With a mission in town that dates back to 1797, it’s no surprise San Juan is an antique hotbed. Last Sunday, the town’s Rotary Club hosted the 52nd annual Antiques and Collectibles Fair for a crowd from all over the Bay Area.

The free annual event draws not only professional vendors to 3rd Street, but also residents of the tiny town hosting garage sales. As a result, there are deals to be had on everything from handmade pottery and art pieces to vintage clothes and books. Handcrafted goods are another major find: birdhouses and baskets made with traditional weaving techniques abound.

All the funds from the fair go to supporting the Rotary Club’s causes. These include emergency funds for local families, as well as literacy and leadership programs for students. Coordinator Cesar E. Flores estimated that the fair saw 2,500 attendees and 75 vendors this year.

Unfortunately for enthusiasts, the antique fair comes only once a year. But San Juan Bautista and San Benito County as a whole are treasure troves of goods with storied pasts. The shops themselves are bits of history, places to browse and listen to the owners offer interesting trivia.

During the wait for the next fair, here are three notable stops for antique and handmade items in San Benito County:

  1. Sweet Pea Antiques

Sweet Pea is definitely true to its name. The fine china and vintage linen that stock the shop give it the feel of a grand, old dollhouse that every girl wanted. Its household items, particularly its vintage kitchen goods, would make great gifts for the family chef or anyone with a shabby-chic decorating streak. The store is at 400 3rd St. in San Juan Bautista, or call (831) 623-9338.

  1. Fool’s Gold

For vinyl, Fool’s Gold might be the real winner. The rows of records are in great condition, and real gems can be had for a bargain price. If records are too unwieldy, the shop also stocks 21st century-friendly CDs and DVDs, as well as timeless books. The shop’s clothing collection appears well thought out and organized by era. Go to 34 Polk St. in San Juan Bautista or call (831) 623-9275.

  1. Little Red Barn Antiques

The discerning antique collector would appreciate Little Red Barn’s catalog of hard-to-find items from the past. The art that hangs on the walls is particularly unique, as is the furniture and household selection, some of which dates back to the early 20th century. Classic collectibles such as silverware and coins also fill this little store on 3rd Street. Go to 300 3rd St. in San Juan Bautista or call (831) 623-4792.

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