Vintage Collectors Embark on Journey Through New Mexico
Story and photos by Erin Lindsey and Denny Brownell
Erin Lindsey and her husband, Denny Brownell, run the Escape Brooklyn blog.
Trek through the Southwest results in coveted Stetson.
My husband, Denny, and I are avid travelers, vintage collectors and sellers. Living in New York, our collection is very Adirondack-lodge style, though we’re suckers for pretty much anything Americana. Almost every year, we travel to my husband’s native Southwest, making road trips through Arizona, Texas and New Mexico for work, trying to uncover some hidden gems — whether it be in the form of scenery, or vintage goods. Our travels take us through big cities and ghost towns, deserts and mountains, highways and back roads.
Our last Southwest pilgrimage took us through many memorable locations in New Mexico, beginning with a visit to White Sands National Park. At an elevation of more than 4,000 feet, the surreal landscape of white sand dunes are only interrupted by the faraway mountains and framed by the vast, open sky. Visitors can hike, camp and even sled around the park that resembles the face of the moon. Just don’t get lost! (Side note: We didn’t find any vintage here, but we did find a wealth of inspiration!)
The Thrill of the Hunt
The next stop on the antique hunt was the kooky town of Truth or Consequences. Named after a TV show in the 1950s, we were searching specifically for “Truth or Consequences” antiques — a souvenir pennant, pin or T-shirt — anything with a name! But our efforts were in vain. It seems the locals have an upper hand when it comes to Truth or Consequences souvenirs; though they were often on display in the town’s cafes, shops and homes, we didn’t find any for sale. We didn’t leave town disappointed though — aside from its memorable name, Truth or Consequences is known as America’s “most affordable spa town.” The town’s many geothermal springs allow the locals to pump 100-degree water straight out of the ground into a tub or pool, year-round. Nearly every backyard in Truth or Consequences has some kind of tub, including our Airbnb, "The Garden", which had two!
We didn’t find much to add to our collection on the first leg of the trip, but our luck soon changed. A two-hour drive from Truth or Consequences landed us on historic Route 66, which runs right into Albuquerque and hosts some of its best antique shops. Now known as Central Avenue, the rusty neon signs, shops and diners create a sense of nostalgia, the perfect setting for gems like Skip Maisel’s, which boasts the biggest collection of Native American jewelry in the entire Southwest. We stopped into nearly every shop on the strip, picking up odds and ends at each store. It was here that I made my personal favorite purchase of the whole trip: a vintage deadstock Stetson cowboy hat. (For those who are unfamiliar, a “deadstock” item is something that’s been discontinued, but in new condition, usually with original tags.) It fit me like a glove — and once I mustered the courage to wear the thing, it didn’t come off until we returned to New York City.
Our journey continued up the Turquoise Trail, a winding, scenic byway connecting Albuquerque to Santa Fe though old mining towns. They’ve long since been abandoned, making the old deteriorating towns a popular place to film Western movies. We stopped to take photos and shop at each little town on the way, popping into the shops and historic sites. In Madrid, we couldn’t resist the temptation of a green chili burger at the historic Mine Shaft Tavern.
A Treasure Trove at Last
Our final destination was Santa Fe, where we stayed in an appropriately vintage (but much refurbished) Spartan trailer at Suitable Digs, just outside Santa Fe National Forest. It was here, in Santa Fe, that we finally found the vintage mecca that we’d been looking for! As a fashion designer, I’d heard about Scott Corey’s collection at Santa Fe Vintage Outpost for years. His highly curated selection of vintage clothing, collectibles and accessories is legendary, attracting big-name designers for yearly visits looking for inspiration. The other highlight in town is just around the corner at Shiprock Santa Fe, whose museum-quality collection of historic and contemporary Native American textiles, jewelry, pottery, sculpture and other art is awe-inducing. Though high price tags might be a deterrent for some, the quality of goods is absolutely unmatched, handmade and one of a kind. Simply put, Shiprock, and New Mexico as a whole, is a treasure trove for vintage lovers like us.
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