ANTIQUING: Sailing through garages 

Rochester's local picking and antiquing scene

The rainy weather of April and May sends plenty of Rochestarians into their garages, attics, and overflowing closets for a little spring cleaning. That cleaning leads to piles of goodies, tenderly set out on lawns and in public spaces. These items need to find new homes, and if you head to any number of local garage sales, flea markets, and local antique shops, you may be lucky enough to be their new owner.

Better yet, for you shopaholics on a budget, finding that perfect painting for your living room, that next-to-new bike, or that movie you've been searching for forever doesn't have to cost you a fortune. And as it turns out, you can have quite a bit of fun finding it. Here's a look at just a few of the community sales in our area, to keep you busy all summer.

On Sundays throughout the summer (through October 13), the Rochester Public Market (280 N. Union St., transforms from a funky food-market spot to a fantastical super flea market 8 a.m-2 p.m., with everything from Bond movies to Barney stuffed animals, fine china to fuel gauges, fresh petunias to Pac-man memorabilia, and everything in between.

click to enlarge Who doesn't enjoy some good ol' retail therapy? - PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • Who doesn't enjoy some good ol' retail therapy?

The Super Fleas at the Market came into existence about 15 years ago, when flea markets were all the rage. "When the economy started to tank, it became more important to save every dollar," says Joan Hildebrand, marketing communications specialist for the Rochester Public Market. The program has grown considerably since its beginnings, when less than a dozen vendors set up shop under the pavilion. Now, upwards of 150 vendors show up each summer, which means the variety of antiques, collectibles, and other knick-knacks is seemingly endless.

Anyone can sign up to be a vendor, for anywhere from $25-$50 per Sunday (see for an application). The price for vendors ranges depending on whether you sign up for one weekend or more, but there's no charge for eager shoppers to get in.

"We've had vendors bring in everything, including the kitchen sink," Hildebrand says. "It's always a bit of a treasure hunt for our shoppers, but that's what makes it exciting."

Haggling with the different vendors presents another exciting and delicate challenge. Keep in mind when negotiating prices that these vendors are trying to make a profit, and that it's best for everyone to arrive at a fair, reasonable price. Depending on what you're shopping for, many items go for $20 or less (furniture or true antiques, of course, will be a little harder on your wallet, but easier than buying new would be).

click to enlarge The East Avon Flea Market is just one of many area locations where you can bargain hunt this summer. - PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • The East Avon Flea Market is just one of many area locations where you can bargain hunt this summer.

If you're up for a daytrip, the East Avon Flea Market (1520 W. Henrietta Road, has an eclectic mix of new and antique items for sale, as well as food and musical acts. It opens bright and early every Sunday (the event runs 7 a.m.-2 p.m.), so to have the best picks, you'll have to set the alarm fairly early. Across town, the Charlotte Flea Market (4421 Lake Ave., 429-0675) boasts more than 100 vendors every Wednesday starting at 10 a.m. (it's summer — go ahead and play hooky).

If you prefer something a little more intimate, but are still searching for variety, neighborhood associations often organize neighborhood-wide garage sales. Every July, neighbors in the 19th Ward lug whatever things they find undesirable to their front lawns and have at it. It's ideal for shoppers, who can rummage through box after box, yard after yard, looking for that hidden mystery item that strikes their Goldilocks fancy. The 19th Ward Neighborhood Association hasn't set a date for this year's sale. Check for updates.

Some brave souls venture out on their own with individual garage sales. It'd be impossible to list them all, and there are more popping up every day. Aside from the classified ads here in City Newspaper, and are good starting points. Using these tools, you can narrow your search by area, dates, and types of sales customized to your liking.

If the outdoors aren't your thing (or if it's, you know, raining) there are dozens of brick-and-mortar antique shops that sell all the wonderful thing-a-majigs, doo-dads, and whatchamacallits you can imagine (and many you can't). What was once a small co-op has grown and morphed over the past two decades to become the Shops on West Ridge (3200 W. Ridge Road in Greece,, but still has the same eclectic, artisan feel. You can find everything from old-school spinning wheels that could make Rumpelstiltskin jealous to countless leather-bound books (yes, they smell of rich mahogany), to a steer skull straight out of a Western saloon.

For the particularly feisty consumer, auctions are another way to scratch your shopping itch. If you're patient enough, estate sales and auctions often yield some of the most unique finds. Bontrager's Auction Center (8975 Wortendyke Road, Batavia, hosts several weekly auctions through July. On Tuesdays starting at 3 p.m., peruse collectibles, household tools, and lawn and garden items. Wednesdays are consignment nights, so take a look through household items, furniture, and even collectible coins. Once you've spotted your prize, get ready to fight for it. Bidding starts every week at 4 p.m. To find more auctions and estate sales near you, check out You'll have to fight for those priceless antiques and heirlooms against fellow bargain-hunters, and odds are you might end up paying more in the long run — but that's half the fun (if not all of it).

Sure, the buys are more impulsive that way, but it feeds into the whole garage sale "circle of life." "Every year someone will find something in their home and are like, 'Why did I buy this?!" says Public Market's Hildebrand. "But someone else will see the same thing and go, 'This is fabulous!' It feeds into that wonderful never-ending cycle of flea markets and garage sales."

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