Puyallup/Sumner gateway to Puget Sound's thriving antique, vintage community
By Rusty Rae
When Ohioan Ezra Meeker finally landed in Puyallup (Pew-al’-up) in 1882 after a decade of false steps around the region, he found a fertile valley awaiting his skills as a prodigious entrepreneur.
The Oregon Trail pioneer at once became the “Hop King of the World” (at least in his own mind) planting more than 500 acres of the aromatic flower used by brewers of beer and ale.
Though the hops are long gone, as is much of the agricultural texture of the area, today the town of nearly 40,000 retains its small town flavor. According to Third Street Antiques owner Gregg Zehnder, it’s a destination for any and all seeking a full antique or collectible experience.
“While the city has changed in many ways since Meeker was its first mayor, we still own the character of a farming community. Those small town roots and our focus on our history anchor our downtown area and in particular our core antique and vintage shops providing a full and rich collecting experience,” Gregg said.
You need to look no further than Gregg’s shop of 15,000 square feet and 85 vendors to appreciate the variety and flavor of visiting Puyallup.
Celebrating their 20th year in business Gregg says, “Of course we’re like many antique shops. We have some wonderful antiques and collectibles and quite a variety of items. But what sets us apart perhaps, is we want people to have a good time when they visit.”
Third Street Antiques is large enough you might need GPS to keep from getting lost. It’s a true vintage collectors’ paradise where you’ll find items ranging from Victorian to retro, vintage toys, costume and estate jewelry, and collectible cars (see page 19).
If Third Street Antiques is a collectors’ paradise, then Victoria Sells Antiques in the downtown corridor of the antique district might be considered seventh heaven with 10,000 square feet spread over two floors and 100 vendors.
It, too, is large enough to require a compass to keep from getting lost and offers a broad range of antique and collectible items. Owner Sandy Hackbarth is a lifer in the antique and collectible business. She and her husband began collecting cookie jars. One thing led to another and before long their hobby had morphed into a business.
They purchased the current store in 1995 and have been one of the driving forces of the Puyallup Antique District where today there are a cluster of antique and collectible shops. Coming out of the pandemic she said most have survived and many have thrived.
“We were fortunate that with the size of our store and for many others, it was easy for collectors to safely shop. They were able to get out of the house and stay six feet apart while still being able to scratch their collective vintage itches,” she said.
Hackbarth’s Victoria Sells Antiques is a robust shop featuring many antique and collectible items. Some of the items one can admire from afar, or take home to fill a niche, include a nifty collection of antique typewriters from the collection of Greg Estes. If you’re a sports card collector, Hackbarth shop touts a complete collection of cards. In addition, among the 100 vendors you’re likely to find everything you need to complete a particular collection – from Ironstone dishes to a vintage Ford wheel cover to an antique Cherrywood dining room set.
Just up the street from Victoria Sells is Pioneer Antiques and Accrete Lighting. It’s a store offering a complete repair service for antique and collectible lamps and other small appliances as well as a variety of lamps and vintage lampshades.
At Her Shabby Chateau that Shannan Bishoff calls a modern vintage market you’ll find her personal touch all around the shop with a variety of vintage home décor items. Among the home décor items she offers professionally painted furniture – painted by none other than Bishoff.
Bishoff is a life-long refinisher – some call her the queen of refinishing – a skill she developed thanks in part to her parents collection of vintage furniture back home in Maryland.
“We always had a lot of antiques and my mother always wanted a different color or a different tone – so I started doing the refinishing. My dad taught many cool tricks – and I really like the feeling I got from the creative process,” she said.
In addition to the standard home décor items she also sells a variety of house plants rooted in a vintage container. “I grow all the plants myself. When I have a tin container that doesn’t sell, it becomes a planter and they usually sell in a day or two,” she notes.
One of the things Bishoff finds attractive about the Puyallup downtown area is the historical nature of the buildings and the city’s concentration on preserving its historical charm.
“The city has worked hard to keep our historical buildings intact. People like that they’re travelling back in time when they’re shopping. The Victoria Sells building is the old J.C. Penny store and the building my store is in is over 100 year old,” she said.
Bishoff also notes there is something special about the energy in the downtown area. “While the pandemic has been tough on all of us – and we’ve had some shops close -- when one person’s dream comes to a close, it’s not long before another person’s dream comes alive in this downtown area – it’s a part of the Puyallup mystique, I guess,” she said.
While most of the shops in Puyallup and Sumner have battled through the pandemic to stay alive, Debbie Torderson at Kings Row is hanging up her hat after 18 years. In this case the pandemic didn’t create the problem – she’s moving on to another chapter in her life.
The bad news is she’s liquidating all of her wares, but the good news for antique and collectible hunters is she’s liquidating her shop – and all her merchandise is on sale – there’s bargains waiting for all.
If you’re looking for a shop where you can kick back and relax for a few minutes, drop into the Pink Chandelier. Owners Colette Wilson and Renee Quiett are in the process of adding a coffee and snack bar to their establishment which features a range of home décor and gift items.
Just named the best boutique for Pierce County by one local publication, Wilson said,” We always have a handful of vintage and antique items and we’re always looking to add more items to go along with our home décor items.
If you’re looking for something more than snack, Puyallup and Sumner both feature an abundance of eateries offering a range of cuisines, from your basic bar food to more sumptuous meals from around the world.
For a restaurant where you can get a good meal and make a difference in the local community, try Farm 12 a short drive from the downtown district. Located on Van Lierop Farm site, in addition to the restaurant, the farm has been transformed into a social services hub which includes offices, a family counseling and educational center, job training and workforce preparation facility, a culinary training program, and a greenhouse. All profits from the restaurant support programs in the community.
Over in Sumner, Puyallup’s sister city, just five miles away, Pam Johnson of Inta Vintage notes, “People who come to Sumner or Puyallup get the small town treatment. Here in Sumner were located on Main Street – there aren’t many main streets left these days. People are truly miss that small town feel and that’s something they get here.” She said.
Johnson, along with her husband Curt, may espouse the small town ethic but their shop boasts 11,000 square feet of what she notes is upcycled, recycled home décor items along with farmhouse items, rustic chic and industrial collectible items.
While they’ve been open as a brick and mortar shop for nearly four years in Sumner, the Inta Vintage brand is 25 years old and has a long history on the internet.
At The Sparrow and Nest, Dusty McDaniel, one of the vendors and a part-time manager there, described the Sumner shop as an eclectic mix of old and new. “We’ve many great vintage pieces with a blend of primitive work,” she said.
McDaniel’s take on the Sumner experience focuses on community and the ability of the small town to stay open during the pandemic. She notes the smallness actually made it easy for customers to social distance and adds, “People love to come downtown to shop. We cater to regulars – though we love all shoppers. We’ve established a cool rewards program for those regulars that pay a nice dividend.”
McDaniels hits the nail on the head when she says of the Sumner antique area, “Everyone who’s here is happy – it’s just like Disneyland.”
Jeff and Raejean Kreel have a similar take on Sumner. Their Whispering Hills Market, also on Main Street, invites customers with a bevy of midwest history brought to the pacific northwest.
Jeff enjoys the Sumner community because it reminds him of the small town Mayberry where he grew up.
The Kreels specialize in real American furniture, home decor, and gifts.
“The furniture we carry is what you’d want to hand down to your grand daughter..
“It’s solid wood not the fake wood you might find in an Ikea piece or something from China,” he said.
As the motto of the store states, “Bringing joy to your home through furniture, home decor, and gifts.. That’s a promise he and Raejean deliver through careful and detailed review of all goods they bring in.
It’s easy to make a visit to Puyallup and Sumner a weekend event as there are many other activities and attractions to keep one involved.
The area is not only the gateway to great antiquing, but it’s also the gateway to one the great national parks stateside: Mount Rainier National Park. The mountain, at 14,411 feet in elevation, dominates the local scene – and really all of Western Washington. Within its boundaries of nearly 450 square miles are numerous camp sites and during the summer (when the roads are free of snow) you can drive around the mountain in an easy three hours. However, you’ll be wise to plan on an entire day since there is much to see in the circle trip.
If you want to stay closer to the antiquing districts, Puyallup and Sumner offer a number sights prime for the seeing. Of course, in Puyallup, near Third Street Antiques is the Meeker Mansion. The Mansion has been closed during the pandemic but is set to open as the state reopens.
It features much of the history of Puyallup and Meeker. In Sumner, the Ryan House, that began life as a one-room cabin in 1872, now houses Sumner Historical Society. Over the years it’s been added on to and it’s more than a one-room cabin now, housing the Ryan House Museum.
There is also an opportunity to soak up more area in Sumner with a tour of the seven historical buildings. which are celebrating their 100th birthday.
If you plan your trip for the month of September, you’ll be treated to the Washington State Fair (formerly the Puyallup Fair), one of the top 10 fairs in the United States.
Drawing more than a million people during its month-long run, you’ll also be treated to massive traffic jams, too. But it’s all a part or the month of the fair.
The fair features the normal ag events, but also a rodeo and a broad range of top entertainment acts.
It’s back this year after its pandemic hiatus and the featured entertainment is worth the traffic hassle.
Included in this year’s event are The Beach Boys, Carrie Underwood, Macklemore, Ice Cube, Roger Daltry and host of other top notch acts.
Now that the state of Washington is reopening after the pandemic, the fairgrounds also support events on a weekly basis.
These events range from dog shows to collecting and vintage shows and everything in between.
For the hard-core-lifer collector of antiques and vintage items, the Puyallup/Sumner area may only serve as a jumping off point for a trove of shops in the greater Puget Sound area. Tacoma a few miles north has its own district, but two Tacoma area shops outside of the downtown and a short drive from Puyallup are Pacific Run Antique Mall and the South Tacoma Antique Mall. These are both large shops with many vendors offering a broad range of vintage, collectible and antiques.
Further North in the greater Seattle area is Fairlook Antiques in the waterfront district and in Edmonds, 30-minutes north of Fairlook is the Aurora Antique Mall, another large mall store with many vendors. To the East of Seattle is the Snohomish antique area, featuring a bevy of seven stores. Those are stories for another edition of OLD STUFF.
But before considering these other areas, remember
Puyallup and Sumner are the gateway to antiques, collectibles, and vintage items in the Puget Sound area.