Photography by Emil Lippe

Walking through City View Antique Mall’s 65 vendor booths is like maneuvering a maze.

The sisters-owned business is one of the largest and oldest antique shops in Dallas.

Joan Williams and her younger sister, Ellen Paulsen, have co-owned the antique mall since its opening in 1990. Three decades later, they’re still drawing customers interested in traveling through eras of time by moving from one vendor booth to the next. 

Williams was brought up in the world of auctions and antiques. Both parents were collectors who traveled through Michigan to auctions with Williams and her siblings.

Antiquing turned into a personal interest when she moved to Austin.

“I had been interested in an antique mall down in Austin, where I lived,” Williams says. “And one day, my dad called me up and said, ‘Oh, I’ve got a great building I just rented on Greenville Avenue for an antique mall.’ And I said, ‘Well, dad, it’s gonna be hard for me to run it from Austin.’ How’d he think I was gonna do this?”

Paulsen took an interest in their dad’s offer, which eventually led to opening Lower Greenville Antique Mall. That was 31 years ago.

Williams doesn’t just co-own the antique mall business — she also operates a booth and sells antiques. Most of the antiques in Williams’ booth come from Europe and from furniture left over from her estate sales managed by her brother.

“I very rarely shop other antiques stores because they’re hard to buy, unless you happen on a sale where somebody is going out of business or something like that,” she says. “But a lot of our stuff we get from Europe.”

Robin Crawford, one of City View’s longest-standing vendors, works at the store twice a month and visits weekly to rearrange or add items to her booth. Crawford shops at flea markets throughout Texas; the oldest item she has owned, a piece of furniture, is from the early 1900s.

“When my last child went to college, I was an empty-nester and kind of was in a spot where I was like, ‘now what?’ You know, I had been so involved in their (her kids’) stuff, so I kind of had to reinvent myself. When City View moved over to the location it’s in now, I went in and saw they had some space available. Then I was like: You know what? I think I’ll do that.”

Known as the largest flea market in the country, Canton’s First Monday trade days has a large selection of vendors with older, more unique finds, and that’s just what Crawford looks for.

“I go to Canton a lot, once a month,” she says. “And then I go to a huge flea-market kind of thing in South Texas near Houston called Round Top and find more things there.

“Sometimes people just call and say, ‘I don’t want this anymore, would you like to have it’ or go to an estate sale and purchase items,” Crawford says. “So just everywhere, anywhere you can find them.”

Williams says she hunts for items that fit her European antique theme. 

“It’s like you’re out there, and you’re looking for stuff, but there’s all this junk and everything,” Williams says. “And then all of a sudden, there’s a treasure, you know, there’s something from the 19th century that’s really old and really valuable. And it’s having the skill, having acquired the skill to do that. I mean, I can go to some place, and I know what I’m looking at.”

Crawford, on the other hand, enjoys the restoration part of acquiring and selling antiques. In her words, she “brings them back to relevance.”

“You know, a lot of people think, oh, it’s old, they’re not interested in it anymore,” she says. “But just a little bit of polish or paint or glue can make it look fabulous again.”

City View Antique Mall, 6830 Walling Lane near Skillman and Abrams behind Jake’s Hamburgers, is open daily. Visit cityviewantiques.com for more information.