Ruth Hamilton, a regular customer, says Vallenilla's store is definitely not thrift. A Shorecrest resident who tries to preserve the original flavor of her 1938 home, Hamilton has found several perfect fits at Designer Thrift. Recently she purchased an area rug from the 1930s and an Art Deco bookend. Currently she has her eye on a bookcase. "William is one of those people who are breathing life into Biscayne," she comments. "The city should have the foresight to work with creative urban pioneers such as himself."
Gregory Gay, an urban community planner for the city, states the obvious: Vallenilla's problem is rooted in semantics. "Even now as we approach the millennium, things from the 1950s and 1960s are considered antiques. It's the way people title their store and market their products that throws up the red flag. If he changed his name from Designer Thrift to Designer Antiques the situation would have probably never taken place. It seems to me it's all in the name."
Now the only sign outside William Vallenilla's shop reads "Giant Furniture Sale"
Adds Kovel: "Every antique shop in Miami is probably selling something that isn't antique by [U.S. Customs'] definition. It's a really tricky thing and if zoning for that area is so puritan, then they're gonna have to throw out everyone who claims to be selling antique."