Old Strathcona Antique Mall is the merchant of memories

OSAM's two floors of merchandise from over 125 vendors.
OSAM’s two floors of merchandise from over 125 vendors. Photo: Crystal Lee

Edmonton has many options when it comes to shopping. After all, we still lay claim to the largest mall in North America, and the city is peppered with others throughout its neighbourhoods.

What doesn’t always come to mind is the Old Strathcona Antique Mall (OSAM), a great alternative when seeking something unique or to take a trip down memory lane.

Situated a few blocks off of Whyte at 78 Avenue and Gateway Boulevard, OSAM is a treasure trove for collectors, decorators and those attempting to live a greener lifestyle.

Meeting with promotions manager Ryan Thorson, he was excited to talk about everything the mall has to offer. OSAM, owned by mother-daughter pair Betty Reitan and Bobbi Weibel since January 2009, is part of a broader antique community in the city, but they are also proud to have the largest antique mall in Western Canada. Over two floors, 27,000 square feet of space is filled by wares from over 125 vendors (apply for a space here). Antiques (collectible objects from an earlier period) and primitives (also known as early American country furniture) can be found on the main floor. The second level houses furniture and toys more retro (items or designs of a more recent past) in nature. With so many products in stock, there is likely something there for anyone who walks through the doors. 

This is especially the case when considering the recent hit the economy has taken. While many visitors come in to reminisce as they peruse the stalls, a number of shoppers are looking to save money or aiming to leave a more sustainable footprint by reusing or repurposing items from the past. Some seek out vintage or retro pieces because that is what suits their style. Others want quality at often lower prices than can be found with new products at a big box store.

One of the rows of vinyl on the second floor.
One of the rows of vinyl on the second floor. Photo: Crystal Lee

Trends are cyclical and Ryan tells me that it is no different when it comes to antiques and collectibles. They have noticed that fine china is popular again, becoming highly sought after by millennials. Industrial design is taking off in décor and home furnishings, along with the shabby chic look. Vinyl albums are going through a huge resurgence, too. A sizable portion of the top floor is devoted to the vinyl format, with approximately 25,000 records available. They are all carefully cleaned and labeled as mint, near mint, excellent or very good, and usually priced at $10 or less. Collectors of figurines (i.e. Humels, Doulton), may also find some bargains, as the popularity of those items currently seem to be in a downturn.

Whatever one hopes to find, there probably is a vendor selling it. But, the mall does not keep a running inventory of the stock. In fact, there is so much turnover that staff say it is difficult to know exactly what is sitting on the shelves. Often, they are not aware of an item until it makes its way to the till and out the door. It keeps things interesting for everyone and it makes the job seem like a scavenger hunt. Yet, that will not stop the staff from trying to help. They make it their mission to provide the best customer service possible, which means they will do what they can to point shoppers in the right direction.

OSAM has even branched out to include an online store on their website. The items sold through their web store come from their vendors and the products tend to have a wider appeal. They also have to be easy to pull from the shelves, so they can be shipped to the buyer without delay.

Overall, the services of OSAM are growing. The mall hosts an annual Pop Culture Show & Sale, multiple parking lot sales throughout the summer, jewelry shows and the Kids Christmas Shoppe (taking place this weekend, Nov. 28 to 29, 2015), amongst many more. OSAM has even branched outside of Edmonton with the Grande Prairie Antique & Collectible Show. After a successful first run this past October, the plan, going forward, is to organize this event twice a year.

Still, OSAM is very much locally oriented. As a business, it assists with the Edmonton community wherever it can. In the past, it has supported the Edmonton Humane Society, Santas Anonymous and a variety of other local charities. Regularly, OSAM also partners with the Neighbour Centre (a respite for the homeless, located found further down Gateway Boulevard) and the Grandmothers of Alberta for a New Generation (GANG) for many of its events and promotions.

That sense of community is paramount to the business. Over the years, OSAM has learned that it is considered an as-important part of the community as the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market. It is a family-oriented venue, a tourist destination and a meeting place. Customers love to bring out-of-town guests and friends for an afternoon to catch up, with laughter and ice cream (at the in-house café), making a full day of their time at the mall.

Wandering the aisles, you realize that the mall does not simply sell “things.” Rather, the Old Strathcona Antique Mall stirs personal memories while playing a part in creating new ones.