A cluster of mid-century modern vintage shops

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February 25, 2013
By: Linda Koutsky
Linda Koutsky

They all tell me it was hip well before the Mad Men craze, but it seems to me there’s a lot more mid-century modern coloring our landscape these days. In fact, if you’re near University Avenue and 280, you can’t miss it. At least four stores here cater to retro aficionados. Boomerang-shaped coffee tables, teak side chairs, martini shakers, rhinestone encrusted box purses, colorful juice glasses, gold-rimmed old-fashioned glasses, string art, Lucite lamps, vintage Hawaiian shirts, martini shakers — did I say that already? 

When I asked one store owner why this seemed so popular right now he said this style has reached the 50-year period when something becomes collectible. Another said people collect things they grew up with. Or maybe the tantalizing colors and sleek stylings go well with loft spaces another shopkeeper suggested. Whatever the reason, colorful melamine plastic plates, amoeba-shapes lamps, and yes, I’m going to say it again, martini shakers, are the rage.

Not sure what mid-century modern actually is? American designers in the late 1940s through early 1960s created furniture and housewares that reflected a new, post-war attitude. They broke away from traditions, used new materials, and reinvented everyday products. Their fresh approach to graphics, use of vivid color combinations, and unusual yet refined shapes were considered cutting-edge design. Furniture and products designed by Charles and Ray Eames, Harry Bertoia, Massimo Vignelli, and Eero Saarinen are included in the Museum of Modern Art’s collections, but there’s plenty of non-museum-quality pieces out there for the rest of us too.

Join the whimsy and hunt of collecting Mid-century Modern at one of these stores and visit their online sites for new product listings. But remember — a little bit goes a long way. Or as Mad Men’s Don Draper said: "Nostalgia, it's delicate, but potent."

SUCCOTASH

Celebrating 18 years in business! Everything from barware to clothing to jewelry, to lamps and furniture. (781 Raymond Avenue, St. Paul. Tuesday–Friday, 11 a.m.–6 p.m.; Sat: 11a.m.–5 p.m.; Sun: 11a.m.–4 p.m. facebook.com/succotash69)

MID MOD MEN + FRIENDS

A former occasional store now open on weekends, specializing in furniture (some of it reupholstered in vintage or period-appropriate fabrics) and accessories. (2401 University Avenue West, St. Paul. Saturday–Sunday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. facebook.com/MidModMen)

CLASSIC RETRO AT PETE'S

A jam-packed store of period treasures and mid-century marvels overseen by a knowledgeable collector with more that 12 years in the business. (2145 University Avenue West, St. Paul. Wednesday–Saturday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sunday, noon–4 p.m.)

SPINARIO

Relocated to make room for Dangerous Man Brewing, Spinario shares a building with two other older antique shops and award-winning Cupcake. (3338 University Avenue SE, Minneapolis. Thursday–Sunday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. spinariodesign.com)

LUNCH BREAK: Make time for a homemade sandwich or pie at the original Key’s Café (767 Raymond Avenue) that opened here in 1973. But get there early—they close on 2 on weekends. 

For more diversions, follow the Weekend Tourist on Twitter (@WeekendTourist)