New business specializing in antiques opens in downtown Pocatello

By Rebecca Long Pyper

One way to infuse a home with a bit of soul is to decorate with antique pieces, and that’s precisely the inventory of choice at Black Rail Antiques, 312 E. Center in Pocatello.

“We are specializing in antiques,” said Jeri Lewis, who co-owns the store with business partner Guy Cotroneo. “We do have collectibles also, but we’re trying to stay on that antique trail.”

One way to do that was in selecting the location itself. In December 2014 Black Rail opened in what was formerly The Peoples’ Store, a business run by two generations of the Gasser family. From 1892 to 1962 the store sold dry goods and clothing on the main floor; professional offices were housed upstairs. Today, the Black Rail boasts two stories of antiques, with a few “man’s cave” staples like neon signs thrown in for fun, Lewis said. And lest you assume that the inventory is just castoffs being cycled locally, Lewis said, “Most of our larger furniture right now has come out of the West-coast area.”

The first few months of business have been better than expected for the new store. “We have had an awesome following — we’ve almost been overwhelmed by the amount of people coming in and loving the fact that it’s a true antique store,” Lewis said, and she attributes some of that success to “pretty darn low” prices for antiques.

People also might be drawn to the variety of styles available in the store. Rather than being sticklers to the dictionary definition of antiques being 100 years older or more, Cotroneo said, “We define antiques as more of a general time shift in the way things were produced,” meaning Black Rail shoppers can pick up Victorian, mission, art deco and midcentury pieces at the store. “Some of those are not 100 years ago but do represent a major change in the desired purchases of the public.”

Experts say that mixing new and old pieces creates a collected feel while adding a cozy atmosphere, and according to Lewis, a few specific antiques are in high demand now and can be used in familiar and novel ways in homes today:

Trunks and suitcases. Black Rail is stocked with lots of these, largely because of their versatility. “They become coffee tables, they become bedside tables, they become pet beds, or just a nice trunk for your old quilts and for storage,” Lewis said.

Secretaries. The store has sold a couple secretaries in the last month, and Lewis said customers are reimagining them as an ideal desk — place your laptop on the drop-down leaf while working, then close it up with all your mess behind it when you’re done for the day. The nostalgia factor is rich too; “people love the history behind an old piece,” she said of secretaries, “and that’s what they want in their home.”

Dressers. Gone are the days of dressers being assigned to the bedroom. Nowadays homeowners appoint them as console tables or storage units throughout the house, from family rooms to bathrooms. “We get people coming in measuring so they can maybe drop a sink in the middle of one for their bathroom,” Lewis said.

Even if a finish isn’t quite to your liking, the piece might still be a good option. Although purists might gasp at the thought of painting an antique, it’s one way to freshen up furniture with its best days behind it. “I have a few vendors that really cringe at the though of painting over the really old wood, but sometimes to save a piece, you have to do what you have to do,” Lewis said.

Business partners Jeri Lewis and Guy Cotroneo opened Black Rail Antiques in December 2014.  Trunks are trending right now as homeowners and renters alike use them for stylish storage. Photos by Jenny Losee

Business partners Jeri Lewis and Guy Cotroneo opened Black Rail Antiques in December 2014.
Trunks are trending right now as homeowners and renters alike use them for stylish storage.
Photos by Jenny Losee

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