Just to the west of everyone's favorite interchange at 610 and 290, on Hempstead Highway, is an old shopping mall with a huge, irresistible yellow sign that reads "Thompson's Antique Center of Texas--Texas' Largest." Don't resist temptation--you should really go inside.
And, at 108,000 square feet, you'll probably have to go inside more than once to even scratch the surface.
Always Fun, No Matter What
Not only is Thompson's Antique Center the best place to get lost on a miserably rainy day, it's an incredible spot to bring visiting family and friends. Maybe it seems weird, but treasure hunting--especially in a place with so much random Texas and Houston-themed memorabilia--is the perfect thing to do with houseguests. Come summer and sweltering temperatures, and we are talking about the perfect spot to kill a few hours and shop without battling Galleria-size crowds.
Feel free to drive a hard bargain, too. Staffers are always happy to call up a dealer and give them your offer. Don't be too disappointed if they turn you down; most of the folks who have booths at Thompsons seem to know what their wares are worth. Still, it's certainly part of the fun, and you might save a few bucks.
Unique to Ubiquitous
If you need something weird, it's at Thompson's. If you need something totally normal and boring--books, dishes, knick-knacks--it's at Thompson's. A few favorite recent finds include a complete, almost-mint condition set of Pyrex bowls, an old milk glass Sunkist juicer, drugstore samples of some fabulous '80s perfumes, and an old whiskey crate that now functions as a bookshelf/end table. Also, this cat on a rock:
This is the kind of place you go when you need to find something completely ridiculous and amazing to wear to a costume party, but it's also the kind of place you could go and find a truly fabulous, hand-beaded, vintage handbag for thirty bucks. College kids could stock their entire kitchens here on the cheap, while dumb broads like me can pay top dollar for vintage Pyrex because they told their mom to give hers away to someone who likes to cook, back in 1999.
Least Annoying Floor Staff--Ever
You know how when you go to Sephora, and every six feet someone asks you if you need help finding anything? And if you pick up more than one thing, someone is always right there to shove a basket in your hand? Or how, when you go to some department stores, you can't find anyone to help you until you have to hunt someone down in another department and then they roll their eyes and you mentally give them the malocchio? At Thompson no one hovers, but no one hides, either. And they smile at you. And they somehow cover 108,000 square feet pretty effortlessly.
Enjoy the Crazy
This giant collection of everything from junk to precious gems--and probably a priceless antique or two--housed in an old, defunct shopping mall is never the same place twice. If you like it, buy it--next time it could be gone. Thompson's looks and feels like a mall when you pull into the huge, mostly-empty parking lot, but when you walk through the doors you enter a maze of old, used stuff, and the sheer amount of it will immediately overwhelm you. Let it. It never gets old.