My Best Frugal Junk Shop Find. Ever.

by heather

For those of you frugalists out there who are avid junk shop and flea market affecianados, I have a love story for you.

It’s the love story of my most magnificent junk shop find. Ever.

And yes, I have amazing pictures. But don’t cheat and scroll down to see them. Not yet.

The Scene

Monroe, Louisiana. Antique Alley, to be exact.

Antique Alley is a junk shopper’s paradise. It’s in the old cotton district of West Monroe. And, it’s full of both junky and high class antique shops. It’s me and my dad’s favorite place to go when I come home. We’ll buy a cold Coke to combat the blistering heat and set off, in search of treasures that have been forgotten by the rest of the world.

The Time

cottonportIt was June of last year. And, it was HOT. The kind of hot where you’re not really sure if you’re outside or just trapped in someone’s oven and hallucinating.

We’d ducked into the Cotton Port Antique Mall. I was taking my time picking over colorful Pyrex dishes from the ’50s. My dad was buried in the record stacks at the back of the store.

I wandered over to a booth that had this magnificent old dresser. And, curious like a cat, I began opening the drawers to see what was inside.

And then, I found her.

You know when you see something so beautiful and so mysterious that it feels like for a moment, you’ve fallen into a state of grace? That kind of mystery just takes your breath away.

That’s what happened when I found Gracie. It was like seeing someone that you’ve known and loved always, but you just didn’t know it.

Readers, meet Gracie.


The Mystery Begins…

I named her Gracie the instant I saw her. She was in this old, rat chewed Art Deco matting. She was mixed in with photos of squawling babies and old men, photos of distant cities and snow flecked fields.

I couldn’t leave her there. Not for $5. I was lucky enough to find a really cool Art Deco frame at the same junk shop for $2.50, so into the frame she went. She also went through airport security the next week, across the country, and back home to Michigan. She then took up permanent residence on my living room cabinet.

My husband loved her as much as I did. And for the rest of the summer and into the winter she sat there, gently watching our comings and goings.

One day, I decided to take her back out of the frame to look at her picture more closely. I was dying to know who she was, and I’d already made up several stories about what kind of life she must have led back in the ’20s.

With the utmost care I slowly pulled her out of her matting to take a look. And then, I became the luckiest girl ever.

Two more photographs fell out. They’d been tucked behind the first one, and no one had even known they were there.



Can I adequately describe how I felt when these treasures fell out?

I doubt it. But I’m sure I now know what the divers who saw the sunken ruins of Titanic for the first time or the explorer who first uncovered King Tut’s tomb felt like.

It felt like I’d uncovered something amazing and precious, and I was the first person ever to see it.

The Mystery Girl…

I don’t know what it is about Gracie that just sets my imagination on fire. It’s sad and wonderful that this woman, who had a life and loves and fears and joys, ended up in a junk shop in Monroe, Louisiana.

Who was she? What were her dreams? What did she love? What made her laugh? How did her pictures come to the Cotton Port Antique Mall?

These are questions I’ll probably never have the answer to. But, a small part of me is ok with that.

I know this post isn’t strictly about saving money, and it has nothing to do with being eco friendly. But I was dusting off Gracie’s picture today and just felt the urge to share her with all of you.

Last Word…

I know there is probably a one in one billion chance of this happening, but if any of you recognize this woman, I would be grateful to the end my days if you’d contact me. I’d love to solve this mystery!

Also, what’s your best junk shop find? What treasures have you uncovered that literally made you gasp with delight?

I would lovelovelove to hear your own treasure stories!

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My Best Frugal Junk Shop Find. Ever.
July 6, 2009 at 6:02 am


Ken July 1, 2009 at 7:50 am

What an awesome find! With the coming of eBay and Craigslist (both of which I love) the brick and mortar junk shops and antique stores are disappearing. Which is sad because it is infinitely more satisfying to be able to touch things and examine them. I doubt that Gracie would have made it onto an electronic store. This makes her more special. I like that you and your husband have given her new life with a new story.

heather July 1, 2009 at 11:16 am


I know. Junk shopping is such a unique experience. And wading through eBay listings is absolutely not the same.

But even down South the junk shop experience is changing.

I went home last month, and my dad and I went out junk shopping. We went to this little hole in the wall place in Middle Of Nowhere, Louisiana. It was dusty and filled to the brim with a hodge podge of old junk.

And the owner? The owner was a tried and true old Southerner, with a grizzled face, scuffed boots, and dirty overalls.

He was wearing a Bluetooth, and TEXTING ON HIS BLACKBERRY.

I kid you not. I almost fell over.

dawn July 2, 2009 at 9:26 am

I often come upon old photos like the one you described, and it makes me sad to think that these people once lived, loved, laughed and cried…and somehow, their photos, which should have been treasured inheritances for their children or grandchildren, somehow ended up in a junk shop.

What happened?

Jenny July 20, 2010 at 1:01 am

I used to work at a photo shop that specialized in digital restoration and often people would drop off their photos and then never come and get them. Officially we were supposed to shred them after a long period of time and often I did just that. It was sad to watch them disappear and I always thought we should just mail back the originals or something versus shred them. However, there was every so often a photo I just couldn’t destroy. I have a photo of a WW2 soldier in uniform, a little girls birthday party, a young man in Vietnam and a photo a lot like your Gracie. They just wouldn’t let themselves be thrown away and I wish I knew who they were : )

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