Cosanti (Paradise Valley, AZ)

One of our favorite places to part with money in Metropolitan Phoenix is located surprisingly smack dab in the middle of one of the more expensive parts of town, the upscale neighborhood of Paradise Valley.  Hidden just off a road that connects the area with Scottsdale is Cosanti, art studio and home of “arcologist” Paolo Soleri, the inventive Italian designer who mixes high-concept architecture with Ecology. 

Born in Turin in 1919, Soleri first came to Arizona as an “artist-in-residence” and the guest of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesen West (see “sights”).  The visionary later put down roots in 1956 at the Paradise Valley location that remains to this day.  While the wacky biomorphic designs on display at Soleri’s small compound must have raised a few eyebrows back in the day, its handful of eccentric buildings have since been credited as one of Arizona’s Historic Sites!

After the completion of Cosanti, Soleri set his target on a much larger project, the “Utopian city of the future” known as Arcosanti (see "digs").  While the latter has been designed to house 5,000 residents - with little or no impact on the environment - the former is a much smaller affair, and therefore much more manageable if you are running short on time!  (The as-yet-unfinished Arcosanti is located north of Metropolitan Phoenix on the way to Prescott.)

Awash in desert hues of tan and olive, Cosanti features architectural elements that are certainly in sync with its larger brethren.  Yet the vibe here is more organic and warm.  A roof of one of the buildings more closely resembles a series of vertebrae rather than a device used to shield inclement weather, while the large pottery apse is easily likened to a sea crustacean!  Our favorite Cosanti nook, however, is the one enclosed by a lattice “bone design” that allows muted light to pass via red stained glass panels.  It’s nothing short of stunning.  

Okay, but where are the “goodies?”

Well, during the last 55 years, Paolo Soleri has inspired and educated an impressive collective of thinkers and craftspeople.  In efforts to raise money for the continued construction of Arcosanti, these artisans workshop futuristic, yet earthen, bells, wind-chimes, and pottery forged from ceramic and bronze patina.  We’re suckers for the “school of Soleri” look, and have collected a number of unique pieces throughout the years.  While prices vary depending on size and material, visitors should experience little guilt when spending money on what are ultimately one-of-a-kind souvenirs!  Accompanying coffee table books cover the life and work of Soleri through a series of beautiful photos and illustrations from both properties!

The retro-futurismo of Cosanti is on view Monday through Saturday from 9:00 AM until 5:00 PM.  On Sundays, expect slightly shorter hours beginning at 11:00 AM.  While self-guided tours are always an option, group tours led by an associate may be arranged in advance by calling for an appointment. 

Set of Drifters tip:  Need to hang up that bronze bell in your vaulted entrance way?  Unique hand-crafted brackets, extension rods and even “Soleri-approved” chain are available at the gift shop - and at relatively reasonable prices.  Make sure you pick out a gift box for your purchase as well!  These multi-colored sturdy cartons are pieces of art in their own right.

Cosanti - 6433 East Doubletree Ranch Road, Paradise Valley, AZ  85253, (800) 752-3187 and

Flagstaff fast finds

If visiting Flagstaff, northern Arizona’s main gateway to the Grand Canyon, chances are your first stop will be either one of two places:  the parking lot at Snowbowl ski resort – or the town’s Old Town, a roughly 5X5 block area that features a number of tasty gastropubs, great coffee spots (see “sips”), as well as a bounty of fun shop stops.

Some of our perennial favorites include the following…

Incahoots Vintage Clothing:  While this spot does offer holiday-inspired junk made in China (think glittered “Happy New Year” hats and shamrock socks), we won’t hold it against them.  Why?  Simply put, these guys know their vintage clothing.  With a nice selection for lads and lasses, and at mostly good prices, you’re bound to find your next favorite vintage trousers… or perhaps a blazer with suede elbow patches?  On our most recent visit, we picked up a duo of men’s neckties that get compliments any time we don them.  We’re not sure whom the proprietors are “in cahoots” with to get their funky, fresh finds, but we’re sure glad they’ve made the connection.

Set of Drifters tip:  If you are traveling with someone who couldn’t give a fringed vest about retro duds, send them next door to the Shane Knight Gallery where vibrant, striking photography showcases all of the wonderment Arizona and the Southwest have to offer.

Incahoots Vintage Clothing - 9 East Aspen Avenue, Flagstaff, AZ  86001, (928) 773-9447,

Shane Knight Gallery - 5 East Aspen Avenue, Flagstaff, AZ  86001, (928) 556-1563,

Black Hound Gallery:  Several years in and it appears this fun spot is still going strong!  Located inside the “Old Town Shops,” Black Hound is kind of like the younger, adopted brother of Urban Outfitters - minus the over-the-top pricing.

Even though the large showroom feels rather roomy, Black Hound is still packed to the rafters with great finds.  From sassabone apparel and jewelry to naughty joke books, blow-up game trophies and LGBT Mad-lbs, am I the only one who is immediately reminded of “Over Our Heads,” the late 80s potpourri kitsch shop managed by the Facts of Life girls of Eastland?  What we appreciated most?  Only a few days after the Phil Robertson scandal of December 2013, Duck Dynasty mugs had already been tossed into the clearance bin.  Set of Drifters tip:  A basement below may (or may not) belong to the same shop.  Take a look if you want to shop a further extension of the ladies hipster line, or chow-down on some BBQ at the restaurant that butts up right against store racks.  Weird.

Black Hound Gallery (located inside Old Town Shops) - 120 North Leroux, Flagstaff,     AZ  86001, (928) 774-2323,

Full Circle Trade & Thrift:  For those of you like us who like to get your thrift on, this is a nice spot just south of Old Town on Beaver.  A collection of vintage Arts & Crafts jewelry boxes had our attention for a long time, though we passed them by in favor of a rare Carpenters 7” vinyl we had never seen before.  Clothing can be found in the adjacent room to the left, though you might have to search hard for a deal if you're a dude; management advised us that women are usually better at donating...  Perhaps the best part about Full Circle is that proceeds help to fund local creative, educational and social service programs such as the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra and Habitat for Humanity of Northern Arizona.  Time to get out your pocketbook!  

Full Circle Trade & Thrift - 2 South Beaver Street, Suite 100, Flagstaff, AZ  86001, (928) 214-1094,

Hodgepodge Thrift Store:

Our final mention for shopping in Flag goes to this great two-story treasure trove on Route 66.  Through we could have given this one a bit more time, we did stay long enough to unearth a couple of great items for resale.  A vintage 1985 Gummi Bears stuffed toy in mint condition with tags - and a 1950s Kool-Aid dispenser inside its original box were both priced well below what we would have expected to pay… which means more profit for us!  Did we just say that?  Surely, we jest.

Hodgepodge Thrift Store - 2340 Historic Route 66 Flagstaff, AZ  86004, (928) 213-5775,

House of Joy and other delights (Jerome, AZ)

There is a very high probability that not one but both of your “Set of Drifters” were harlots in a past life!  How else could our endless fascination with New Orleans’ “Storyville,” Weimar Berlin and haughty saloon girls be explained?  This same fascination was given a jolt to the arm upon visiting The House of Joy, a onetime “den of iniquity” now transformed into an unusual bi-level storefront bursting at the corset-seams with color, and not surprisingly, the ribald!

Way back in the 1920s during Jerome’s boom time, the jaunty street that houses “Joy” transformed into the town’s (somewhat sanctioned) “red light district.”  Dubbed “Husband’s Alley,” Hull Street’s cribs absorbed all of the prostitutes, and their miner “johns,” expelled from the more family-friendly watering holes on Main Street.  Now many decades later, and after surviving the enclave’s near extinction, Jerome’s unique assemblage of residents seem to accept all types, including those who still share a penchant for the “world’s oldest profession.”  (See “sights” for more on what makes this former ghost town tick.)

Originally, House of Joy proprietors John and Mary Dempsey had envisioned their historic building as a restaurant that made waves in the Southwest culinary circuit.  A kitchen accident eventually closed the eat-spot, forcing the couple to get a bit more creative.  Their solution?  Why not revert the space back into a brothel... err, a “brothel boutique” to be exact.  Which begs the question…  “What exactly does one sell at a ‘brothel boutique?’”

Looky-loos at the House of Joy can expect to find a series of unique arts and crafts pieces - most which bear some element of the risqué - created by artisans near and far.  (Mary Dempsey’s own bawdy illustrations are definitely worth a look.)  Vintage and repro posters, Soviet-era paraphernalia and burlesque magazines round out the collection while an anteroom stuffed with second-hand clothing, tassels and bustiers is enough to make even the sauciest “Lady of the Evening” blush!  Seriously.  This place has more beads, ruffles and spangles than a drag ball in Atlanta, GA!

To outsiders, the gifts at House of Joy may seem like they have no demographic within the confines of a small Arizonan town, but after only one afternoon in Jerome, you’ll find that the “brothel boutique” fits in just fine, and perhaps will offer you the most memorable shopping of your day!

Other notable shopping boutiques and browse shops in Jerome include Papillion’s impeccable vintage ephemera, toys and clothing, Magdalena Bazaar’s “something witchy comes this way” ethnic and spiritual goods and the lobby shop at the Connor Hotel, where spa-quality beauty products mingle with ribald greeting cards and comfy hand knit socks perfect for that cold winter’s night by the fire! 

House of Joy - 416 North Hull Avenue,     Jerome, AZ  86331, (928) 634-5339,

Papillion - 107 Main Street, Jerome, AZ  86331, (928) 634-7626

Magdalena’s Bazaar - 154 Main Street, Jerome AZ  86331, (928) 634-2558,

lobby shop at the Connor Hotel of Jerome - 164 Main Street, Jerome, AZ  86331, (928) 634-5006,

thrifting in Old Town Cottonwood (Cottonwood, AZ)

As they say, “one man’s trash is another’s treasure.” 

By now, you know your Set of Drifters are die-hard fans of thrifting and that we’re often on the hunt for that next cool object at a great price.  So, what a nice surprise it was, while visiting the recommended ghost town of Jerome (see “sights”), the helpful associate at Papillon suggested a day trip to nearby Cottonwood.

Situated only a few miles from Tuzigoot’s Native American ruins (really no more than a pile of rubble), and about eight miles from Jerome, Cottonwood seems to have more thrift/ secondhand stores per capita than most cities we know.  It also has a high propensity of vintage signage - and surprisingly - snazzy restaurants and bars, many of which rely on day-trippers checking out the booming new wineries scattered throughout Verde and Yavapai counties.

We arrived on Sunday morning while many of the smaller shops were still closed.  Happily, Crema Cafe welcomed us with open arms, and their tasty rendition of a “Mayan mocha.”  If you’re looking for a good snack, this cozy indoor/ outdoor spot will do the trick with a delectable array of soups and artisan sandwiches.  Extra points for also serving up a variety of local craft beers from Flagstaff and beyond.

Just a little walk down the street, Cat’s Meow was our first thrift stop, a sweet little antique shop featuring all sorts of glassware, 50s kitchen items, Victorian-era photographs and more.  The selection here is excellent, if you can ignore the frou-frou marabou-trimmed jewelry boxes, and we felt the prices weren’t too bad either.  Make sure you say hello to Judy, Cat’s Meow’s shop proprietor who was super friendly and chatty during our visit.

Next up on the list… Larry’s Antiques.  To be honest, you won’t be able to miss it, particularly thanks to its boffo positioning at the bend of the main road in town.

At Larry’s, there is literally something for everyone:  furniture, obscure trinkets, jewelry, antique books and magazines just to name a few.  Out back, scan the two-acre yard (and barn) for old rusty wagons, arcade games, highway signage and even farm equipment!

We could have spent days, as well as thousands of dollars, here.  Thank God it was Brady’s birthday and there were other plans on the docket to tend to.  We ended up leaving with a very nice 50s lamp and shade for about $50 USD as well as a handful of vintage kitsch items for resale.  Score!

Unfortunately, our original plan to visit Papillon’s sister store in town was a miss as they were not open until later in the day. Still, if their flagship store in Jerome is any indication (see “House of Joy and other delights” above for more information), you can bet the Cottonwood outpost is filled with just as many high-quality treasures.  Prices at Papillon tend to be a bit pricey, but with such interesting and rare items up for offer, we don’t think you’ll be disappointed by your stopover.

Tuzigoot National Monument - 25 Tuzigoot Road, Clarkdale, AZ  86324, (928) 634-5564,

Crema Cafe - 917 North Main Street, Cottonwood, AZ  86326, (928) 649-5785,

Cat’s Meow - 1020 North Main Street, Cottonwood, AZ  86326, (928) 649-9906

Larry’s Antiques - 796 North Main Street, Cottonwood, AZ  86326, (928) 639-1822,

Papillon II - 1004 North Main Street, Cottonwood, AZ  86326, (928) 649-1649

Shopping in Cave Creek, AZ

If you like a variety of down home shopping experiences, then Cave Creek, Arizona is for you.  Sure, the destination village has higher-end “Western wear,” Native American Kachina dolls and other southwestern delights on offer (turquoise jewelry anyone?), yet if you haven’t noticed already, your “Set of Drifters” often like things that are a bit more idiosyncratic. 

A handful of thrift and consignment stores beckon from each side of Cave Creek Road, and while we attempted the lot of them, many act simply as the last resting place for bad dead-stock footwear from the 1990’s.  One pair of shoes that made us do a double take was a high-heeled hot-pink sneaker that was priced at $6 USD, yet on sale for $3!  (We suspect the beauties are still there today.)

Alternately, a shop that we really enjoyed was Sierra Mountain Ranch, the herb emporium located in the “Frontier trading post” area next to The Horny Toad (see “sips”).  Providing all you could ever want in the way of natural remedies, Sierra Mountain Ranch showcases their powders and potions in giant jars that line the entirety of their west-facing wall.  (We picked up some natural guarana in hopes of eliminating the need for coffee prior to our seven hour journey back to Los Angeles!)  Oddly, Sierra Mountain Ranch also sells random jewelry, cowboy and Elvis souvenirs and even old VHS movies at its front door.  While this bizarre hodge-podge would have normally kept us at bay, the ebullient shopkeeper, who looked like a cross between Margot Kidder and Theresa Russell, made us feel right at home.  She even packed up some homemade soap samples for us to take back to California! 

Of course, no mention of shopping in Cave Creek can be complete without its Town Dump. What?  No really, that’s the name of it, the Town Dump.  The sprawling junkyard-esque compound features several structures that shelter any number of oddities.  From hand-carved antique Indian wooden bed posts to a life-size Pegasus statue, the Town Dump has something for everyone! 

Visitors could literally spend hours searching through the Town Dump, both inside and out.  Looking for a monolithic foot and shoe?  Check.  How about some bad Frida Kahlo replicas?  Check.  A taxidermied bear sans nose and hands?  Check.  We particularly fancied the funny metal statues in the courtyard - one depicted a little pig that had finally grown his wings to fly - and could not stop taking pictures throughout. 

While many of the articles have been exposed to the elements and thus damaged, there are some great finds here if you are patient in your hunt for vintage furniture, signage and other objects d’art.  The only problem with the Town Dump is that you will potentially need a dump truck to carry all this stuff back home! 

The Town Dump is open daily from 10:00 AM until 6:00 PM.  Set of Drifters tip:  Make sure to have some hand sanitizer at the ready.  The Town Dump is filled to the brim with so many exposed objects in each of its alcoves that there is no way the proprietors have time to get out the Swiffer!  Expect to see surfaces caked in dust, and then decorated with rather choice finger markings from capricious visitors.

Sierra Mountain Ranch - 6738 E Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek, AZ  85331, (480) 488-7036

Town Dump - 6820 East Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek, AZ  85331, (480) 488-9047,

Tubac is for treasures

Here’s a little secret.  You don’t have to risk leg and limb going south of the border to buy wonderful items “Hecho en Mexico.”  Top to bottom, Arizona is full of roadside merchants selling everything from pottery to papel maché pimientos.  If you’re into that sort of thing, one town you should not miss is Tubac, located roughly 50 miles south of Tucson along I-19.  Here, on the site of the first Spanish colonial garrison in Arizona, hippies have flooded in to populate the few streets with art galleries, sculpture studios and clothing boutiques.  With so much on offer (paintings, fountains and sundials, etc.), you may just want to plan ahead and clear out your car so you have more room for goodies!

Almost everything in Tubac has a Southwestern flair to it, though we preferred the shops catering to colorful Mexican motifs.  Two of our favorites were Artesanias de México (for their larger-than-life sculptural flowers and reclaimed-tin desert animals) and La Paloma de Tubac.  Harboring a collection spanning 20 years of Central and South American travel, the latter outlet is worth the trip to Tubac altogether.  We loved La Paloma’s vast array of hand-painted pottery and mosaic tiles, Frida Kahlo Día de Muertos figurines and vibrant textiles for him and her.  Set of Drifters tip:  Don’t miss the odd-ball collection of pineapple-themed artifacts displayed near the register.

Elsewhere in Tubac, be on the lookout for exquisite jewelry, expert ironwork, and copper everything!  Just don’t expect to find good food.  We have yet to have a great dining experience in town after multiple visits.

Of course, no Southwestern flair in your wardrobe or decor can be complete without a nod to Native American culture.  Come on, we’ve seen you young hipsters sporting turquoise, black and red tribal prints as though it was the 80s all over again.  Where are you going to find the real thing?  We recommend the Sunday bazaar outside of the picturesque Mission San Xavier del Bac (also known as the “Dove of the Desert.”  Only about 30 minutes north of Tubac, this dedicated parish for the local Tohono O’odham tribe dates back to the 1760s when Spanish Franciscans drove out local Jesuits.  Now a protected National Historic Monument, Mission San Xavier del Bac is beautiful example of Baroque Colonial architecture, even if one of its belfries is missing!  (An 1887 earthquake, and later a curious 1939 lightening strike depleted the villagers funds for any permanent repairs).

We visited just as mass was starting and spent much of the next hour browsing through the local market where the smell of Indian Fry Bread (and honey) attracted more than a few swarms of bees!  Merchants purvey heaps of turquoise jewelry, leather belts and Native American textiles, while more modern craftsmen have come up with unique ways to imbue everything from watches to Christmas ornaments with Southwestern and spirit patterns.  Mission San Xavier del Bac is definitely worth a visit, specifically for those who like to really feel the “pulse” of what most tourists pass right on by.

Artesanias de México - 18 Plaza Road, Tubac, AZ  85646, (520) 398-3997,

La Paloma de Tubac - 1 Presidio Drive, Tubac, AZ  85646, (520) 398-9231

Mission San Xavier del Bac - 1950 West San Xavier Road, Tucson, AZ  85746, (520) 294-2624,