Living with Secondhand Treasures: Remembering the Downtown Mini Mall

I can remember the first time I stepped into the Downtown Mini Mall. I had just moved to Denton from Georgia. It was August and I had only been in town for a week or two. The heat was suffocating and while exploring my new home (and looking for a momentary reprieve from the torrid Texas summer), I slinked through the cloudy glass doors of what would become my mecca against loneliness-the Mini Mall.

Like many, I moved to Denton to attend UNT. From the urging of a mentor and former professor in Georgia, who was an alum of the UNT English department, I set my sights on Texas and spent hours upon hours researching UNT (but mostly Denton) online. I fell in love with Lil' D before ever having visited. In fact, the moment the U-Haul crossed the state line was the first time I ever set foot in the Lone Star State. In the fall of 2012, I entered the graduate program to study Creative Writing. The move was a combination of fulfilling my ambition to go to grad school but more so it was an effort to begin a fresh, new phase in life and make a break with painful past brought on by heartbreak. 

My first several months in Denton was a revolving series of emotional highs and lows. The sense of titillating adventure, exploration, independence, and personal growth that comes from packing up and moving halfway across the country mixed in with a gloomy loneliness that arose from leaving my family and friends. 

Enter the Downtown Mini Mall.

I felt an overwhelming sense of kinship to the objects inside. In each booth, around every corner turned, housed in every glass case, hiding on each makeshift shelf waited an object ready to embark on a new life. 

There was magic in these items. Stories of old lives. Possibilities at second, third, fourth chances. Knicks and dents among the ever-present beauty. Oddities waiting to be dusted off and shine again in a new setting. 

Like many of you, I would spend hours roving the booths that housed an expansive collection of antiques, tchotchkes, vintage treasures, and eccentric mementos. It always seemed like you never found the perfect item but that it found you. A highball glass, a replica Picasso painting, or small Virgin Mary figurine would gleam like the toothy grin of the Cheshire Cat among the hordes and call to you.

I found myself in the Mini Mall nearly every week. When I was lonely and missing family I would take myself to the Square and find a new item to brighten up my apartment; and, in a way, I filled my home with objects that signified the majesty of rebirth. 

I'd like to think of this following collection of photos as a tribute to the Downtown Mini Mall, all the amazing vendors, and magnificent treasures that filled me with happiness over the years and truly made Denton home. The Mini Mall was a refuge for me as I imagine, it was for many of you reading this. These objects below adorn the walls, shelves, and cabinets of my home and I live with them every day. Each one is a reminder that life is about reinvention and that beauty can be found in the most unexpected of places. 

The Downtown Mini Mall may be gone but its tiny legacies live on throughout the homes of Denton. 

Photo by Trista Edwards
Header image layout designed by Christopher Rodgers