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The Backstory: Austin's City-Wide Vintage Sale

The city-wide sale began in 1977. Here's how the event got started.

AUSTIN, Texas — What does the gas shortage of the 1970s have to do with a vintage sale? 

"It was 1977. The gas shortage was in full swing. We thought it was not a good idea to have garage sales all over town," said the owner of the City-Wide Vintage Sale, Sammie Dwyer.

So they rented the old City Coliseum, which is gone now, put all the garage and estate sales under one roof, and thus began the City-Wide Vintage Sale. Dwyer and her daughter, Jennifer, said the vendors and attendees loved it immediately for its convenience. 

"I think she just started just one just to see how it would go. And it was a huge success. I mean, when we used to be in the Coliseum, the line was literally wrapped around the building to get in. I mean, it was a really big deal, " said Dwyer.

Since the first City-Wide Vintage Sale in 1977, a lot has changed in Austin. The event itself has had a location and name change, but there are a couple of things that have remained the same. One of the constants of the City-Wide Vintage Sale is Dorothy McPhaul.

McPhaul owns Johnny's Antiques, an East Austin shop that was opened by her grandfather in 1918. It's located on Sixth Street and is surrounded by new construction much larger than it.

"We're just like two mountains with a slope. And I'm the slope," said McPhaul.

McPhaul grew up around antiques. Her mother owned Johnny's Antiques before her and participated in the City-Wide Vintage Sale. Dorothy would tag along and help. Now, Dorothy brings her son to the event. 

"We call it a family affair," said McPhaul. 

Before the pandemic, she said she never missed a City-Wide Vintage Sale. She looks forward to the event and sharing her passion for antiques with attendees. 

"People can see that you love antiques, the way you talk about it. You can see the love in my face," said McPhaul.

The City-Wide Vintage Sale was going strong until the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We're a very small business, and like all the others, we've struggled desperately over the last year to try to keep our business open. We are an incubator for small business," said Dwyer.

After having to cancel the monthly event, the City-Wide Vintage Sale was actually the first event back in the Palmer Events Center in April of 2021. The owner said they were the first one back because they had been there the longest.

The event features vintage goods from local and regional sellers including furniture, clothing, movie posters and more.

The event will be back at the Palmer Events Center Saturday, June 26, and Sunday, June 27.  

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