Purchase photos

Antique mall leaving downtown, eyes I-70

8/30/2013

By KALEY CONNER

By KALEY CONNER

kconner@dailynews.net

It's a place literally full of history.

But in mid-September, Brunswick Antique Mall, a fixture in downtown Hays for 11 years, will close its doors. Remaining merchandise will be sold at auction.

Owner Rick Davidson said he ultimately hopes to reopen an antique mall closer to Interstate 70.

"Ninety-percent of our business is travelers," Davidson said. "People come down to shop for just antiques."

The auction will begin early the morning of Sept. 14 at the business, 705 Main. Davidson and his wife, Louwayne, are in the process of boxing antiques and getting ready for the big day.

The Davidsons entered the antique business more than a decade ago after wrapping up other ventures, such as HJ Disaster Services.

They also owned several residential and commercial properties and decided to turn the historic downtown hotel into an antique store when they could not find a buyer for the property. The couple has enjoyed the antique business, he said.

"Antiques are a type of business you cannot go to school for, so you learn the hard way," Davidson said with a chuckle. "You pay for your education, but it's very rewarding."

The sprawling storefront, with 4,000 square feet on the main level and another 4,000 feet upstairs, already has a potential buyer. Some offers had been turned down, as the couple wanted to ensure the historic character of the property would be retained, he said.

A large black and white photograph of the old Brunswick Hotel hangs near the store's front entrance. Built in the 1800s, the hotel prospered until the interstate began drawing travelers -- and businesses -- north, Davidson said.

The couple has owned the building since 1990. While they are looking forward to their new chapter, it is bittersweet to say goodbye to the historic gem, he said.

Rather than storing all of their merchandise until another spot is secured, they decided to sell everything in the current location and start fresh later.

The store sold items on consignment, at times having as many as 60 vendors. Some of the items that ended up in the store have an unusual history behind them, he said, picking up an old, wooden box of wine.

Theodore Roosevelt reportedly purchased the box of souvenir wine from Charles Wetmore, a leader of winemaking in California's Napa Valley, for a party he hosted in Colorado. Davidson purchased the box at another antique store and began searching for historic documents to confirm the tale. He was able to locate a check made out to Wetmore from Roosevelt on June 4, 1911.

"The wine lived through Prohibition," he said. "The contents are vinegar, more than likely."

Another "interest piece" is a vintage Edison-Dick mimeoscope, which was an early copy machine.

"It's unique things like this," Davidson said of why he enjoys the hobby. "It's the only one I've ever seen in my life, and it will probably be the only one I see.

"I've got lots of memories like that, that were once-in-a-lifetime memories of things you see come and go."