High Desert High: Shop Stops
Checking out local shopping opportunities is always part of any Rancho day trip … our visit to Joshua Tree no exception. However, we don’t wait until our arrival before stopping to check out some comely wares; in fact, the first two shops in this post are located in Morongo Valley and Yucca Valley respectively. We’re not in any hurry and both places are on the way, so why not? … let’s do some shopping!
CACTUS MART, in Morongo Valley, offers shoppers the unusual opportunity to dig their own cactus … not really a draw in my book, I can dig pricklers at home, but I have to see what-all they have. And, they have a lot! Succulents and cacti, in sizes from tiny to towering are laid out in rows, sometimes under canopies, and are well-and-fairly priced. We buy an unusual agave, a gypsophila, with lovely wavy leaves … Their plant offerings are terrific and plentiful but it’s the non-plant goods that make this a must-stop shop for me. Cactus Mart has a huge assortment of garden ornaments, art objects and other decorative items for sale both outside and inside their art gallery and shop. Almost all medias are represented including metal, concrete, stained glass, ceramic; and there are also framed pieces by local artists. The emphasis is on color and texture, with a definite ethnic and southwestern vibe. It’s an inviting and fun shopping experience with seating areas outside for decision-making and friendly chickens roaming loose. With its cheerful, hard-to-miss sign, and gigantic wire lizard sculptures on its roof, Cactus Mart is a worthy first stop on the road to Joshua Tree. Cactus Mart is located at 49889 29 Palms Highway (Highway 62), Morongo Valley CA, 92256. Phone: 760.363.6076. Website here.
ROUTE 62 VINTAGE MARKETPLACE is more than just an antique store … it’s more like an endless time tunnel of decorative greatest hits for both inside and outside the home and garden. In front, a large metal peace sign (a recurring symbol at Rt. 62) shares space with a cool, almost menacing, metal claw sculpture … and in back almost everything else for the outdoors can be found with a little digging. My faves include shot-up-for-target-practice metal tanks and machines, rusted-out garden furniture and a mirrored disco ball lamp sculpture-thing next to a fiberglass bench; the bench I buy. There’re also driftwood, planters, grates, gates and western-style kitsch garden items … this is a great place for roaming, but let’s go inside …
… where we find room after room of crazy, mixed-up, vintage fun! Rt. 62 is one of those groovy antique malls where Granny takes an acid trip and there’s something for anyone with an interest in decorating, whatever period. I particularly appreciate the industrial and found-object pieces, metal furniture, target practice lamps, and local-made objéts d’art. Rt. 62 is not just an antique mall; its compound encompasses a performance space, art gallery and hosts estate sales and other special events. Route 62 Vintage Marketplace is located at 55635 29 Palms Highway, Yucca Valley, CA 92284. Phone: 760-365-4330. Website here.
Emerging into the late afternoon sun from a fairly standard Joshua Tree antique mall, I am heartened, okay, crazed, by the sight of a collection of amazing junk’n’stuff just up the block … everything, from the skeletons of metal garden furniture, cool rusted-out old steel tanks, enormous metal hoops, rattling plant stands, and even the now-hollow husk of a psychedelicized vintage car, are sitting outside a low-roofed 60s-era building … And, there’s a spray painted sunburst sign announcing this place as ANTIQUES ETC.! I ain’t gotta tell you, I’m in. Inside, I find vintage clothes, random tchotchkes, books, and the ETC. promised outside. Moving into the rear of the store I see there’s even more, more and more of all that metal goodness from out front, stowed and stashed, just waiting to be picked through. The owner, Lenny Mazzo, greets us, and instantly he picks up on my junk mania, explaining that if there’s anything I’d like, I should ask about it; he might be saving it to use for a project. See, Lenny is the owner and artist-in-residence of this thrilling conglomeration, making sculptures — both kinetic and still — as well as functional pieces, such as Rube Goldberg-ian fountains and wind chimes. A super affable, unassumingly talented artist, he gives us free rein to root around. I’m in heaven, of course, and boggled by the volume of good stuff to pick from … so boggled in fact that I can’t decide on any one thing and buy nothing. (Plus: this trip took place before the Garden Bazaar, when I was making an effort to divest myself of similar objects.) And then we find more …
More, in the form of a self-contained outdoor gallery space. Walls like the sides of metal shipping containers enclose an array of pieces by Mazzo using his signature style; many pieces are very large, all of them are metal and all had former lives as parts of machines, cars or signs. Mazzo’s work involves creating a complex multi-hued patina on these metal pieces through the use of layers of paint, then sanding the layers so that the various colors show through and interact, and in the end, waxing them to a candy-coated and shiny finish. We loved the scale of the various pieces and their technicolor dream coats … they reminded me of sugar candies, wrecked cars, iridescent beetle carapaces and the spots I see inside my eyelids when I’ve looked at the desert sun through the car’s window. I wanted one. Seeing the prices, though, we thought it best to walk away … Tanned and silver-haired, I spoke with Mazzo a bit, great guy. After explaining that we were visiting for the day, he strongly urged a visit to the Noah Purafoy installation. Great suggestion as you’ll see later.
Antiques Etc, is at 7321 Pioneertown Rd., Yucca Valley, Ca. 92284; phone 760-228-1413; website LennyMazzo.com
Bargain Alley is now called Joshua Tree Trading Post; they have works by Lenny as well.
There are numerous other shopping opportunities along Route 62/29 Palms Highway on the way to, and in Joshua Tree … but don’t go alone. You’ll need a wingman to ride shotgun and call out “Stop!” at the sight of some interesting bit of retro, antique or western junk. Trust me, shopping like this is way more fun that just looking it all up on the internet first.