Walking down the aisles of Merchant Square, “The Greatest Vintage Shopping Experience in Arizona,” one can’t help but be whisked away by memories of a simpler time—a time before hi tech gadgets and faux wood.
In the midst of classic antiques and mid-century furnishings, there are aisles of cherished memories, nostalgic collectibles and vintage treasures as well as repurposed furniture.
Repurposing is an art. It is taking something that has lived its life and served its original purpose but, instead of discarding it, giving it a new use and purpose using creativity, foresight and maybe a little paint.
As examples, let’s take an old door that was faded with time and worn from use. Instead of throwing away the door, along with its memories, it was repurposed into a coffee table. Worn, chipped windows were turned into picture frames. What once focused on the outside now display even greater memories of children and grandchildren.
Merchant Square itself was repurposed thirteen years ago. The building at 1509 North Arizona Avenue in Chandler was first a Payless Cashways. Mike Moore purchased the building in August 2001 with some partners who had intended to lease the building to an indoor skate park. But, after the events of 9/11, as our economy plunged into recession from fear and uncertainty, Mike found himself with a hefty mortgage though no tenant to occupy the building.
Necessity is the mother of invention and repurposing, as it seems. With some creativity, foresight and a little paint, Mike introduced 58,000 square feet of antiques and vintage items from two hundred plus merchants. It’s been thirteen years and Merchant Square continues to be the destination for antiques, nostalgia, all things retro and vintage treasures.
Now in 2015, Mike is doing it again. Last year he purchased items from the contents of the very first Safeway grocery store in Arizona and he has integrated into an in-store restaurant, The American Way Market also hosts a full bakery and sells local produce, meats and dairy products along with its full breakfast and lunch menu.
On the wall hangs a 7-Up sign that was repurposed over fifty years ago into a sign for the original American Way Market at 10th Street and Pierce. Now that sign has been given a new home, a re-repurpose—and that’s not all. There’s a 1949 Coke sign from a soda shop in Idaho. The handmade bricked walls came from an egg hatchery in Tempe. There’s a 1950s soda chest from a café in Salt Lake City. The booths are out of a 1950s country dance hall in Buckeye and the counters
from a church in England.
Come look out of the windows, salvaged from a 1950s home in Phoenix and see the 100-year-old Pacific Northwest wood covering the wall. There are 60-year-old dining chairs from a schoolhouse in California and barn doors made from reclaimed scaffolding. The smoked meats are cooked in a smoker form the original Bill Johnson’s Big Apple. Mike even found an old friend, Jeff Fleming, to run the new Café.
So come enjoy a vintage bottle of soda and some fresh baked bread while watching reruns of Andy Griffith on our 1951 Motorola black and white television. You’re welcome to sit a spell and think about those earlier times.
Jace Sanders is the Controller for Merchant Square Antique Marketplace in Chandler.