Simply step into Merchant Square, “The Greatest Vintage Shopping Experience in Arizona,” and be whisked away to a simpler time—a time before high-tech gadgets and faux wood.
Among classic antiques and mid-century furniture, there are aisles of cherished memories, nostalgic collectibles and vintage treasures, as well as repurposed furniture. Repurposing is the practice of taking something that has served its purpose and, instead of discarding it, giving the item a new use.
Repurposing is an art. It takes creativity and foresight—and maybe a little paint.
An old door, faded with time and worn from use, can be saved and repurposed into a coffee table. Worn, chipped windows can be transformed into picture frames, for enjoying all-new vistas.
Merchant Square itself was repurposed 13 years ago. The building at 1509 North Arizona Avenue in Chandler, was once a Payless Cashways. Mike Moore, a descendant of Benjamin Franklin Johnson (the pioneer who brought citrus trees to the valley) and some partners, purchased the building in August 2001, intending to lease it for an indoor skate park. After 9-11, as the economy plunged into recession, Mike found himself with a hefty mortgage and no tenant to occupy the building. Necessity is the mother of invention—and of repurposing, it seems.
Mike put his creativity and intuition to work and opened Merchant Square with 58,000 square feet of antiques and vintage items from 200+ merchants. Thirteen years later, Merchant Square continues to be the destination for antiques, nostalgia and all things retro.
Now, Mike is doing it again. Last year, he purchased some items from Arizona’s first Safeway grocery store and has integrated them into an in-store restaurant. The American Way Market Café hosts a full bakery and complete breakfast and lunch menu and sells local produce, meats and dairy products.
A 7-Up sign on the wall was repurposed over 50 years ago for the original American Way Market at 10th Street and Pierce. Now it has been re-repurposed for its new home.
Also featured is a 1949 Coke sign from an Idaho soda shop, handmade brick walls from an egg hatchery in Tempe and a 1950’s soda chest from Salt Lake City. The booths are from a ‘50’s country dance hall in Buckeye, counters from a church in England.
The 60-year-old dining chairs are from a schoolhouse in California, barn doors from reclaimed scaffolding and windows salvaged from a 1950’s home in Phoenix. Hundred-year-old Pacific Northwest wood covers the walls.
Mike even dug up an old friend, Jeff Flemming, to run the place.
Diners can now enjoy vintage soda, fresh baked bread and meats cooked in a smoker from the original Bill Johnson’s Big Apple, all while watching reruns of Andy Griffith on a 1951 Motorola black and white television.
For more about Merchant Square, www.merchantsquareantiques.com.