Memory Lanes Antiques Mall is the biggest antiques store I’ve ever been to. That’s why they call it a “mall” and not merely a “shop” — it is big, stuffed end to end with all kinds of trinkets from full elegant dining table sets to gravy boats, and that makes it amazing. If you’re looking for promotional consumer advice, that’s all you need to know: Memory Lanes Antiques Mall is its own universe, unknowable in size but potentially all-encompassing. What we’re going to do right now, though, is an adventure into the deepest, darkest heart of Antiques; the event horizon of the kitsch black hole.
The Definition of Antique
When you have a store this big, it appears you can’t really be discerning about what’s considered an antique. There’s simply too much space to fill. Memory Lanes, then, becomes a hybrid of a pawn shop, a Goodwill, and a general antiques store. Sure, there are these amazing thousand dollar ornate mirrors and beautiful wardrobes, but there’s also X-Men toys and VCRs. There are porcelain vases with ornate floral patterns, but they’re right next to brown suede jackets with shoulder tassels. That’s okay. That simply means there are more ways to get lost.
Exploring The Wares
Eccentric stores like this will do things to your mind. Logic goes out the window. You’ll start to feel like maybe a 6 foot tall grandfather clock is exactly what you need. Sure, you live in a 200 square foot studio apartment, but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t have a vintage porcelain stove as a nightstand, rigt? Any sense of taste is defeated by your sense of wonder.
I began to think of this when I saw a dragon skull, which came complete with a plaque to let your visitors know this is definitely supposed to be the bones of a mythical creature. It’s easy to see why this item landed at a reseller, but it’s hard to see why anyone would pick it up to go on their coffee table. “Oh this? This is my dragon skull. I just thought it was a good representation of who I am, you know?” This is not a conversation I would expect most people to have with their guests.
In terms of actual antiques, it doesn’t get more antiquated than a mayonnaise churning jar, or a wooden lawn mower, or strange rusty wrenches you’ve never seen before. There’s a lot of stuff here that is doomed to be mounted on the wall of a TGI Friday’s. But these items, while fascinating in their obsolescence, are drowned out by the mountains of kitsch. But kitsch is okay — when faced with a whole wall of it, it starts to take on its own sense of beauty. Aged & broken happy meals are garbage, yes, but when fill a bookshelf with them and they suddenly take on larger meanings of pop culture history and disposable childhoods.
Overthinking It All
There’s also the weird implication of story that comes with every item. Everything here has gone through a journey and, if you’re inclined to daydream, you’ll be curious about what strange journey these once-proud objects took to get here. The first time that wave hit me was when I turned a corner and saw a shelf full of customized Optimus Prime helmets. They were priced at over a hundred dollars, but intricately painted with realistic color schemes and various states of “battle damage.” Plastic toys, yes, but someone had gone to a lot of trouble to make them up — but for what? To end up behind glass at an antiques mall? Did that validate the hours no doubt put into these projects? The store is full of these ideas. There are some things that are so specific in their nature that you wonder how they came to be here.
Roller blades, crystals, renaissance costumes, crestfallen beanie babies, Chairman Mao plates, Maitland-Smith cat sculptures, sterling silver pendants with turquoise stones. Beautiful objects that I have no use for. It’s tempting to simply list all the weird trinkets and doo-dads, but the store is more than its inventory — it’s the experience that the inventory gives you when they are gathered in one singular place. These gigantic grab bags are about the possibility and fun of their exploration, and the made up narratives we can attach to items.
I bought a set of heavy coasters for $2. They were wrapped in a stack, and when I took them out I found that the ones underneath the pristine top one were cracked and permanently stained. Used items are funny like that.
Memory Lanes Antiques Mall – (310) 538 – 4130
20740 Figueroa St.
Carson, CA 90745