An insider's guide to Bay City's antique shops

Whether you have a day or a weekend to spend, Bay City is a paradise for treasure hunters on a quest for antique, vintage, and collectible items.

Here's an insider's guide to some of the antique shops that make this area their home.

Bay City Antique Center and the Bay Antique Center

For nearly four decades one local couple has made Downtown Bay City a destination for antique collectors and shoppers.

When Bill and Elaine Fournier opened the Bay City Antiques Center at 1020 N. Water St., they did so out of a need for more space.

“We used to do shows all over the country and buying overseas, so we have a good mix here of things,” says Elaine. “We do a lot of European pottery and vintage clothing."

The Downtown Bay City building gave them ample space and put them a short drive from I-75, making it an easy trip for out-of-town visitors. The building also appealed because of its history. Before housing the antique shop, 1020 N. Water St. was home to Rosenbury’s furniture, and before that the Campbell House Hotel,

“We have 63,000 square feet,” she says, adding, “It’s a whole city block and three floors of antiques.”

In 1989, the Fourniers bought the building next door at 1010 N. Water St. and shared the space with Scott McIntyre, who opened the Bay Antique Center. The Bay Antique Center is home to a few hundred dealers with individual booths. 

“We’re like one huge dealer within the mall,” says Elaine. “We have the same hours, but we have one gigantic, humongous booth.

Trends in collectibles have come and gone over the years, and Elaine says what is old will always be new again.

“The business constantly evolves,” she says. “From Victorian furniture to oak furniture, then to pine furniture, then back to Victorian, then Mid Century Modern; things go out of fashion, then they roll back into fashion.”

The key to the success of their business is selling what they personally like.

“People are drawn to you that like the same kind of things,” Elaine says.

Currently, people are buying primitives such as dough bowls, spinning wheels, bread boards and other items from the 1800s. They also have restoration salvage items and record albums.

 “We learn from the customers that are collectors, and the beauty of this business is that everyone has a different interest. You have to have a big wide spectrum of merchandise to satisfy all the interests.”
Americana Antiques carries antiques, but also vintage and collectible items. (Photo courtesy of Americana Antiques)
Americana Company Antiques

A block away at Americana Company Antiques, 912 N. Water St., Howie Diefenbach is the second of three generations in the business. His family got started with the Fourniers. After a decade of running a booth at Bay Antique Center, and seeing how things worked, he says they found the larger space and started filling it.

“It’s not that we thought we could do it better, just differently,” he says. “We started with one room with a couple of dealers with the intention of growing."

Within a few months they’d filled the third and fourth rooms of the building and had dealers throughout.

At Americana Antiques, people are shopping for many items including toys from their childhood. (Photo courtesy of Americana Antiques)Originally, Diefenbach says he didn’t like the idea of calling it a mall, but with 20 dealers who rent out space, it’s a mall concept. Though it’s similar to other antique malls in many ways, Diefenbach says he wants to keep the focus on vintage and antique.

"Generally, when you focus on antique stuff and vintage stuff it has that purity and a certain expectation when someone comes in the door. They’re going to know that they’ll find something that’s old, and not have to sift through and decide whether it’s contemporary."

Diefenbach explains the difference between antique, vintage, collectible and contemporary.

“Antique is considered 100 years old. Vintage is a relatively newer term. Some people say if it’s 25 to 50 years old it’s vintage, and 50 or older is collectible or antique.”

He says you won’t find anything newer than 25 years old in his store, “which sounds kind of crazy because Beanie Babies are 25 years old. The key to our existence is keeping things older but collectible.

He also tries to give his customers a picture of the past.

“We want to create an atmosphere that is a destination,” he says. “When you walk in our door, we have Yogi and Boo Boo, so people can take a picture with the two, and we have some antique arcade games that the kids can play from 1933. They’re not for sale, but they can see the way things used to be.”

Over the last 30 years Diefenbach says he’s seen a lot of changes in what customers seek.

“Younger people with disposable income – their tastes change. They’re either being left stuff whether because of passing of a relative, and they don’t want it, they don’t need it, so there’s an abundance of dishes, glassware and pottery. What they’re interested in is the things they had when they were children – the 70s, 80s, and 90s toys, the vinyl records. We’ve been able to adapt and kind of flow with the changes and trends.”

Retro Attics Studio & Warehouse

Just outside of downtown is Retro Attics Studio & Warehouse, with locations at
1123 Saginaw St. and 207 Third St. Retro Attics specializes in furniture, home decor, and art, including vintage and industrial goods. They also design vintage-inspired decor.

As a bonus, the store is clearing out old inventory and running a fall sale. Check Facebook for details.
The Finest Antique and Home Decor is closed now as the owners ready for their annual Christmas-themed display. (Photo courtesy of Finest Antiques & Home Decor)
The Finest Antiques & Home Decor

One of Bay City’s newest vintage shops is The Finest Antiques & Home Décor at 2832 Midland Road. Rick Schmidt and his wife, Annette George, opened just over three years ago, but Schmidt has been collecting for over 30 years.

“We’ve got a wide variety of stuff you won’t find anywhere else,” says Schmidt. “You won’t find it at any of the other shops in town or in the state of Michigan."

An avid collector, Schmidt travels throughout the country to find the thousands of unique items that fill his shop.

“What’s hot right now is Pyrex, cast iron, rusty iron, hunting items – vintage wooden bows – old furniture and re-furbished and painted furniture,” says George.

Unlike the downtown shops, The Finest Antiques carries new items, and will paint furniture to fit a particular décor.

“We do some new stuff to make it look old, and actually buy vintage and antiques to go with the new stuff,” she says.

Mid Century Modern is a big seller right now. “We just did a huge estate full of it.”

The store is closed during Octobe so George can re-set everything for a Sat., Nov. 5 Christmas Open House.

“We put on Christmas like no other shop. We do a new and vintage Christmas and I take just about all the other items out of the store,” she says. 

While Christmas is prime shopping season for many items, antiques and collectibles are popular throughout the year. The stores in this area try to give their customers something new in every season to keep them coming bacK.

“You create ways to get people coming back. We feel privileged to be a part of that. You want them to enjoy the time they have in your store, but you want them to keep coming back.”