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Essay: Topanga Vintage Market...Life Was...Is Good
January 10, 2013 - By Marva Semet
PHOTOS BY LORI ROTBLATT
Items of all types are found at the Topanga Vintage Market at the corner of Topanga Canyon Boulevard and Oxnard Street, including these intriguing Disney characters.
On the fourth Sunday of every month since April, in the parking lot at the Westfield Promenade on Topanga Canyon Blvd., magical objects patiently wait to be sold at the Topanga Vintage Market.
For a mere two-dollar admission you enter a world where you shop with your heart from more than 160 vendors old cedar chests, Polaroid cameras, Bing Crosby golf clubs, African drums, green tackle boxes, yellow Tourister luggage, pale floral tablecloths, racks of Lucille Ball dresses, Danish Modern chairs, tables of books, bottles, bowls, tins, jewelry, meat grinders, peppermills, aprons, jeans and baskets, lots and lots of baskets.
Everything is a bargain: battered, beat-up, broken, dirty, distressed, funky, retro, ruined, tattered, torn, used and fun. I can do this!
A friend who confessed to too much shabby chic in her life agreed to become a one-time vendor with me. At first she hesitated not knowing how to go about it but I convinced her it would be a nice way to spend a Sunday.
Just gather all the vintage stuff you don't need. Like those dusty one-eyed teddy bears or that old sign, Is the hokey pokey really what it's all about?
I left my name and phone number on a waiting list as a one-time vendor. Co-founder Lori Rotblatt called to assign me a booth two weeks before the event, which gave me time to dig deep into old boxes and unearth treasured memories: Mom's china, paintings, old mirrors, clocks, fabrics, magazines, silver, and old cameras.
I did keep one soup bowl that once held light fluffy matzo balls floating in mom's mouthwatering chicken soup, and maybe, if the ticking didn't drive me crazy, I could still use dad's old alarm clock. I put back my husbands first Brownie camera, too. I wasn't sure if I should sell that.
The day arrived and at four in the morning I was packed and ready to go. Vendors start setting up early so my friend's loaded truck followed my packed Prius into the dimly lit parking lot that would soon become a bustling Vintage Market.
I quickly unloaded my boxes and folding table and helped my friend who was still recovering from a broken arm. She said she wasn't feeling well and was happy the garbage can was close by in case she got sick.
Vendor Pamela Amrine (aka "The Gypsy Woman") from Ojai, CA, repurposes and upcycles her vintage wares with great artistic flair at the Nov. 25 Vintage Market.
No sooner did we start setting up than other vendors came by to check out our stuff.
How much for this? a man and woman ask holding up the painting of wilted flowers while examining it with a tiny flash light.
Forty, I answered.
Can you do better on the price?
Will you take $35?
Uh...come back later, I'll think about it. I'm still setting up, it's still dark. I don't know, I answered realizing my mistake and remembered my dad reciting, Everything is worth what its purchaser will pay for it.
We unfolded our tables, covered them with painter's drop cloths, set up as creatively as we could in the dark, and sat down on our beach chairs to wait for the sun.
The vendor from across the aisle came over to check out my friends shabby chic collectables. Picking up two short stubby wood pedestals with just the right amount of peeling white paint she asked, How much for these?
Four for both.
My friend pocketed her money and sat back down.
I'm feeling better now, she said.
The sun came up to shine on dishes, clocks, and neatly folded tablecloths next to the vintage Vera dress with bold black and white print. A small worn sepia photo of two cowboys and horses was propped up against mom's Vivitar camera that she bought at Fedco long ago.
It was almost seven when a late vendor arrived.
She shouted across the aisle to greet others with her strong voice that echoed through the market.
I checked my hair and straightened my glasses in the full-length mirror she put out for sale.
My friend already had sold two rolls of picket fencing, dirt included, a broken window frame, a basket of Christmas ornaments, and a needlepoint pillow. And the market hadn't opened yet.
Directly across from us, a hundred long sparkling necklaces hung from white tree branches. Made from old crystals, pearls, glass and silver, they attracted two women into the glowing display, who asked the man sitting there where he got all the necklaces.
My wife is the artist. She made all these. They are beautiful, aren't they?
The wife came back, sat down next her husband who gave her a peck on the cheek. He was proud of her talent.
Does this work? asked a girl holding mom's Vivitar camera in her hands.
I think so.
Can I still get film for it?
I'm not sure, but I think it's possible.
Can you do any better on the price?
I looked around for her parents. I was impressed with her interest but the price on the camera was only three dollars. I figure if she is going to learn how to use it, do the research to get film, she could have it for two. Her smile was worth the discount and now mom's camera has a good home.
If I had a dime for every time that worn sepia photograph was picked up and admired, I would be a wealthy woman.
Where is this photo taken? asked a man in cowboy boots.
Not Sure. Looks like northern California.
Is this a real photograph?
Well, I don't really need another photograph. I've got thousands already. How much?
Can you do any better on the price?
Hey, look! This clock says Buffalo N.Y. I'm from Buffalo.
Five dollars. I said hiking the price one dollar in case he insisted on getting the photo for two.
Another man dressed in black picked up the photograph.
It's three dollars.
Such a deal! I'll take it!
Two women speaking a language I didn't recognize were counting the pieces to mom's china.
Can you do any better on the price? one woman asked in perfect English.
Sure. How 'bout 45?
They helped wrap up the dishes that I imagined being used in their home for family gatherings as mom did.
By two o'clock my friend and I were exhausted. Our tables were almost bare and the shouting lady startled me every time I dozed off in my beach chair.
What time does the market close? asked a well-dressed woman with her young son.
Three, I answered with a yawn.
We didn't know about this. We got out of the movie theater and saw all the tents.
Mom, look! the boy yelled holding up a paper-thin ceramic tea cup and saucer to the sun. An image appeared at the bottom of the cup.
Can I get this for my Japanese teacher? he asked.
How much? the mom asked.
That Vera dress would look stunning on you. I said honestly.
She held it up to herself, and walked over to the shouting lady's mirror. She asked where it was from. I told her she probably wouldn't know the store, Marshal Fields, in Chicago, where my mom shopped.
I knew that store. I'm from Chicago. I'll take the dress.
The sun was low on the horizon. Vendors broke down their tents and tables; the proud husband released the dazzling necklaces from their branches; the shouting lady wrapped up that useful mirror; and we packed up what was left. My Prius was a lot lighter going out than coming in.
I never did sell the painting of wilted flowers. So, if you find the couple who wanted it for 35 dollars, please tell them where to find me.