You want stuff? Vegas has stuff. Let me show you where the stuff is
I love stuff. Not the Las Vegas concept of stuff — I don’t have a drawer full of Breitlings or a closet full of Kenneth Coles and Bruno Malles (the only two makers of expensive shoes I could think of). I love stuff. Old, dusty, used stuff. Background: I grew up in Southeast Pennsylvania on Route 222, the famous antiques corridor nestled between Berks and Lancaster counties that attracts weekend migrations of New Yorkers and New Englanders looking for mid-19th century farm crafts and anything Amish. To me, ideal shopping conditions mean flea markets with extra flea and antique malls that smell like my grandmother’s apartment. The air tastes old. That’s my shopping spree.
After moving to Las Vegas in 1998, I assumed that since everything old is blown up on Channel 8 at 3 a.m., there wouldn’t be any cool old stuff. It took me some time to sniff it out, but I found it. And more than a Pop’s Cheesesteak or TastyKakes from Glazier’s, it’s the old stuff that makes me feel like I’m home.
Here is where I found the stuff.
Broadacres Marketplace and Event Center. Located on North Las Vegas Boulevard, this swap meet consists of hundreds of outdoor stalls — half of which sell clothing to a largely Latino clientele — lots of jeans, cowboy boots and hats. Leather belt stands that look like they could account for the extinction of the buffalo. The other half — old crapola layered in dust. Need a remote to a 27-inch Sony Trinitron, circa 1987? They got it. Old Nintendo NES controllers? Check. Used baby gear. Car parts and power tools. The kind of stuff that pawn shops reject. Toys that look like they’re on their fourth or fifth tour of duty. Religious (read: Catholic) iconography. The kind of stuff that makes for great eye candy.
You’ll leave with something. My last outing yielded a lovely silver lazy susan with minimal tarnish. But the real treasure at Broadacres is the food. Fresh coconuts, cold Tecates and a barbecue pit that is second to none make Broadacres an ideal afternoon stop. (2930 N. Las Vegas Blvd., broadacresmec.com)
The Charleston Antique Mall. This place features some of the coolest junkola in Vegas. True collectibles, from early 20th century Americana to postwar kitsch to the toys of your youth. It’s the only place in Las Vegas where you can find a cookie jar from the ’20s sitting on a shelf next to a 20-inch talking Pee-Wee Herman doll. What really makes the Charleston Antique Mall special is the Las Vegasabilia available. Forget chips and matchbooks — this is where you will find those snazzy satin casino jackets that were bequeathed to locals through the ’70s and ’80s. Less gaming and more lifestyle, the Charleston Antiques Mall is the closest thing Las Vegas has to a historical resort museum. While tiki lounges are so pre-recession, this is where you will go to outfit your “Mad Men”-inspired man cave. (560 S. Decatur Blvd., charlestonantiquemall.com)
Toy Shack. You’ve seen the Toy Shack’s owner, Johnny Jimenez, on “Pawn Stars.” His store is a wall-to-wall flashback facilitator. Walls covered floor to ceiling with original blister packs of GI Joes, Jedis, My Little Ponies, Matchbox cars, Transformers, Barbies — everything you ever wanted and never got from Santa (or Hanukkah Harry) is available here. The real challenge is convincing your kids that the Millennium Falcon you just brought home is not for them. (450 Fremont St. #117, lasvegastoyshack.com)
Gameworld. This video game store stands out from a sea of gaming retailers for one simple reason: Their stuff is OLD. Everybody can name-drop an Atari or ColecoVision, but if you’re looking for Scramble for the Vectrex or a working Sega Game Gear — this is where you go. Row after row of dusty game cartridges (what we used before discs) beckon to be jammed into the shiny Ataris, Intellivisions, Odysseys, 3DOs, Dreamcasts and every other console the rich kid down the street had in 1981. Look for the original Pong consoles if you want to revisit the Neanderthal days of video gaming. This is where Mario, Zelda and Pitfall Harry go to retire. (5620 W. Charleston Blvd. #B, 307-1440)
The Fantastik Indoor Swapmeet. You’ve seen it from the street on South Decatur Boulevard, but if you’ve never ventured in, you’ve never seen Vegas. Seriously — if I were a 14-year-old boy, I would move in. Butterfly knives and throwing stars, exotic snakes and lizards, off-duty dancers shopping for cheap stripper clothes — this place has it all. Until a couple years ago, there was a porn stall manned by a prehistoric old codger who would ask you if you want the men or the women on tape as you walked by. Bongs and incense to cover up the smells made by bongs. Rare coins and faux jewelry. Beef jerky. A blowgun with darts — I always wanted one of those. Wigs, artificial plants and all the stuff used to decorate Chinese restaurants. Y’know — stuff. (1717 S. Decatur Blvd., fantasticindoorswapmeet.com)