Northwest Arkansas’ real hidden treasure

By Wayne Bell
I’m a little obsessive. Okay, well maybe not a little obsessive…actually I’m in need of some assistance. Essentially, when I see something that I really like or want, I don’t sleep until I get it. This is fine with some things, but the real problem comes into play when you’re talking about “sets.”
When I was a kid, I would make my mom drive me to McDonald’s weekly to make sure that I got the complete set of whatever toys they were handing out. As I got older, my tastes matured. Now I make it my mission to have every Robert Altman movie or every Ina “Barefoot Contessa” Garten cookbook. I’m very much into having complete sets. Of course, once I get them, I step back and wonder where I’m going to put all that sh**, er stuff.
Not too long ago, my other half drug me to a wedding shower that was being hosted by his aunt in Rogers. My aversion to traveling to Rogers, especially on the weekends, is huge. Anyway, she lives in some standard housing near a big church.
Essentially, the church has a little community near its fellowship where some of its members live. Each house looks exactly the same from outside, so I assumed that each one would be the same on the inside. I had pictured Jesus fish, Bibles and maybe a Last Supper velvet painting.
I can’t speak about her neighbors’ homes, but the aunt’s home…I can say, I was shocked! It looked like Pottery Barn, Pier 1, Restoration Hardware, Target and Urban Outfitters had had a huge orgy and nine months later, out came her house. The place was absolutely stunning. Not in the way that we often picture Rogers’ homes, but in an upscale bohemian way.
I always go to the farmers market on Saturday and it was the kind of home that I envision many of the people who frequent there would have. These homes would have exposed brick, industrial lighting, old dining wear, new bath fixtures, and trendy draperies—essentially, any young gay man’s dream house.
As I looked around Aunt Mildred’s (we shall call her) house, I began to wonder how she bought all these gems. My partner had once told me that she worked for the church. I was really puzzled about how a church salary could support such a fantastic lifestyle. Being the pillar of class that I am, I simply asked her. She reported to me that every thing in her house came from flea markets, antique stores and garage sales.
Apparently, her Saturdays for close to 30 years have been filled with collecting treasures from these places. And being the obsessive person that I am, I was hooked. I turned to my other half (terror running down his face) and stated my mission: to have a home like Aunt Mildred’s.
The hunt begins
I started on the internet. First off, eBay. It is very true, you can find almost anything for sale on eBay. I have found some really beautiful flea market finds on eBay that just required a quick spray of paint or fixed screw here or there. However, I always prefer to stay local, so I started to Google local flea markets and BAM, I discovered that we have a wealth of hidden treasures in Northwest Arkansas. NWA is a Mecca of fantastic flea markets and antique shops.
There is a difference
Now as much as I like to look at the beautiful finds at French Metro Antiques and French Quarters Antiques, I know that I would never really be able to afford those beautiful looks. However, I can use those stores (and all those fancy catalogs) as inspiration for my goal of thrifty chic. Therefore my partner and I spent the month dividing up Northwest Arkansas and tackling every flea market around. The results of our shopping trips have proved both thrilling and encouraging for any young person who wants a fantastic lifestyle on a tight budget. Please allow me to present my findings with a very public “thank-you” to the fantastic options that we have in the Ozarks.
AREA ONE: Greater Fayetteville
As previously stated, Fayetteville has some great highbrow options like French Metro and French Quarters in downtown. However, Fayetteville also has a small selection of flea markets and antique shops on the south side of town.
My personal favorite is “All My Treasures” on Huntsville Road. It leans toward country or folksy, but you can find nice things to fit most decorating themes. The store has lots of “junktique” type items. On a recent stop, we purchased some nice throw pillows that were very reasonably priced. If you are looking for attractive bargain things, then this is a good place to start.
French Metro on Dickson is a real gem. Their selection of fantastic antiques from France is really astonishing. Unfortunately, so are their prices. But of course, it takes a lot of capital to ship them over. I find great inspiration at French Meto and have also found some nice reasonably priced prints here.
My personal favorite in Fayetteville is right off the square at French Quarters on Block Avenue. This place has a really beautiful selection of antiques, gifts, fabrics and books. It is a wonderful place to browse during the farmers market, but it can be a bit pricey for us mere young ‘uns.
AREA TWO: Prairie Grove
So we packed a nice little lunch and drove to Prairie Grove to visit their flea markets. The most popular seemed to be a place called “Daisies and Olives.” This place is huge and has a nice selection of folksy pieces. They had a lot of tables, chairs and other wood furniture. Some were begging for a quick spray of paint in a modern color. Others were simply lovely as they were. The store also had a nice selection of older toys and games. I know absolutely nothing about antiques. I use my personal “is it pretty, would it work, do I like it” to judge value. They did appear to have a lot of items that are hotly desired online.
There is another fantastic antique shop in Prairie Grove, called Southern Chic Antiques that’s in great old space. The lady who runs it was so sweet and shared her story of moving to Northwest Arkansas and opening her dream antique store in a 6,000 square foot building. She also shared that she and her husband are redoing their house. I say all of this because I want to stress that half the fun of flea marketing is meeting the people who run them. Often times, they are characters within themselves and well worth an afternoon of shopping.
AREA THREE: Branson and Hollister
Okay, I realize that this isn’t technically Northwest Arkansas, but it is the Ozarks dammit. Downtown Branson has been completely reformed in the last few years. Mom and Pop businesses that were on the verge of extinction, away from tourist row, are now thriving thanks to the new Branson Landing shopping area. The landing, which features shops like Bass Pro and Brookstone and two stunning Hilton hotels also features some great dining like Texas Land and Cattle and my favorite Cantina Laredo. A few steps from the landing are the old streets of downtown Branson. These streets are filled with beautiful little flea markets, bakeries and upscale shops. On a recent trip, I found a metal French bistro stool for $15 that goes for around $100 on eBay. With a $2 can of Target paint, I now have a really lovely little magazine table. The best flea market downtown is across from Starbucks. Definitely check it out.
A short trip across Lake Tanneycomo and you come to Hollister. For the longest time, I rolled my eyes at Hollister because my parents always wanted me to go to that damn College of the Ozarks where you work for tuition. Now, of course, I have a great appreciation for that college and if you’re looking for a fantastic restaurant, check out the lodge at the college.
Hollister has a thriving antique and flea market row. Quaint stores and larger markets fill the small town. But, remember, many flea markets and antique shops often have odd hours and sometimes close quite early.
AREA FOUR: The Mecca-Tontitown
Speaking of rolling your eyes. I have always had some sort of preconceived judgment about Tontitown. However, on a recent trip to Siloam Springs, I noticed the four antique/flea markets in Tontitown and made a point to return.
Since then, I have returned, and returned, and returned. I know that for some people, crafts and woodwork are it. Other people really like antique toys, kitchen tools and furniture. My taste draws me to the ‘70s, French and industrial pieces. If you share my likes, then Tontitown is for you.
Country Classic Flea Market offers a wide variety of older toys, glass and even some of those beloved McDonald’s toys, that I collect(ed).
On a recent trip, we found an old school desk (the kind with the attached side table) and restored it with a coat of paint. The whole project cost around $20 and it now serves as a great entry table in my apartment. I use the seat for books and the top for keys and mail. It’s a great repurposed piece that has more character and style than anything I could have dreamed of buying at Pottery Barn.
Oops isn’t really a flea market. It’s a place where stores unload extra merchandise. Their selection of flowers, kitchenware, furniture, art and outdoor stuff is really impressive. It can be really be hit or miss, but I always find something. It is far superior to A to Z in Alma that everyone raves about.
Yesteryears in Tontitown is the largest flea market in the area. With two stories and hundreds of booths, it takes some serious time to make it through the selection. I have found old wooden tennis racquets, rotary phones (working) and framed mirrors all for under $10. I’ve seen everything from fine china to pianos, beautiful linens to ‘80s action figures here. One person’s junk can quickly become a treasure. On a side note, Annie Enzor’s Sidewalk Café that’s inside Yesteryears is really wonderful. It is worth the trip to Tontitown alone. The team there makes the most wonderful lunches, salads and homemade baked goods. It is a real hidden gem that nobody knows about.

My favorite of all the flea markets in the area is probably the simply titled Tontitown Flea Market. This market is smaller than some of the others, but the quality is really exceptional. I first found out about this place by talking to Aunt Mildred, who actually operates a booth there. Her booth is in the back room and features really stunning modern pieces that would rival anything in a magazine at about half the cost you would expect to pay. The other booths offer a wide variety of pieces. It’s the sort of place where you question how much you have in your wallet, because there is so much to choose from. Tontitown’s flea market scene is really something to enjoy.
Okay, so I thought the best way to end this article is to give you some basic pointers on how to repurpose flea market furniture, reuse things you already have or even display some of those toys you’ve collected—if you don’t open a booth yourself.
If you find a great little side table, desk, window or even bookshelf, you don’t have to use it for its original intent. Repurpose. The trendiest magazines all highlight this. Use an old window for a tabletop. Use a bookshelf as a side table for a tight area. Whatever you do, don’t stick to convention. A little paint, some elbow grease, and a few trips to Lowe’s will make a flea market find a much desired piece.
So you have some old wooden tennis racquets lying around? Try hanging them on the wall. These type pieces have a lot of character and don’t belong in the garage hidden from view. What you put on your walls can be a real testament to who you are. I love tennis, so now I try to collect old wooden tennis racquets.
If you like botanicals why not buy some old frames and frame some beautiful botanical stamps or some local art from the farmers market? I am in love with Beth Woessner’s prints that are for sale at the Fayetteville Farmers Market on Saturday mornings, however, I can’t always afford the matted and framed ones. I buy the smaller sizes and frame them with flea market finds. In two words: Get creative.
If you collect something whether it’s McDonald’s or Fenton, display it. I don’t advocate buying some cheesy mirrored curio cabinet, but find a way to let people see what you care about.
I am glad that I can take my obsessive tendencies and actually creatively use them. Whether you have that ailment or not, get out there and enjoy what we have in Northwest Arkansas. We have a really great selection of flea markets and antique shops. We are lucky to have the selection and it’s just another reason why we love Northwest Arkansas…hidden treasures and all

Categories: Features