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Monday, July 3, 2023

A Girls' Day Out, part one

Visiting the city of Snohomish

Up early. While my daughters packed a picnic lunch for us, I leisurely enjoyed my cup of coffee, made my breakfast, and showered for the day. My legs were aching this morning and I feared our day out would be postponed.  But I pushed forward and pulled myself together. We were about 25 minutes late getting out the door. but we still arrived at our destination in plenty of time to find free and convenient street parking in front of the shops.

The small historic downtown district of Snohomish is just up the hill from the Snohomish River. The original businesses served the agricultural community as well as a logging industry. On the front step of several of the old buildings, the original business names are still there, set in tile at the entry -- Snohomish Drugstore, First Bank, etc.

Today the old buildings house a mix of old and new merchandise in antique shops and mini-malls, and one-of-a-kind clothing and interior decor shops, along with a handful of restaurants and bakeries. The original wood plank flooring inside the buildings remain, creaking with every step and is in no way level. Hallways eclectically zig this way and that, taking you to new discoveries just around the corner.

The antique mini-malls work like this: the owner of the building or large storefront has divided the interior into many cubicles. Each cubicle is rented to a vendor. The vendor stocks and manages their cubicle, coming in once a week for a few hours to restock, tidy shelves, and get payments for merchandise sold. The owner of the building either operates as cashier or hires cashiers that serve all of the vendors from a single desk in the building. Price tags on merchandise are coded with numbers that link the merchandise to the particular vendor, so income can be directed to the vendor whose merchandise was sold.

While there is some overlap in what is sold from one cubicle to another, or one building to another, the individual cubicles are interesting to look through and get a sense of what interests the particular vendors. One cubicle was stocked with good-condition furniture from the 1960s and the 1970s. I recognized the look as one found in many of my friends' homes (as well as my own) growing up. Some vendors specialize in one or two types of items. There's a vendor whose cubicle is filled with nothing but old lunch boxes.  Another vendor sells old tools and once useful farm equipment parts. I saw a few cubicles filled with vintage clothing and accessories. Many vendors sell dishes or vintage cooking equipment. 

Some vendors may be selling off their personal collections, but my guess is some of these vendors scour thrift shops, garage sales, and tag and rummage sales to purchase items to add to their cubicles. As a shopper, that means I need to know prices on items that I'm hoping to find. I know I won't find thrift store prices in Snohomish. But I hope I'll find better prices on previously-owned items than what I might find on sites like Ebay. What I do find is a ton of selection to choose from, selection that would be slim if I were doing the leg-work of thrift store/garage sale hunting myself.

Vendors sometimes put the contents of their entire cubicles on sale. They're like any other business. They need to make sales so they can pay their bills. So when business has been slow, they mark everything down 25% or 30%. I have a couple of different dish collections that our family uses during the year. When I break a piece, I wait for our annual or semi-annual trek to Snohomish to find a replacement. I may check 50 vendors (individual cubicles) to find a replacement dish that I think is a good value. Sometimes, one of my patterns just may not have much availability and all prices on those pieces may be higher than I want to spend. So I'll wait until another visit to look again. Other times, my patterns may be there in abundance. I may see pieces in that same pattern in 15 or 20 cubicles. In those instances, I'm likely to find at least one sale.

Okay, so what did I buy? This past visit, I had some birthday money to spend. One of the items I was looking for was a gravy boat to use with our fall and winter dishes (the time of year we're most likely to serve gravy). I was flexible with the actual pattern. I would consider gravy boats with a similar look to our dish pattern, if the price was right. I did find a gravy boat that I liked, priced at $14. I made note of where I saw it, but decided to look further. One of our last mini-malls was at the far end of the downtown strip. The prices here are often better than in the central buildings. This 5-level mall has space for 200 vendors, and is packed floor to ceiling with items. As I knew what I was looking for, I made a quick pass by every cubicle. On the main floor in a corner, I found a vendor who carried a couple of my patterns and was having a 25% off sale. The regular pricing for pieces was acceptable to me, so the sale price was a bonus. They had a gravy boat in the exact pattern we use for fall and winter, on sale for $9, a price much. much lower than I could find on eBay, Etsy or any other second-hand website.

Some shops carry a mix of new and old merchandise, often repurposing vintage items used in new ways.  I picked up a one-of-a-kind, repurposed-item, artisan gift for a friend in one of those shops. I also bought a new "stars and stripes" dish towel for our family, using the rest of my birthday gift money. 

I kind of had themes or ideas of what I was looking for on this day out. I've been looking for new summer dish towels. I have also been looking for more decor for the 4th of July and other patriotic American holidays. And I was wanting a brown, transferware gravy boat to use in the colder months. If I were to shop in these stores with no idea of what I wanted, I think I would be visually overwhelmed. The amount of merchandise is staggering. I hit the mark on what I had hoped to buy with my gift money, and I found a birthday gift for a friend. The shopping was productive and fun.

More on our girls' day out coming up. In the meantime, have a lovely 4th of July. I'll be back on Wednesday with another post.


  1. I think you described my idea of shopping at the end of your post. Some people like to browse, I don't. I like to shop for something specific and get in and out. Otherwise, it's overwhelming. I know people who have booths in malls like that and they get their merchandise from many different sources. It takes a lot of work to collect it.

    1. Had to laugh when I read your comment, because I was thinking that this type of shopping seemed like endless punishment! But I bet my mom would love it!

    2. Hi Live and Learn,
      For me, it can be fun to browse second hand stores, as I often find items that bring back memories of my childhood. But I also agree that too much merchandise is simply visually overwhelming. It's a good thing you know how to best shop for your own comfort.

  2. That's awesome that you found just what you needed! You must have a lot of patience to look through all those booths!

    1. Hi Cat,
      I think because these items are older there is some nostalgia for me as I check stuff out. But I admit, by the last mall, I made only a cursory glance at the shelves, trying to find specific items. I'm glad too that I not only found what I wanted, but at great prices.

  3. I would have a heyday there just browsing. Probably wouldn't buy a thing unless, like you, it wss on my list of needs. Things like that feel like a stroll down Memory Lane as I am a retiree. But do often, the vintage things have stood the test of time. So glad you had this very enjoyable day.

    1. Hi Linda,
      Thank you.
      Yes, the nostalgia seeing items from my childhood is one of the aspects that I enjoy about going to Snohomish. And I agree about those items standing the test of time.

  4. I'm more of a browser at shopping venues like that. It sounds somewhat similar to what my daughter and I did while on our vacation recently. We had a blast trying on hats from a bygone era, and I enjoyed the nostalgia of looking at items that I remember from my childhood.

    1. Hi Kris,
      What a fun time you and your daughter must have had with the vintage hats! Sounds like a great vacation afternoon.


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