today, the boutique Elsewhere carries an upscale collection of fashion that runs from the Victorian era through the 1960s: sweaters, hats, bags, scarves, gloves and loads of costume jewelry. Ogle the sherbet-hued chiffon and lace cocktail dresses from the '30s, '40s and '50s in a display case near the entrance. Also available: handsome vintage luggage.
133 W. Chapman Ave.; (714) 771-2118; http://www.joyridevintage.com
Houston's store for men carries vintage ties, Hawaiian shirts, cowboy boots and pith helmets. Confused about a certain item? Houston will explain what things are as well as why and how you wear them. "We teach a lot of guys how to tie bow ties," he says. "It's nearly a lost art."
The Vault Fine Antiques & Estate Jewelry
75 Plaza Square; (714) 288-1130; http://www.thevaultfineantiques.com
In 2006 former auctioneer Garre Swain and his partner, Gary Nordgren, set up their business in the former 1912 Campbell Opera House building on Plaza Square. Their small, vault-like space showcases fine antiques such as art glass from the Victorian and Art Nouveau eras, as well as early California paintings and estate jewelry, especially Victorian and Art Deco engagement rings. This store is for serious collectors with deep pockets.
114 N. Glassell St.; (714) 744-1870; http://www.georgethesecond.com