Home Economics

Home Economics

Aiming to “reimagine, reuse and repurpose” things instead of consigning them to a landfill, Branford’s Tags on Main is like a communal attic—one that’s unusually well-dusted. Established in 2022 by real estate agents Mike Perrelli of Branford’s Century 21 AllPoints Realty and Greg Robbins and Rhonda Young of Houlihan Lawrence Wareck D’Ostilio, the stock of this vintage variety store has been culled entirely from house and estate clean-outs. “We don’t buy anything,” Young says, adding that the store, open Thursday through Sunday, has become “a fun little hobby.”

What’s your hobby? Collectible toys? Vinyl, books, magazines? Vintage jewelry? Christmas decorations? Furniture and housewares? They’re all here.

I coveted several items on display, starting with a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus poster ($999) from 1918 featuring a ferocious tiger. I wondered what post-World War I families thought of such a fearsome sight. Another item I might like to own is a 45 of Prince’s 1984 hit “When Doves Cry,” with a photo sleeve of the Purple One looking supremely Prince-like. Initially sold at Ames Department Store for $1.77, the record is currently priced at $25. Vintage vinyl is in demand these days, and I could’ve spent hours trolling the racks of albums here for gems. One is a soundtrack from the film Easy Rider ($15), featuring such beloved underground 1960s classics as the Holy Modal Rounders’ “If You Want to Be a Bird (The Bird Song)” and The Fraternity of Man’s “Don’t Bogart Me (aka Don’t Bogart That Joint).”

I also love looking at old toys, and there are enough commemorative Barbies and PEZ dispensers here to populate a store of their own. A PEZ Wizard of Oz commemorative set ($25) features every significant character, including Toto in his wicker basket, except a munchkin and a flying monkey. On the other hand, a $20 set from the PEZ Education Series of U.S. Presidents (Vol. VI: 1909 to 1933) features the oddly non-sequential grouping of New Havener William Howard Taft, Warren G. Harding, Herbert Hoover, Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge. As for Barbie, Tags on Main has what is, to my mind, her best incarnation ever: the 2002 King Kong edition ($50), Fay Wray-ed to the max in slinky pink 1930s gown, flashy gold jewelry and platinum-blonde coiffure, even if she doesn’t look sufficiently terrified to be sitting in Kong’s outsized plastic hand.

Tags on Main offers more practical household objects, among them popular wooden clothes-drying racks ($10 to $15). But when it comes to items for the home, I was attracted to the unique and decorative: a woven wooden watermelon basket ($10), perfect for picnicking or perhaps as a magazine holder; a vintage lamp with a cast iron base and a reverse-painted floral shade ($75); a set of four elegantly dressed Goebel porcelain figurines ($75); a Grundig Majestic Model 1055 table radio from West Germany ($350), which looks fabulous whether it works or not.

Other endearing oddities abound. A silver-painted baby doll adorned with vinyl clothes to look like The Wizard of Oz’s Tin Man in honor of the film’s 75th anniversary ($75) looks like the kind of homemade project your grandmother might have made for a church sale. A 1960s Petticoat Junction comic, priced at 12¢ upon its release (now $25), reminded me how hard it is to imagine any fan of Batman or even Archie back then thrilling to the antics of Uncle Joe or Sam Drucker. Also requiring a 20th-century sensibility is the Groucho Marx ventriloquist’s dummy for $50 (I can’t decide whether sitting him in a chair in my living room would be hilarious or a really good way to discourage casual visitors) and the $60 Leave It To Beaver season one disc collection housed in a vintage lunchbox (the Beav is beloved, but, like many classic characters, he’s got a prominent berth on streaming services these days). Lovers of quirky cultural antiquity may also be drawn to the shelf of figurative old-school pencil sharpeners shaped like trains, trolley cars, globes and the Statue of Liberty, not to mention the trowel commemorating the 60th annual reunion of the Masonic Veteran Association of Hartford in 1930 ($25).

There’s something for everyone, Robbins says, and that seems truer here than usual. (I haven’t even mentioned the attractive deals on furniture.) Given the speed with which things can sell after they’re posted on social media, it may be sensible to respond to your yearning for that special buy as soon as possible. Me, I’m starting to be sorry I didn’t jump on King Kong Barbie—and still thinking about where I might stash Groucho, stache and all.

Tags on Main
1229 Main St, Branford (map)
Thurs-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 10am-2pm
(203) 208-4346 | Facebook

Written by Patricia Grandjean. Image 1 photographed by Dan Mims. Images 2-5 photographed by Patricia Grandjean.

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