If you want to find well-priced, well-used items in the Falls, you can’t do better than Victoria Ave. Truthfully, you’d be hard pressed to find antiques anywhere but Victoria; it’s pretty much the city’s antiques district—in fact, every place on this list, save for one in Chippewa, is on or near Victoria. Thankfully, the variety and quality is truly top-tier. Niagara Falls has a wonderful history of kitsch, and many of these antique shops leverage that in their style and contents, without overpricing the goods.
Douglas Poole Antiques
Driving southbound into downtown along Victoria, the first antique shop you’ll hit belongs to Douglas Poole. Poole’s place is bigger and fancier than it looks—and more crowded. This isn’t the stuff of pawn shops and second-hand stores; these are genuinely valuable, vintage pieces in excellent condition, in many cases with price tags up to three or four digits. The quality makes this an excellent stopping point for window shoppers and casual browsers, too, who are more interested in looking at neat old stuff instead of throwing down some serious cash.
The best part about Carm’s store is her personality. The worst part: the hours. What are her store’s hours, you ask? That’s an excellent question! The place is barely even on Google Maps. We love Carm, but she lives up to her moniker: she’s a little zany and very creative; she dresses her window displays with beautiful furniture assemblies; she’ll talk your head off if you ask a question; and she runs her store by her own free-spirited rules. Honestly, it’s a refreshing place. Plus, when it comes to her stock, she’s got a keen eye for quality-condition antiques and sets her prices quite fairly. If the door happens to be open when you’re passing by, it’s definitely worth popping in.
Self-described as “Niagara most interesting store,” Old Emporium is a memorial to a bygone Niagara Falls, the kind synonymous with daredevil feats, pop-culture kitsch, Harley Davidsons and shlock tourist attractions. (Okay, maybe it’s not all “bygone” exactly, but there’s less of that stuff in the 21st century.) Today the Old Emporium is basically an overstuffed pawn shop wrapped in an Evel Knievel mural: a little musty, a little dated, but very friendly and with some authentic quirky gems. Pop culture nerds would have a blast sorting through the old toys and frames, but antique hunters might have a harder time sifting through the disorganized piles to find something worthwhile.
Victoria Avenue Exchange
Right next door to Crazy Carm’s is maybe the biggest store on this list in terms of square footage, because it occupies two storefronts on the Victoria strip, both of which are packed deep. The southern building offers collectibles, trinkets, toys and tools, while the northern building houses their furniture. They have a good selection of both, though the condition and prices, on average, are lesser than their neighbours’. That makes it a better bet for bargain hunters hoping to upcycle or refinish usable, affordable items with a flexible cost.
The lone entrant from Chippawa on this list, Michelle’s Antiques, is a worthwhile stop during any visit to this southern riverside community. It’s a surprisingly deep store: tight hallways packed with antiques run down much farther than you’d imagine from its narrow storefront. Prices are reasonable and the items’ condition is generally good, and, according to their website, “The priority direction of our development today is the expansion of the range of products offered”—meaning they focus on bringin in new stock frequently, so you won’t see the same stuff from one month to the next.
R & T Auctions
This hefty corner lot is indeed an auction house, which, during non-pandemic times, hosted a live auction every Thursday evening. (As of mid-2020, they’ve moved their auctions entirely online, which is a mixed bag, because while their website is definitely better than many others on this list, it’s still pretty confusing to navigate.) Regardless of your penchant for gambling, if you’re browsing their store and something catches your eye, they’ll let you buy it on the spot for a mid-range price. Want to risk a better deal? Wait until it goes on auction and try your luck. The women who run the place are incredibly friendly and helpful, and love talking up their admittedly excellent assortment of pristine housewares and furniture. You may walk out of their store realizing you needed a new sofa after all.
The White Whale
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The hippest antique store in Niagara Falls is also the smallest, because the White Whale is distinctly more curated—and less fussy—than the other shops on this list. It doesn’t deal in high-end antiques, nor does its owner cram in every piece of furniture saved from the curb on garbage day. It’s more like a nostalgia shop for millennials: old comics, Super Nintendo games, kitschy signs and retro toys fill this hybrid antique-vintage-collectibles shop. It’s a nice addition to Queen Street, and always worth popping in, even if the selection is minimal.