SHERIDAN — With holiday shopping in full swing, local antique stores will likely see an increase in customers.
Angela Mesa, manager at Best Out West Antiques and Collectibles, said December is the busiest month for the mall that has a wide array of interesting, unusual items.
“I think a lot of it this time of year is variety for Christmas shopping,” Mesa said. “…We’ve become kind of a destination after 25 years (in business).”
Luke Knudson, owner of The Old General Store Antiques, said he has two busy periods most years: June through August and November and December, with Black Friday being the single busiest day of the year.
Although December entails mostly high sales for the shops, the rest of the year is more inconsistent, which has led to many antique shop closures in recent years.
Knudson said when he opened the store a few years ago there were eight antique shops. Now, that number is down to three.
Tom Stedtnitz, owner of Sheridan Antiques, said his store usually has a “big bell curve” for sales, with the most transactions occurring in the summer months, particularly during Sheridan WYO Rodeo week.
Knudson said the easy accessibility of online retail likely has a lot to do with the shrinking industry. He said he has been able to stay in business because of his customer demographics — most people are between ages 40 and 70 — and the rarity of his items, most of which aren’t available online.
“I try to keep my quality up in here, and I do strictly things before 1950 you won’t find anywhere else,” Knudson said.
Mesa said another reason for the recent fluctuation in antique shops is that the industry is harder to survive in than people anticipate.
“Downtown, the stores come and go,” Mesa said. “They think it’s an easy business, and it isn’t.”
At Best Out West, summer months lead to an increase in traffic, especially when the rodeo comes to town. On the flip side, February, March and April are particularly slow-going, especially in the last few years.
For Knudson and Stedtnitz, January and February are often the slowest months. Knudson began with a consignment booth at Best Out West about five years ago. His store specializes in items made around 1900. He has restored trunks, restored radios and restored lighting, along with different kinds of restored stoves.
Like Knudson, Stedtnitz began with a booth at Best Out West. He previously worked in the coal mining industry as an engineer but about four years ago, he converted his antique hobby into a full-time labor of love.
Stedtnitz said the job constantly keeps him on his toes, with people bringing in unique items or asking about different options.
“I’m doing it because I enjoy it,” Stedtnitz said. “It’s not for the money.”
Stedtnitz’s shop specializes in vintage Western and Americana objects, along with a fair amount of military and hunting items. The store is more male-centric and his wife joked that one can tell a man owns the store because of the focus on outdoors and sports-related items, calling them “mantiques.”
Stedtnitz said about 80 percent of his customers are tourists who want to experience Western culture. He has had customers from around the globe, including Austria, New Zealand, Russia, Germany and France.
“A lot of them are here because they want a taste of the West,” Stedtnitz said.
Several antique stores continue to operate locally, but if recent trends continue, the margins for error will begin to dwindle.