Leavenworth Antique Mall New Owners
By Peggy Bair
Expect to see a lot of changes in the coming weeks at the Leavenworth Antique Mall, 505 Delaware St., Leavenworth. Kathleen Wade is the new owner of the shop. Wade purchased the popular mall last month from Alma and Diana “Dee” Barr, who owned the building since 1998. Wade, along with her husband Ric Almack, bring decades of antique experience to the three-story, 9,000 square foot mall that hosts about 90 antique vendors.
Wade’s experience dates to 1975 when she was a teenager working with her parents in Midwest City, Oklahoma.
“My parents had an antique shop so that was my job when I was in high school,” Wade said.
Wade and Almack met in the late 1970s while attending Oklahoma City University. They have been together ever since, working in the estate sale business in the Kansas City area before moving to Lansing seven years ago.
In the 1990s, Wade also obtained a law degree from the University of Missouri at Kansas City, which allowed her to integrate law and personal property appraisal with the couple’s estate sales business. They handled estates for Jackson County Probate division for 13 years and other legal cases for over 25 years. Wade and Almack managed an average of 26 estate sales every year for 32 years.
“We were accredited personal property appraisers with the ISA (International Society of Appraisers). We did it for insurance, divorces, losses and expert witness and things like that,” Wade said. “We did a lot of expert witness for the appraisers.”
The couple has also had vendor booths in antique malls for over 25 years in various spaces throughout the Kansas City metro area.
Several years ago, Wade helped some friends jump start the Happy Rock Antiques in Gladstone, managing it for a year and a half to launch that business. The couple was in the right time and place when the Leavenworth Antique Mall came onto the market this year. The couple took possession at the end of July.
The first changes they implemented upon acquiring the mall was to install an air filtration system for the building and an expanded front checkout counter.
They also opened up the front entry area, which they plan to use for displaying historical information about different items in the store.
“We’re bringing a new life to an existing business,” Wade said. The common entry area is a critical aspect to the changes. “From a retail standpoint, when you walk in, you have 30-45 seconds get your whole viewpoint on that business. Every month (the front display) will be a different theme. There will be an educational board up. One month will be on Depression glass, one will be on American pottery, for instance. It will pull from everybody’s (vendors) booth.”
Each vendor will also have an assigned booth number prominently display for easy navigation throughout the store. The new point of sales system will allow vendors to track their sales on their phones or computers.
The mall’s storefront window displays will continue to be frequently decorated with vendor offerings and seasonal items.
Wade plans to move several of the inside vendor display cases for smaller items, such as jewelry, to the front of the store so that employees have handy access to unlock cases for customers looking to purchase items within those displays. An intercom system will be installed to help customers who are navigating different floors of the building communicate quickly with sales personnel. A new speaker system with music will pipe music throughout the building.
Wade is also adding more antique furniture to the store’s offerings. Wade said they are defining the store offerings as “antique, collectible, vintage, retro and one-of-a-kind” decorator and artisan items.
“We have new vendors coming in,” Wade said. “We have artisans who hand make one-of-a-kind items. We have some vendors who have booths over in Johnson County, in Liberty – who came in and said ‘I want to try it out here.’ A lot of the vendors are painting their booths, decorating their booths – kind of a fresh breath. And Dee (Barr) has said it needed that. Her comment on the last day was that ‘I feel really happy. I made the right choice and I’m really happy the mall’s continuing.’”
Barr will continue to have her existing vendor booths at the mall.
Wade said she is also adding more avenues of internet marketing to the mall. Almack has a background as a catalog product photographer and plans to use that skill as they launch an online sales portal for vendors that will span their reach to a nationwide customer base.
“We’ll have an active Facebook page, Instagram, a webpage with selling for the vendors,” Wade said.
They also said that they are looking forward to networking with other businesses in Leavenworth. They have joined Leavenworth Main Street and will be participating in Alive After Five events as well as other community events. But they also want to make sure they are networking with other businesses.
“We want to have a list of the places that are open and nice to go to eat,” Almack said. “We want to make sure you’re glad you came up here.”
Wade said that being in the antique business isn’t just about putting items on a shelf display. Part of the customer experience Wade wants to provide is history education. They plan to show customers the backstory about how some of the antique items were used in the bygone eras from which they came.
“Education is important to me,” Wade said. “Educating the customer is part of the whole charm.”
Towards that effort, Wade has delved into the history of the building itself. Some older residents of Leavenworth may remember it was the JC Penney’s building, then, later, Bohm’s department store, owned and managed by Fred and Beverly Bohm.
But there are older, deeper stories, Wade said that she has found in her research – stories that appear to involve a dance hall, a dentist, a coffin maker, and a tunnel. Visitors may want to stay tuned for more information at http://www.leavenworthantiquemall.com