Antiques have always intrigued us, because there’s something thrilling about uncovering something from the past. The “beautifully aged” has migrated from the hands of hardcore pickers and professional collectors to the de facto decor of everyone from young hipsters to families. As a signpost of the evolving West and the popularity of its antiques, Montana’s a great host in which to go digging in the proverbial dirt.
For sheer size and accessibility, this century-old, four story brick building is hard to beat. Still adorned with the original “Montana Hotel” sign, the relic was one of many libationary oases for men working and traveling the Northern Pacific Railroad. The inventory is too numerous and varied to mention, but contributions from 60 area antique dealers keeps stock full, exciting and unique. Open seven days a week.
Though not quite as big as its Missoula counterpart, at 25,000 square-feet, YesterYears is downtown Billings’ hub for the attractively ancient. It’s over 85 vendors make for a comparably-diverse collection. And though the site has an impressive (and mandatory) Western collection, they’ve some of the beautiful, ornate porcelain collectibles indicative of the Victorian-era. Prices are moderate and approachable for the amateur.
The deep, brick red of the building exudes that Western nostalgia of any worthwhile antique shop. The immaculate space collects items not only of Western descent, but also Continental European and New Englander, and a plethora of attractive trinkets for modern or rustic decors. Also available are consignment services for those wishing to value their items, and informative tours for those thirsting for a story to frame the shopping. The higher prices may be off-putting to some, but the quality of items and expertise available more than compensate.
Inhabiting the (former) Oxford Hotel, Mike and Alex Gregory have operated this antique hotspot for nearly 30 years. They’ve amassed a great collection of not just Western, but Montana-specific, relics, including records, contracts, censuses and toys. Treasures pack the shelves, which stretch to the ceiling, still adorned with its original century-old tiles. And the building’s two stories provide enough space to both accommodate a decent inventory and entertain the discerning picker.
One of several small towns on the way west to Missoula, Stevensville is easy to miss, but hard to forget. The town rests beside a gorgeous stretch of two-lane highway, following the Bitterroot Range denoting the Idaho/Montana border. Along a rich corridor for antiques and aged barns, the Creamery is an attractive remnant of the bygone west. In addition to the usual memorabilia, the venue exhibits some intriguing vintage tools, jewelry and old-school motorcycles.
Less a strict antique shop, R&R embodies the epitomic mom-and-pop establishments seemingly disappearing by the day. The store is part antique, part general, part hardware & feed. And it’s this one-stop convenience of a bygone era that fortifies its charm. After all, the allure of antiques is the attached story, the environs, the context. And though R&R doesn’t boast a multi-floor structure, or several thousand square feet, the attractiveness is its quaint, folksy vibe and friendly staff.
As long as one has time to sift through the plethora of gems, Golden Girls is a great place to walk memory lane. At around 10,000 square-feet, with over 40 contributors, the space is full of vintage Western and Victorian items, with unique additions including retro clothing and dining accessories. Aside from the great selection, the down-to-earth and informative staff is one-of-a-kind.