Throwback Thursday: Vintage Sale in Austin

Sydney Jones, Staff Writer

As a longstanding Austin tradition, the Citywide Vintage Sale is a vintage shopper’s paradise.

The Citywide Vintage Sale is a community event held in the Palmer Event Center that brings vintage vendors from all over Texas to sell their goods. Originating as a garage sale in 1977, the collectible market has evolved into a popular event in Austin held almost every month.

  Citywide Vintage Sale founder Sammie Dwyer and her daughter, Jennifer Dwyer, are a part of the organizing team. According to Jennifer Dwyer, the sale, which has been going on for 45 years, is intended to help small businesses based in Austin and Texas, and part of that is keeping booth rent fees lower than the average.

“We want to make it easy for people to start a small business, and our fees will enable them to do that,” Dwyer said. “We’ve got people that have come and started doing little small booths at our show, and then eventually they’ll open up a store or go on to bigger and better things for their business. It really does contribute to the community.”

The event was originally held during a gas crisis in 1977 that limited the amount of gas each car could get. It gave the founders the idea to centralize garage sales into one location so the driving distance needed to attend could be limited, and it has continued to evolve over time. Maggie Stephens is an avid attendee of the Citywide Vintage Sale.

“They used to call it the Citywide Garage Sale,” Stephens said. “It’s just kind of a mismatch of different vendors to bring tables and sell all different kinds of items in all different kinds of conditions.”

The event relies on vendors, who bring in goods to sell, to continue thriving. Over the years, the amount of vendors at the sale have increased from the small community garage sale it started as, but COVID-19 brought the numbers back down.

“Prior to COVID, we had between 80 and 100 vendors on average per show,” Dwyer said. “Since COVID, we have a lot of vendors, but probably more like 70 since the pandemic started.” 

Dwyer is attempting to build the event back to pre-pandemic levels. While most vendors come from or near Austin, according to Dwyer, some travel much farther to attend.

“I have a gentleman that comes from New York, and he lives in the Bronx,” Dwyer said. “He’s actually from Africa, but he travels all over the country, back and forth, selling his goods. He always makes sure that he times his trips so that he’s coming through when we have one of our events.”

The Citywide Vintage Sale has items that range from used clothes and jewelery to old dishes and tchotchkes, or miscellaneous trinkets. People can find all sorts of goods that might appeal to them, according to Stephens. The event has also proven to be enjoyable for all different ages, according to Dwyer, allowing all to find something they can appreciate in the Citywide Vintage Sale. 

“It’s a really neat event,” Dwyer said. “There are a lot of people of all ages [that] love it. I see people come in with their little five year old and they’ll give them a little bit of money and they’ll have so much fun, or people in their 80s come and shop, so it’s good for all ages, and really nice vendors, really nice community of people that we have there.”