There’s some kind of magic in owning things with a history, a past you know little to nothing about.
Whether you like to research the pieces you find, or prefer a little mystery, it’s undeniable there’s a certain depth and richness to the treasure hunt of thrifting and antiquing. I think secondhand shopping exists in the way the radio and cable television still exist—because there’s just something satisfying, when you’ve been patiently wading through junk TV or meh lyrics or decades-old vegetable choppers with missing blades, about stumbling on just the right thing.
Upon coming to the Upper Peninsula, I wasn’t sure what to expect of the secondhand scene. I traveled from a bigger city in southwest Missouri that had thrift shops and flea markets by the dozen.
So, I didn’t get my hopes up.
I found, though, that Marquette, Negaunee, and Ishpeming are an experience in their own, and, as customary of the fine and friendly locals, people are ready and willing to point me in the right direction.
It’s three stories, offers an eclectic and well-curated inventory, and if you take a shot every time you see a book by Robert Traver, you’ll have alcohol poisoning after a cursory glance around the first floor.
It took me close to three hours to look through every alcove on each level, and I walked out with a hand-carved pineapple cribbage board and a vintage, mustard-yellow Pyrex mixing bowl. Each was priced around five dollars—a steal of a deal. The proprietor was probably my favorite part of the experience, though, and not just because he takes credit cards. He was friendly, quick-witted, and clearly in love with his shop and the town itself, taking a few minutes to brag on how supportive the community is and how hard they work to promote and protect each other.
The shop is a must-visit for anything from mid-century furniture to vintage clothing to quality knives and snowshoes.
Another spot I was told not to miss is the Old Bank Building in Negaunee. This was probably my favorite of the places I browsed through, and though their hours are fairly limited right now due to renovations (Tuesday-Saturday, 11am-4pm), the proprietor, who greeted me with kind eyes and a most welcoming disposition, assured me they’d be expanding the hours again very soon—hopefully within the next month. The shop has big plans; they’re currently absorbing the natural food market down the street, which he thinks will give the place more of a “general store” feel, and in the near future he’ll be opening a coffee bar and deli on the first floor. This shop had the best selection as far as quality and price, in my opinion, and each room held a relatively sparse amount, which is a welcomed contrast to the flea market/antique shop norm.
As far as thrifting goes, I’ve visited the Goodwill in Marquette and the St. Vincent de Paul thrift stores (or St. Vinny’s as the locals call it) in both Marquette and Ishpeming. All have yielded fun mugs, furniture, clothing, and knick-knacks, and are, by and large, very reasonably priced. (Though, both St. Vinny’s and Goodwill err on the side of bulk pricing for clothing, which can feel like luck or extortion depending on the item.) I’m sure there are plenty more secondhand shops I’ve not made it to, but according to a handful of local treasure hunters, these are the go-to spots.
Words and Photos by Brenna Womer