Lucky for the pickers among us, San Antonio is brimming with antique shops — not to mention flea markets, thrift stores and resale boutiques. While there are also hot spots for antiques along Broadway (between Pershing and Mulberry) and Blanco (between Fulton and Elsmere), if you're looking for antique or vintage furniture or décor, the stretch of Hildebrand between San Pedro and Beacon is a good place to start browsing and bargaining.
"Hildebrand" and "antiques" haven't always gone hand in hand. But in 1991, when the avenue had a much bleaker vibe, Robert Barrett set up shop at 521 W. Hildebrand and later expanded his business by taking over a neighboring building. Both named Antiques on Hildebrand, the sibling shops have subtle differences. While 501 W. Hildebrand is a maze-like mecca stacked with chairs from nearly every imaginable decade, vintage luggage, sofas and chandeliers, 521 is filled (some might say crammed) with all eras of antiques but doubles as Barrett's plaster-casting studio. Trained by artist Harold Kempfer of Harold's Art & Plaster Craft (2743 Roosevelt), Barrett creates classically inspired busts, reliefs and architectural accents whenever "the bug" bites him. But more often than not, he's out shopping for new inventory at yard sales, thrift stores and auctions throughout Texas. Barrett's excursions result in about five truckloads of new merchandise per week. When we asked him to pinpoint his specialty, Barrett didn't bother mincing words: "junk."
Not long after Barrett established Hildebrand as a destination for antiques, Carmen Morin opened a similarly cavernous outfit across the avenue at 600 W. Hildebrand. In addition to Morin's own Lasting Impressions Antiques — which buys, sells and trades an assortment of treasures — the railroad-style shop hosts a handful of other vendors offering everything from vintage cameras to Persian rugs. Here, the multi-vendor setup is reminiscent of an antique mall — with furniture being the obvious common denominator — yet it all flows together in a fairly organic fashion. If the weather's nice, step out back to browse through arrangements of patio furniture, yard art and industrial salvage.
Beyond the big fish on the block, Hildebrand is home to a smattering of small shops such as Casablanca Antiques (518 W. Hildebrand), which specializes in piano restoration but also stocks well-preserved pop collectibles (such as old-school Snoopy and Mickey Mouse telephones). And though it's outside the realm of antiques, family-owned El Fandango Trading (607 W. Hildebrand) makes gifting easy with its smartly priced spread of ceramics, folk art and home décor imported from all corners of Mexico.
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