As incredible as it sounds, sources estimate that 250,000-plus Americans have a fear of antiques. Even actor Billy Bob Thornton claims to suffer from this bizarre phobia, insisting he’s afraid of all furniture built before 1950. Of course, most San Antonio women don’t have this problem. In fact, many of us love antiques and can think of no better way to spend a Saturday than perusing the aisles of an antique mall in search of timeless treasures. “I’m sure my husband wishes I had that phobia!” chuckles Karen Anderson, a San Antonio-area estate sale expert who also loves to collect antiques for her early 1920s bungalow home. “If I did, I’d spend less time and money at antique malls and estate sales, and we might have more room in our house.” Anderson even belongs to a San Antonio antique club with other women who also have a passion for historic treasures.“When club members are not out shopping for antiques, we’re talking about them,” she says.
“Together we’ve learned so much about antiques. The quality and fine aesthetic appeal of old furniture and other antique pieces appeal to us, as does the story behind each piece. Who owned this? Was it a wedding gift? What house did it come from? Who made this? I love thinking about those things.” If you love antiques, you probably already have your favorite little Alamo City shops where you know you’ll find pieces you like. But with springtime in the air, why not hit the road in search of antiques in other towns? Here is our guide to the best places to hunt for antiques and other collectibles in the Texas Hill Country and beyond.
You don’t have to drive far to find great deals on fine antiques and other treasures — some of the best places are just a short drive up Interstate 10, where you’ll find hundreds of antique shops, antique malls, boutiques, art galleries and other spaces.
Many of the best stores are housed in historic buildings along Boerne’s Hauptstrasse (Main Street). They include the Antique Mall, the Emporium, the Landmark, the Iron Pigtail and many others. From antique crystal to wooden cradles, Fiestaware to first-edition books, vintage cowboy boots to chandeliers, Boerne shops offer merchandise to keep “pickers” interested. My favorite Boerne antique mall find? An antique map of Manhattan that predates the Brooklyn Bridge. Another favorite? A beehive-shaped sugar and creamer set matching one my grandmother had in her Missouri farmhouse.
Keep in mind, though, that Boerne shops are closed on Sundays and Mondays. Best time to shop? Tuesdays and Wednesdays, when the stores aren’t crowded and new antiques may have come in over the weekend.
Gruene Historic District and New Braunfels
Another great-to-seek antiques hub is at the gateway to the Hill Country in the former ghost town of Gruene, a historic district outside New Braunfels on the Guadalupe River, which has become quite a tourist destination over the past 30 years. Since 1986, the Gruene Antique Company has showcased 6,500 square feet of antiques, collectibles, gifts and décor in the impressive 1903 H. D. Gruene mercantile building, where tenant farmers bought their wares and did business on the weekends. Encompassing the large center room of the old building that once held dry goods for sale, the Gruene Antique Company is an antique mall space that’s a popular destination for antique collectors, “pickers” and browsers alike.
Gruene, which also has more than 25 other shops, is just a few miles from downtown New Braunfels. There you’ll find the Downtown Antique Mall, Hausita Antiques, the old-fashioned Henne Hardware store, a French antiques furnishing shop La Belle Vie, and Red Stag with its “rustic-meets-regal” style home décor.
Drive the twisted highway called “The Devil’s Backbone” through the Hill Country, and you’ll find some pretty scenery — and some extraordinary antiques, especially if you travel as far as Wimberley.
Wimberley is the perfect Saturday road trip town, a place where you can stop and enjoy a slice of heaven at the Wimberley Pie Company before checking out all the antique stores, boutiques, fudge shops, candle shops and more in the little limestone downtown buildings along Cypress Creek and the Blanco River.
With bed-and-breakfast inns and great little cafés and bars, you can spend the entire weekend searching for your favorite antique furnishings or home accessories. Check out Graeber Antiques, with its collector-quality European antique furnishings, clocks, glassware, pottery, silver and art. Or shop Star Antiques, a cute and quirky little place filled with one-of-a-kind antique light fixtures and lamps, as well as adornments for your garden and home. Best find in Wimberley? Hand-blown glass pieces and Tiffany-style chandeliers and lamps.
Blanco, Stonewall, Johnson City, Fredericksburg and Comfort
Most Texas womens know Fredericksburg is mecca for antique collectors in the Hill Country, but those in the know never speed past all the small towns on the way there; they know to stop first at the little antique shops in Blanco, Stonewall, Johnson City and all the other rural communities nearby.
Pieces of the Past in Johnson City may look like a quirky little salvage yard from the road, but looks are deceiving, and it’s worth a stop. Pieces of the Past specializes in architectural antiques, salvaged doors, authentic Mexican doors, vintage reclaimed lumber and more for the home and garden. Their hours are funky (only by appointment on most weekdays but open on weekends), but they may have just what you need if you’re renovating a historic home.
Another must-shop Johnson City stop is the Old Lumber Yard, the largest dealer-managed mall in Blanco County. With more than 20 merchants providing a variety of goods, from 18th- and 19th-century antiques, new and trendy clothes, silver jewelry, home décor, collectibles and more, leave yourself plenty of time to navigate this shopping destination.
Be sure to stop in Blanco, which serves as home to 20-plus antique and collectible shops, and take a break at the Real Ale Brewery, a microbrewery with tours and tastings. (The tasting room is open on Fridays from 2 to 5 p.m. with tours starting at 3 and 4 p.m.)
Fredericksburg is home to more than antiques — its Main Street is lined with shops of every style, shape and size. If unusual antiques, oddities, architectural elements, handmade textiles, art pieces and unique home accessories are what you’re looking for, this is the town for you.
One of the most special shops sits on Lincoln Street, just a few blocks from Main Street: Carol Hick Bolton Antiques has 14,000 square feet of magnificent antiques sourced from Europe and beyond. One-of-a-kind beds, French cabinets and curiosities, oversized farm tables, fabulous upholstery, romantic bed linens, industrial objects, illuminations and even taxidermy pieces fill the space. It is not like any other antique shop in Fredericksburg — or anywhere.
Another fun stop is Larry Jackson Antiques & Estate Services art gallery and antique store featuring fine art and consignment pieces along with an impressive array of one-of-a-kind antiques. For a more traditional antique mall, visit the Red Baron Antique Mall.
For a special experience (with new home furnishings and antiques, too) visit Vaudeville, which calls its merchandise “collections.” I once saw a giraffe skull on display here. This store is less an antique store than a home design showroom with attractive accessories and furnishings. Best of all, there is a lovely French bistro downstairs, along with retail displays featuring culinary arts accoutrements. There’s also an adjacent fine dining restaurant.
Map out your next antique road trip
Spring is a great time to drive through the Hill Country in search of bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush and … antiques. So forget old furniture phobias. The only fear a San Antonio woman should have of antiques is that she’ll buy too many on her next antique-hunting Hill Country road trip.