A farewell to a well-known Oacoma Landmark
When Greg Olson locks up the Old West Trading Post grounds for the final time later this month, he will take 49 years of antiquing experience and thousands of memories to a new location, where he intends to have a little more freedom.
Olson, 62, whose parents opened the Old West Trading Post museum when he was barely a teenager back in 1968, has owned and operated the business with his wife, Melanie, as an antique, souvenir and consignment shop since 1998.
“When we started, we said we thought we’d try to do 20 years, and that’s where we ended up,” he said “It got to the point that it was a lot bigger than when we first started, and it’s just an awful big territory for us to maintain and keep enough hired help. … The last five years, every year has been the biggest year we’ve ever had. We’re just getting … tired.”
The couple has yet to sort out the specifics, but they intend to open a smaller antique shop in Chamberlain once things are wrapped up at the old location.
“Instead of seven days a week, we might be open seven days a month—just us, and no employees (nor consigners). We’ll be open when it works for us when we’re around,” said Greg, who added that the couple, who have had just one day off work between them since spring, intends to do some traveling. “If we want to take a couple days off in a row or a weekend, we can travel in the summertime, when we don’t have to worry about the snow and wind.”
The smaller shop will continue to offer some of their trademark items—the Olsons have been known for unusual antiques, western boots, spurs, textiles and books—but on a much smaller scale.
“It’ll be a big change, because where we end up won’t be right on the interstate, so we won’t be nearly as busy, but if you want to slow down, that’s what you have to do,” Greg said.
But the most important things will remain.
“We’ll still get to work with antiques, which we like, and we’ll get to keep working with our customers, which will be nice, and we’ll still get to have some free time to do some other things,” said Melanie. “I haven’t gotten to see my mom on Mother’s Day or my dad on Father’s Day in over 20 years, so getting to do some of those things will definitely be nice.”
The Olsons’ business was built on unique items, but sustained on relationships. There hasn’t been a day go by since the Olson’s announcement of the pending closure that visitors to the store haven’t expressed their opinion.
“You can’t close, this is our favorite stop,” Olson said, repeating the comment he’s heard all summer.
For Greg, the most memorable “find” came when an elderly woman from Iowa came into the shop and happened upon a plate from the church she’d attended as a child.
“She never even knew a plate like that existed,” he said. “She couldn’t even hang onto it—she had to give it to someone, because she was shaking so bad.”
For local and repeat customers, the Olsons have been known to go to auction, looking for certain pieces.
“A lot of times we know who we’re going to sell it to before we ever get it home, because we’ve been looking for it for a while,” Greg said.
Requests have poured into the store that visitors didn’t immediately know was an antique shop for years, and have ranged from individuals looking for a special décor piece to collectors of old banks to those who love anything giraffe-related.
“People collect all kinds of things,” Greg said. “People from Europe like (license plates), because they fit them in their suitcase and they can hang them up at home.”
But some requests stand out more than others.
“I once had a someone who was looking for old toilet paper,” Greg said with a laugh. “I don’t know why.”
And some requests have sparked conversation about things the Olsons previously knew nothing about.
“Last year, three days in a row, I was asked if I had any blow torches,” Greg recalled. It turned out that a blow torch convention was coming up in Denver.
Though some folks have been interested in the repurposing of furniture for years, the recent trend toward that type of furnishings has increased traffic at the store.
“Everything comes in and out of style,” Greg said. “Right now, the repurposing is big, but for a while, all we could sell was oak furniture. And then all anybody wanted was mahogany.”
These days, the couple is focused on moving inventory in order to transition to their new venture.
This spring, all items were marked down 10 percent. Now, they’re 40 percent off. This Sunday, a bigger sale will be held during Customer Appreciation Day at the Old West Trading Post. The last day of business is set for Oct. 21, and then the couple will begin paring down fixtures from the four-building complex.