Sanford, NC: A Diamond in the Rough

(image via Crystal Zembal)

(image via Crystal Zembal)

Over the holiday shut-down (yes, my company shuts down over the holidays and yes, it is okay if you are jealous), I found myself going stir crazy. Unlike most of my co-workers I stayed close to home and eventually grew bored, which for someone that hasn’t been bored in probably 10 years, it was pretty amazing. When I get bored I want to explore. I found myself searching the world wide web for “amazing antique shops in NC” and I stumbled upon the Sanford Antique Mall. Being the city mouse that I am, didn’t realize that Sanford, North Carolina is within 60 miles of Raleigh’s city limits. Day trip!

Unless you are from around here, something that you might not understand is how interesting it is to travel outside Raleigh’s city limits. Sometimes I forget that I live in the South because Raleigh is filled with what we refer to as transplants, or people from anywhere but here. In fact, in a crowd of 100 people I would probably encounter 5 people that are actually “from” here. However, when I get outside Raleigh’s city limits, I remember where I am. Accents get a little thicker, the people get a little warmer, and things get a little more country, and no I’m not referring to the land! I knew I was in for a treat.

1. Sanford Antique Mall

My first stop was Sanford’s famous Antique Mall. Guilty as charged, I love antiques! I love the idea of finding hidden treasures and the history behind something that is older than I am. So, when I walked in I was greeted the only way I would expect to be greeted in Sanford, with delight and warmth. The antique store appeared at first glance to be small. I looked around at a couple of the booths, finding lots of delightful things: old toys, jewelry, records, small furniture items, vintage clutches, etc. At one booth I found the above pictured red and white apron. I collect aprons that are red and white, so it was perfect for my collection.

Then, I saw the stairs.

The stairs that led to what seemed like miles and miles of delightful goodies. Take what I saw on the lower level and multiply it by awesome. Upstairs I found two pairs of vintage gloves (picture above) and had to restrain myself from many others. I also came across a fantastic assortment of vintage furniture pieces. You like Eames? You’ll fit in just fine here. I spent about an hour and a half at the Sanford Antique Mall and will be back.

2. Kathy’s Java Express

After my antiquing excursions I was feeling quite parched so I decided to pop in next door to Kathy’s Java Express, which I had actually read rave reviews about online. I ordered a Caramel Apple Cider Mocha. There were so many interesting flavors of coffee and tea to choose from that I had to let at least 5 people ahead of me. When I return in the future I will probably pop in here first before walking through the Antique mall. Yum.

(image via Crystal Zembal)

(image via Crystal Zembal)

3. Books at a Steal

After the Antique Mall on South Moore street I got back into my car to make my way back to the “big city” and as I was driving down Steele street I noticed some more cute downtown shops. I also noticed this book store, but didn’t really think twice about it. The Books at a Steal was quite a delight indeed! When I walked in a volunteer explained to me that this bookstore was a non-profit that takes book donations and sells them for an “affordable price” (cheap) and uses the funds to support literacy projects in Lee County. Y’all know how I get about charity.

Not only was I impressed with the charity alone, but the selection was phenomenal. I picked up 14 books for $28! Did I feel bad? Heck no, it was a “Steal” – ha. I believe pricing was roughly $1.50 for paperbacks and $2.50 for hardcovers. One book that I’m particularly pumped about reading is Diana: Her True Story (to feed my Royal family obsession). As they were ringing up my 14 books, I asked the lady about their charity. I was particularly interested in donating. I have so many books at home that I would love to bring into the store, to give back. She said they do not give money, but all donations are tax deductible. She also said that Monday’s are the day to donate. If you want to donate on another day feel free to contact them to schedule a time to bring in your used books.

4. Shops of Steele Street

My last stop was at the Shops of Steele Street which is next door to the Books at a Steal. This cute little gift shop wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, cute bags, North Carolina anything (cups, flags, apparel, etc.), soaps, and toys. However, I will say that the two folks running the show (man and wife?) were beyond sweet. I picked up some mulling spices as I had been itching for apple cider all winter, and they told me all about the mulling spices. Different ways of using it, how good it was, where they buy it from, how it is all organic, etc. They referred to me as “dear” and wished me a “Happy New Year” about 12 times, I may even have gotten a “bless your heart” out of the whole ordeal. Jokes aside, this is what Southern Hospitality is about and for a city mouse like me, it’s what put my experience to Sanford over the edge.


8 thoughts on “Sanford, NC: A Diamond in the Rough

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