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Vintage collectibles find a home at the Vassar House

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The Vassar House (221 Vassar Street) is a hub of antique finds and goodies, which may be a rarity in Reno. Selling everything from historic coffee mills to Stanford Pottery, it’s one of the premier places in the biggest little city to find a menagerie of statement pieces.

Missy Allison owns the Wells Avenue area space alongside her mother, Hariette Allison. 

“Our two-story vintage building lends itself to being an antique shop in the most charming fashion and is chock full of pristine vintage pieces, hand-selected gift items, jewelry and more,” she said. 

She routinely posts the rotating inventory on Facebook, including armoires and mirrors, kitchen wares and decorative bird cages. 

“Once the weather turns warm, we also open our backyard with a shaded patio to selling outdoor furnishings, architectural salvage and yard art, too,” she added. “There’s really nothing like it anywhere else in Reno.”

Vassar House owners.
Image courtesy of the Vassar House and used with permission.

The focus is on American antiques, classic vintage pieces that most often hail from the 1920s-1960s. There are many notable brands in the inventory, including Bauer and Pyrex. 

“We always stock colorful vintage ceramics, American primitive pieces [and] beautiful dishware in our vintage offerings,” Allison said. “Our gift items include jewelry, home fragrance, dry goods, books, nostalgic candies and wonderful Mosser glass.”

There’s also a niche part of the business called The Lucky Star, with western collectibles and jewelry, that’s somewhat of a business inside of the business. It’s a section of the larger Vassar House and dons the nickname The Trading Post for those who visit. Ultimately, the antique hub marries two businesses—Harriette’s and Missy’s.

While sourcing and selling vintage pieces is one of their favorite pastimes, it’s not the only part of the duo’s business. Both women work as interior decorators and find their clientele through those who shop The Vassar House. 

Missy attended the (no-defunct) interior design program at the University of Nevada Reno in the early 2000s. The mother-daughter team first opened their antique store concept in 2005 in a nearby

shop called Camp Round-Up. That, as well as The Lucky Star, both operated on Vassar Street.

During the recession, they made the difficult decision to close both and, in 2017, reopened at The

Vassar House to put both concepts under one roof. According to Missy, the biggest hurdle of owning the business is its location. While the space is beautiful and serves their inventory well, “being on a busy side street thoroughfare doesn’t give us the kind of visibility that we need.” 

So, even seven years in, they are still trying to get the greater public into their doors. 

“It takes a long time to get onto people’s radar,” she said. 

While visiting the shop is the best way to experience its collection, the website offers a few sale opportunities, and on Facebook you’ll find consistent postings of what’s in store.

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Nora Tarte
Nora Tarte
Nora Heston Tarte is a long-time Reno resident living on the southside of town. In addition to food, her hobbies include wine, hiking, yoga and travel. She is also the managing editor of a regional, lifestyle publication and freelances for other publications most frequently in the travel space. Nora received her bachelor's in Journalism from California State University, Sacramento before graduating from University of Nebraska, Lincoln with a master’s in Professional Journalism. You can follow her travel adventures, and local exploits, on her Instagram account @wanderlust_n_wine.

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