It’s official: When it comes to Modern design, Palm Springs is one of The Most Stylish Cities in America.
That’s according to Wayfair.com, the nation’s largest online-only retailer for home decor and furnishings. Based on their per capita statistics for Modern-style furnishings sales, Palm Springs easily beat out every other stylish U.S. city - including Beverly Hills and Miami.
Palm Springs (or “Mod Mecca” as Architectural Digest dubbed it) is home to the world’s largest collection of intact Midcentury Modernist architecture. The city remains at the forefront of Modern’s newfound worldwide renaissance, exponentially cultivated during eleven days of Mod-madness each February known as Palm Springs Modernism Week. The largest event of its kind on Earth, the architectural celebration happens concurrently with the Modernism Show & Sale (for decor and furnishings) and the Palm Springs Fine Art Fair (for post-war and modern art).
But where can you get your hands on a piece of the action during the rest of the year? In Mod Mecca, pretty much everywhere. Palm Springs overflows with one-of-a-kind boutiques brimming with hard-to-find vintage Midcentury Modern decor and updated 21st Century Modern reinterpretations. Brand-new stores and short-term pop-up shops continually reshape Palm Springs’ ever-evolving retail scene.
To help navigate your mod-shopping safari, our five-part blog series will introduce you to different Palm Springs’ shopping areas, each with quirks and class all their own: Uptown Design District, Downtown, Sunny Dunes Vintage Row, The Curve District, and The Backstreet Arts District.
Sunny Dunes Vintage Row:
You know a neighborhood is up-and-coming when it doesn’t even have an agreed-upon name yet.
Some antique businesses there call it the “Sunny Dunes Antique District.” But Google Maps christens it the “Sunny Dunes Collectible District” as well as the “Sunny Dunes Antique and Collectible District.” Others refer to the area as “Antique Row.”
Palm Springs Life magazine instead recently dubbed it the “Sunny Dunes Vintage District,” and declared, “We may just be looking at the Williamsburg, Brooklyn of Palm Springs.”
“Shops at Sunny Dunes West” was the branding chosen by the district's 20-plus business owners (and a few residents) last January - a moniker for business association purposes, at least. Which is still slightly confusing as a West Sunny Dunes Road exists ten minute’s drive away.
So we’ll just simply call the under-the-radar pocket of primo Palm Springs shopping, Sunny Dunes Vintage Row.
About a dozen or so quirky and unassuming shops clustered around East Sunny Dunes Road and Industrial Place inhabit an unpretentious and easy-to-miss commercial area just south of Downtown. This small shopping enclave (bordered by South Palm Canyon to the west and South Calle Palo Fierro to the east) straddles the border of the Warm Sands “gayborhood” and the historic Tahquitz River Estates.
Many Palm Springs locals remain oblivious to the treasure trove of mind-boggling yet affordable array of antique, vintage, second-hand, and artisan items awaiting shoppers willing to unearth them. This commercial zone has long been known for its car repair shops and its building supply store established in 1926, making it the city’s longest-running business. (Still others may be more familiar with the district’s girlie strip lounge or gay men’s leather bar.)
And therein lies the attraction of Sunny Dunes Vintage Row: Where the Uptown Design District dazzles visitors with its sleek sophisticated boutiques, Sunny Dunes is the overlooked stepsister whose unassuming appearance belies incredible discoveries within.
You’ll find plenty of Midcentury Modern decor and objets d’art in both shopping districts, but Sunny Dunes is more down-home affordable and doesn’t take itself as seriously. It’s the kind of place you’ll want to leisurely while away an afternoon sorting through funky retro memorabilia and antiques and furnishings from all eras.
The smiling and capable resident store owners who populate Sunny Dunes Vintage Row man (and woman) the registers themselves, thank you very much. With shop names like I Remember This (548 Industrial Place) and The POP Shop (551 Industrial Place), each establishment overflows with individual personality. Nearly all of the stores of Sunny Dunes Vintage Row are proudly gay-owned, ensuring a Palm Springs-level of style and creative sensibility!
The hardworking district stays open seven days a week for most of the year (during the hot months of June, July, and August, a few shops do close Monday-Tuesday). The bulk of Sunny Dunes vintage businesses don’t even bother with web sites, adding to the shopper’s sense of discovery. With their one-of-a-kind inventories constantly in flux, each repeat visit becomes its own unique retail adventure. And bargaining here is generally welcomed!
As Michael McGarry, owner of AAA Palm Stars (401 E. Sunny Dunes Road) succinctly put it: “I have everything from Tang Dynasty to Lucille Ball.”
Although Rocky’s Pawn Shop and Little Shop of Treasures (see below) have operated in the area since 1994 and 2000 respectively, Sunny Dunes Vintage Row only really took off in the last couple of years, welcoming a slew of brand new shops that seem to have magically appeared overnight.
Even long-established antique stores are relocating to Sunny Dunes: The Pink Canary, a Downtown Palm Springs fixture for years, is currently in the process of moving their inventory from their old home on the corner of Tahquitz Canyon Way and Indian Canyon Drive to join the other vendors at the new Antique Galleries of Palm Springs.
“The Sunny Dunes antique district has become the antique hotspot for the entire Coachella Valley” says Mike Rivkin, co-founder of Antique Galleries of Palm Springs. “We’re tickled to be here.”
Sunny Dunes Vintage Row’s sudden burst of growth is in part due to the City of Palm Springs launching the Economic Development Focus Incentive Areas program in 2013 (and renewing it in early 2015). East Sunny Dunes was selected for inclusion in the overall $1.3 million of no-strings grants to new businesses for interior renovations and facade improvements of long-vacant storefronts. If the business happens to fail for any reason, entrepreneurs do not have to pay the city back.
Sunny Dunes Vintage Row is home to the 1957 office complex of mid-century Modern architect Howard Lapham, who designed Palm Springs’ fabled mid-century nightclub Chi-Chi, as well as the masterpiece homes of Thunderbird Heights (where President Obama is rumored to be retiring).
The Lapham building was in disrepair, but it’s luckily been revived by two seasoned real estate agents, Julio De La Concha and Fernando Ruiz, who opened up their amazing Bazaar Delar (577 East Sunny Dunes) here in 2014. It’s the kind of hidden gem where you can snag original pieces of art for $30, as well as vintage furniture for peanuts.
SUNNY DUNE’S MULTI-DEALER COMPLEXES
Beyond the individual storefronts lining this low-key district, Sunny Dunes Vintage Row harbors three huge co-op style shopping complexes - each with scores of individual vendors selling their own unique wares.
ANTIQUE GALLERIES OF PALM SPRINGS
Opened in January, 2015, this 12,500 square-foot two-story showroom heralded Sunny Dunes Vintage Row’s coming of age. Antique Galleries’ mantra is “paintings and antiques of historic significance with artistic appeal,” and their 18 vendors (some with private showrooms) reflect just that with limited edition prints as well as original works of art. But don’t just come for the art - the galleries sell furnishings and artifacts with Old World-style nautical, military, scientific, and literary themes.
- Open 10AM to 5PM, 7 days a week year-round
505 East Industrial Place
THE LITTLE SHOP OF TREASURES
The first vintage pioneer of Sunny Dunes, The Little Shop of Treasures opened in 2000 in its original location on Industrial Circle (where the bright yellow facade of the shop Warren is now). As a mainstay of the antiques and collectibles district, it’s resided at its current two-block stretch along East Sunny Dunes Road for over 12 years. With three huge rooms housing 10 dealers, The Little Shop of Treasures covers the yesteryear spectrum, from 1800s antiques to mid-century furniture to ‘80s Hollywood memorabilia. Basically, a bric-a-brac bonanza!
- Open 10AM to 5PM, closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays from June through August
616 East Sunny Dunes Road
SUNNY DUNES ANTIQUE MALL
Shoppers can peruse items from 25 dealers and over 100 consignees within a retail labyrinth of “6,000 square-feet of Happiness” at this multiple-gallery space. New and pre-hung wall art, Danish Modern glassware, antique dolls, vintage American costume jewelry, mahogany furniture - it’s all priced to sell! This mall space has remained a Sunny Dunes fixture ever since its debut in 2012. Scotty Smith is a co-owner, who old timers will remember as the maître d’ at Lyons English Grille.
- Open 10AM to 5PM (summer hours 9:30AM to 3PM), 7 days a week year-round
507 East Sunny Dunes Road