Standing at 52,000 square feet and advertised as “Denver’s largest antique mall,” Colorado Antique Gallery in Littleton is filled to the brim with unique vintage items for all types of people.
Colorado Antique Gallery is operated by President Chris Rodriguez who took ownership of the business in 2012.
“I have 275 vendors and then we rent space to them on a monthly basis and then I take a commission of all their sales,” Rodriguez said. “So, most of the merchandise in the store is not ours.”
Rodriguez said the store has been operating since 1992. He decided to purchase the store after initially taking a business interest in it.
“This was kind of going to be more like a part time gig (or) an investment run partially because the old owner did run it on a weekend basis but it’s a lot of work, so I just quit my other job and started working here full time,” Rodriguez said.
Along with running the store, Rodriguez said he purchases and sells items, and he likes to collect things such as Star Wars memorabilia, chess boards, bobble heads, uranium glass and vintage furniture.
For Rodriguez, he said the best aspect of operating an antique store is the unknown of daily life.
“Every day is different. Every day is new,” Rodriguez said. “You’re going to run into different people, and this is the type of business that brings out eccentric people and it brings out just people who you may not see on a normal day maybe if you were shopping in a mall.”
From Native American jewelry to specific crystal canoes, Rodriguez said people are looking for all sorts of items and everyday “is not going to be boring.”
“What also is nice is we keep all this stuff from going into the landfill and we give everything a second home so they can use it again,” Rodriguez said. “We like saving stuff.”
Vince Montez, an employee and vendor, has worked at the store for about three years.
Montez describes Colorado Antique Gallery as a place with “a variety of history.”
“What I enjoy (about) working here is to see all the different things that go out and to see what people collect,” Montez said. “It’s so neat to watch what folks collect and their knowledge on different items. It could be pens. It could be a bowl. It could be anything and it’s just so fun to have a conversation with them.”
Rodriguez said he would describe Colorado Antique Gallery as “large, different and fun,” adding that the store has evolved over the last three decades.
“You kind of see different things that have become popular,” Rodriguez said. “The digital age has kind of show people that piece is probably not wanted. It really has brought prices down.”
Rodriguez said he has also seen changes in his customer demographic compared to when he first started running the store.
“It was definitely older people when we first started taking over,” he said. “I think we got a lot of Greatest Generation and Baby Boomer types for sure. But I think (American) Pickers and Storage wars have brought a younger generation to the industry which I think is super cool.”
Currently, Rodriguez said the store has about 13 employees, which fluctuates based on the season.
Rodriguez said prior to taking ownership of the building he owned and operated other businesses much like his wife’s grandfather.
“He bought and sold maybe 40 businesses over his lifetime, and he would always look for businesses for sale in Denver and Colorado for his grandkids to run,” he said.
Rodriguez said his wife’s grandfather showed him the antique store and together they went in on purchasing it.
“It was strictly business and then after we bought it, it turned into like ‘holy cow I like all this stuff,”’ Rodriguez said.
Going forward, Rodriguez said he hopes the store will continue to operate in its current location or he will be able to purchase a new building and expand.
“We have lots of money invested and so we’ll probably do this until we retire and hopefully if the kids are interested in that pass it along to them,” Rodriguez said.
Alexander Bowman, an employee, has worked at the store for about five years and he encourages people to visit the store as it’s a special place.
“You got to come in and see it. It’s an event. It’s a place to go see something you’ve probably never seen before,” Bowman said.
Colorado Antique Market is located at 5501 S. Broadway Unit 135 in Littleton.