How escape rooms taught me to be a better bargain-hunter.
Who doesn’t love to shop? I know I certainly do. It’s my therapy. If I’m having a down day, a little window shopping or actual shopping always lifts my spirits.
Now I have a job that fits my interests perfectly. I get to act as a buyer for our new escape games at Red Lantern Escape Rooms in Brea. We’re opening two new rooms and need antiques that may have been found in the attic of a 1940’s home in the deep South. I love looking for unusual items and get a thrill when I come across a “find” that will be perfect for our rooms.
I made myself a list of all the thrift stores in central and north Orange County (my favorites at the end of this post) and I think I have frequented most of them by now. Their inventory changes all of the time so repeat visits are necessary. I have learned that you need to purchase the item when you see it. If you think you can come back and get it, or even if you think you’ll just browse through the store and pick it up on the way out, it may already be gone. I was eyeing a Tibetan-style statue like something right out of an Indiana Jones movie, but decided to look around a little longer. When I came back a lady was walking out with it in her hands. Though one time it did pay off to wait. I found an old candelabra, but it was a little pricey. I came back the next day to check out the inventory. The candelabra was in a different spot and now one of the large, decorative colored stones was missing. I pointed this out to the clerk and she reduced the price by two thirds. The missing stone makes the antique even better for our new escape room because the setting is all about odd, disused and spooky knickknacks. (Think the collections room from Conjuring/Annabelle).
I often check Craig’s List, mainly for large items such as furniture. I found a floor lamp that fit our décor. It was a bit of a drive from Anaheim to Coto de Caza, but when I got there the lady had the floor lamp, a matching table lamp and two tall urns out in the driveway. I told her that I was only interested in the floor lamp and explained that it was for Red Lantern in Brea. She didn’t know what an escape room was so that gave me the opportunity to tell her all about it. She really liked the idea of her lamp being used in a horror-themed live-action interactive experience and said to just take everything, “no charge”!
There are bookshelves in our new rooms which need to be filled with old books. I have discovered that the Lutheran Thrift Shop sells books at half price on Mondays. Friends of the Library sell books cheaply too. And I have befriended one of the volunteers at our local library and she goes to the backroom to search for worn books that will look great in our escape room “attic”.
Garage sales are hit or miss. You definitely need to arrive early for the best stuff. I‘ve had some luck. I found two chairs for our waiting room for just $5 each. I refinished them and gave them new seats. Now they match the décor perfectly.
Finally, I have been “shopping” in my own home. I saved many things that my mother owned, as well as collectibles from my childhood. So I have been going through the house and surprising myself with just how much I’ve hung on to. I found an old Howdy Doody puppet, a children’s 78 record player, a Stereo Viewer with slides, a wooden solitaire game, and even my dad’s old wooden ice skates from Holland that he tied onto his shoes with rawhide straps. It makes me happy that all of these old keepsakes will be displayed in our room for others to enjoy. They have a purpose now.
So even if you’re just buying for your home instead of an escape room, there are a lot of inexpensive ways to procure antiques and old knickknacks in Orange County. Avoid antique stores in the touristy parts of town. Instead hit real thrift stores that service the community. Browse Craig’s List (and meet interesting people, who always seem to be waiting for you in their bathrobe…), hit garage sales early Saturday mornings, make friends with Friends of the Library, and go through the boxes that have been sitting in your attic for an eternity.
As promised, my favorite Orange County thrift stores:
- Orange Lutheran Thrift Shop, 676 N Tustin St, Orange
- Salvation Army Thrift Store: 180 S Tustin ST, Orange
- Goodwill Store: 1800 N Grand Ave, Santa Ana