Treasure trove: Unique and eclectic finds at Vintage on Main in Grass Valley
After Susan Escano’s daughter was born, she decided to quit her job and stay home with the baby. In the rare moments of quiet, she began to paint old furniture and give it new life.
Raised in Grass Valley, her love of vintage items had begun years before when she moved into her first apartment at the age of 18. Her love of collecting vintage and antique items gradually evolved into a hobby, and before long she was selling her new-found treasures on Craigslist and at yard sales.
“I started helping store owners with their inventory and displays,” said Escano. “Then people started telling me I should get my own store.”
Finally, in 2014, she noticed that a small storefront was for rent on Neal Street in downtown Grass Valley. It was just 580 square feet, which seemed “doable,” she thought.
“Vintage on Neal” quickly became a local favorite for treasure hunters and sellers alike, and after two years the shop was bursting at the seams. In 2016, an amazing opportunity arose. Family friends who own Foothill Flowers on West Main Street, offered to open up their spacious second story, which had been sitting empty. The elegant 1855 brick building was a perfect complement to Escano’s eclectic and unique vintage collection.
“It was an incredible opportunity — about 1,600 square feet with a porch,” she said. “But it seemed too big. I wondered how on earth I would fill it.”
‘I NEVER BUY ANYTHING NEW’
That was two years ago, and today every square inch of Vintage on Main is taken up by Escano’s ever-expanding inventory, some of which is on consignment. It has since become a must for vintage and antique treasure hunters near and far.
“I like everything — that’s the problem,” she said, with a laugh. “I want people to know that I never buy anything new — it’s all vintage.”
Other than featuring items that were repurposed or made no later than the 1980s, one would be hard-pressed to pigeonhole Escano’s expansive inventory. The store is broken up into small vignettes or themes. A sampling includes Tiffany lamps, quilts, rocking chairs, mirrors, antlers, paintings, chandeliers, Victorian-era shoes, jewelry, purses, dishes, clothing, sings and Raggedy Ann dolls.
Outside on the deck are some of the larger items, including a large red birdcage, a 1930s rocking horse and a 20-foot long stained glass window transported all the way from a church in Georgia.
“I love the stories behind each thing, and so do my customers,” said Escano. “When I can I try to attach information explaining the history of an item. My customers really like that.”
People often have an emotional response to things they haven’t seen since childhood, she added. One man recently bought a set of 1950s Pyrex cereal bowls because he remembers always eating Cheerios out of “the red one” while at his grandmother’s house as a child.
‘BEST VINTAGE STORE AROUND’
These days, Escano has become so well-known for her collection and expertise that she rarely goes out on the hunt. Instead, people come to her. Some pieces are more unusual than others, she said — like a 1920s monkey cape and a 1940s possum coat.
“The only things I don’t really take are things that have a vibe that isn’t good — like Hitler era paraphernalia,” she said. “But for the most part I’m open to anything as long as it’s vintage.”
Today, having been in her larger location for the past two years, Escano says she gets help with the store’s upkeep from fellow vintage lovers and friends, as well as her husband, Chris. Her daughter, Taylor, is now grown and works as a dispatcher for the Sacramento Police Department.
“This is the best vintage store around,” said Christy Doll of Penn Valley, who scours estate sales and thrift shops in search of treasures, then sells them at Vintage on Main on consignment. “I love the quality and the way things are displayed. I also like Susan’s ethics. She’s fair-minded, good at pricing and honest.”
“I’m so lucky to have lots of longtime regular customers who pop in — they’ve become lovely friends,” said Escano. “This is definitely a labor of love.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.
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