East County’s ‘Junk Trail’ gives the past a future

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Third annual edition of the East County Junk Trail came and went this month and it was better than the previous years, according to both the organizers and customers.

With 14 stops listed on a printable treasure hunting map, raffle prizes and gifts at each stop, the event succeeded in bringing together established antique and vintage stores along with traveling pop-up vendors at each major stop.

Third annual edition of the East County Junk Trail came and went this month and it was better than the previous years, according to both the organizers and customers.

With 14 stops listed on a printable treasure hunting map, raffle prizes and gifts at each stop, the event succeeded in bringing together established antique and vintage stores along with traveling pop-up vendors at each major stop.

This year’s edition featured shopping stops in Lakeside, El Cajon and Alpine under the slogan “Old is the new new” and with the promise of an unforgettable experience rummaging through beautiful items carrying lots of stories from the past. With names such as “Love me 2 Times Vintage,” “Sweet Junque,” “Back In Time Vintage Emporium” and “The Barn Florist & Mercantile,” the map looked as if it came from an old pirate hidden spot.

Jeanine Santos Castilleja-Crawford, one of the organizers, said antiques are hot commodities.

“Vintage selling is really popular right now,” she said. “I see more and more new shops popping up daily in Instagram.”

Castilleja-Crawford wanted to offer a unique experience to the East County community. She has organized the Junk Trail for three years now, but she said she does not want to take all the credit.

“In the beginning, Lara Crouse was the motivator behind the event and she continues to help, as well as all the vendors,” she said. “They all help in their own way.”

For Castilleja-Crawford, the love of vintage and everything old all started during her childhood when her parents took her thrift shopping almost every weekend.

“I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but as I went into high school, a lot of my school clothes budget went to thrift stores,” said Castilleja-Crawford.

On occasion, she would “score a great piece on the side of the road” for home decorations. Castilleja-Crawford started as a seller when she became a stay at home mom.

“I began painting furniture for my home and collecting various pieces that I would sell on Etsy,” she said.

Castilleja-Crawford went on to sell through several local stores and became a featured artist at The Corner Store in El Cajon. She discovered the San Diego Vintage Flea Market and started selling regularly.

“I’ve had to pull back that since I had my twin boys 18 months ago and I am currently pregnant with a baby girl, due in October,” she said. “But I do have some pieces I have waiting to be painted.”

Talking about the idea of organizing a Junk Trail event, Castilleja-Crawford said, “It helps me to sell my stuff without having to lug it back and forth to a flea market or event. The shoppers come to me.”

All treasure hunters have something in common – the love for things with a past and many of the shoppers who traveled on the Junk Trail on Saturday are vintage collectors or sellers themselves.

Carolyn DeKoven has her own Vintage Jewelry Lounge and is a published jewelry stylist, featured in mainstream magazines here and abroad. DeKoven does not live in San Diego anymore, but travels two hours back to town every month “to support local antique small business owners and friends.”

On Saturday, she said she was happy to find an early Victorian Moriage vase in a rare cobalt blue color for only $30 that usually sells for up to $200.

The vase is in stunning condition, with delicate roses hand painted on the upper half and fine filigree in muted gold on the rest.

“I have a pretty large collection, about 15 of them, because I like muted colors and the decoration,” said DeKoven. “I love them more than the Nippon pieces, which also have a Moriage decoration.”

DeKoven said she also found “acrylic earrings from the 1960s and a matched pair of Mucha prints on glass from the 1970s.”

DeKoven said she usually collects “Art Nouveau, vintage lockets, 1930s jewelry, Victorian vases, pin up art like Vargas, Eggleston, oil landscapes,” as well as antique lockets: small wonders of old silver and gold adorned with precious stones and delicate bas-reliefs of goddesses and vintage portraits of gracious women, gargoyles and noble heraldry.

DeKoven still has the first ever antique piece she bought with her own money when she was 18 years old. She paid $50 in 1972 for a rare wash basin and bowl from the Victorian era.

“That was a lot of money for a girl in high school,” she said. “I worked for a shop that had ladies clothing called Worths and they used antiques as props. That’s where I bought my first piece.”

DeKoven said she lived with her grandmother as a child and learned to love old things from her.

“I loved her house from the 1930s,” she said. “My house has several of her pieces and even her grandfather clock that was a wedding gift in 1921.”

DeKoven’s own house looks like a collector house, with mostly vintage pieces from 1920 to 1940 in furniture, and accessories from late 1800. “Plus a couch I bought from Wayfair a month ago,” she confessed, laughing.

All in all, the vintage collectors believe it’s better for the environment to buy old items instead of filling up the landfills. DeKoven said, “Shop small businesses, shop vintage and keep beautiful things that can be upcycled out of our landfills.”

Castilleja-Crawford agreed with DeKoven, adding, “Old is the new ‘new!’ Not only that we are giving some unique pieces a new life, but we are saving them from the dump.”

Castilleja-Crawford said she has a word of advice for people who want to start in the vintage business.

“I would say if you want to get into that market, you should research it, maybe pick a specific type of vintage to sell, something that’s going to set you apart from everyone else,” she said.

While this is now just a hobby for Castilleja-Crawford, she does not exclude it from becoming a career later on. For now, she is content to organize community events like the Junk Trail and hopes to expand it next year to include the whole city of San Diego.

In the meantime, Castilleja-Crawford is enjoying being around people who share a deep love for vintage and is looking forward to finding unique items to add to her collection of velvet jewelry boxes, antique cigar boxes, but mostly her treasured rhinestone crowns and tiaras. Castilleja-Crawford has more than 20 tiaras she displays for historical value.

“I have one around a hundred years old that came from a religious statue in Brazil,” she said. “No, I don’t wear them.”

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