The only thing that tops the thrill of discovering that perfect piece of vintage clothing or antique furniture is the satisfaction that you get from knowing that you scored an amazing deal. This is what was running through my mind while driving to the East side to get to the Olde Shadeland Antique Mall: the excitement of a treasure hunt, and the anticipation of what little gems I might find. Although it’s located along a string of shops on North Shadeland Avenue known locally as “Antique Alley,” Olde Shadeland Antique Mall is set apart as the oldest and largest antiques center in Indianapolis, with more that ninety-nine vendors and dealers and an enormous selection of items. And what has been responsible for that success all these years? A very interesting and cool guy who has a lot of passion for his business: the owner Jim.
I locked eyes with Jim as soon as I walked in the door. A sweet older gentlemen with a cigar behind his ear, he made me feel instantly welcome as he gave me a tour of a darling little nine-seat café at the front of the store. Regaling me with stories about his love of cigars and his passion for the food he serves his guests, I was instantly charmed by his friendliness and dedication to making people feel at ease.
After my interview with Jim, though, I got a chance to shop!
I was blown away by the number of unique, beautiful pieces at very good prices. And not just your grandma’s trinkets, either. I browsed through everything from Mid-century furniture to vinyl records, beautiful glass pieces, artwork, clothing, and dolls. Everywhere I looked, there were cool vintage pieces and antique items, many with a distinctly modern feel.
Every inch of that place is covered with individual booths, each with its own unique aesthetic vibe that ranged from pretty to pretty rad. While many of the vendors seemed to organize their wares by a common look or feel, others were specific in thematic content or time period. One had a collection of historic African American artifacts, posters,and literature. Another booth was this very extensive collection of military memorabilia with everything from antique communication devices to old officers’ uniforms. You could probably reenact a famous battle just with all the cool stuff they have!
In the center of the store was an entire section dedicated to furnishing your “Man Cave” with the essentials—you know like vintage neon Budweiser signs and life-sized cutouts of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. And then there were the cigars. Jim happens to be an expert on cigars, and his area had a large and extensive collection of some of the finest available in the city. He was extremely knowledgeable, and dazzled me with stories about some of the rare and exotic blends that he sells.
After shopping for hours, I suddenly had a new-found appreciation for Jim’s little café. I had worked up quite the appetite and was ready to sit down and try his famous Indy Works hot dog, guaranteed, Jim said, to rank among the top five best hot dogs of my life. A jumbo beef frank with what Jim said was “just enough pork” for flavor, it comes slathered with a special sweet chili sauce and a dill pickle spear. I’ll be honest, I was shocked by the combination at first, but I quickly became a convert. If Jim’s Indy Works dog is wrong, then I don’t wanna be right. No sir! This is the best hot dog I have ever tasted. Washed down with some Sprecher’s Root Beer, the Works is #1 on my list, for sure. In addition to the hot dogs, Jim also sells a custom bratwurst and two kinds of chicken salad, all at vintage prices. It was such an enjoyable and cost-effective meal, I’ll definitely be back soon to give those items a try!
So, when you’re on the hunt for some special treasure, X marks the spot at 3444 Shadeland Avenue on the East side.