February 3, 2013
Springfield, Ore. —
The waiter from Momma’s crosses the street. There are lots of little shops around. Some are in the bottoms of tall buildings but some are small shacks. The road is one-way and traffic piles up at red lights, but the crossroads carry little traffic. It’s noon on a Friday in February.
Inside a vintage store, clerks smile at customers. Most are retired women. The workers talk among themselves about their new window display and who is going to volunteer as manager next. Their front desk is a glass display case peppered with flyers about their business, which runs on donations and profits charities. Red aprons display name-tag buttons.
The shoppers are mostly in their later years, some even sporting rolling luggage for their purchases.
They walk slowly, perusing aisles of trinkets and baubles. This shop smells of leather–old leather. An old woman and an old man sit at the front desk and wave when the bell, attached to the front entrance, rings.
“Anything we can help you find today?” she asks a man who walks in.
She doesn’t have what he’s looking for, but he decides to look around anyway. The shop is much bigger on the inside than the windows suggest. Aisles are organized into cubby areas, splitting off into C-shaped pockets of teapots or dolls or Star Wars paraphernalia.
Most second-hand shops have a Star Wars section.
There is also an unexpected commonality: toilets.
An old man smokes outside the door. Two ladies in pink and one in blue search for treasures in the store. It smells like cigarettes and spicy perfume. A hispanic man shouts from the passenger seat of a car rounding the corner. It’s rude but he’s smiling anyway, oblivious to his sexism.
Most people walk alone or with one friend. Pedestrians and shoppers are few and far between, and they don’t interact. If someone’s talking, it’s a store owner. The quiet is unsettling and doesn’t balance the rush of traffic noises outside. The cold, gray day has no rain or wind.
Some of the shops have enticing window displays someone creative must have made. It’s not helping popularity around the area. It might be the miscellaneous content of the shops that is unattractive to so many shoppers. Some of the items seem to have been in there for years.
But that’s what makes it a discovery — hardly anyone knows what sits hidden among teapots and toilets. Downtown Springfield is an adventure waiting to be uncovered.