Business Profile: Mill Creek Antiques, Paxico, Kan.

PAXICO, Kan. – It’s been more than 38 years since Bud Hund started selling old stoves and lamps at Mill Creek Antiques in Paxico, Kan., and he doesn’t have any intention to stop any time soon.

“You could say that we specialize in stoves – both heating and cook stoves – and lighting, especially liquid lamps,” Hund said. “We started in business with lamps and furniture, and then moved into stoves.”

Mill Creek Antiques has earned a reputation as one of the country’s premier vintage stove purveyors. Hund, a full time employee and two part time workers are kept busy locating, restoring and marketing Victorian and early 20th century cast iron stoves.

The antique shop carries such stoves as those made by Round Oak of Dowagiac, Mich., and Great Western of Leavenworth, Kan.

“Most stove companies were put out of business in the mid-1930s by cheaper heating fuel such as natural gas and propane,” Hund pointed out. “But during their heyday, mostly around the turn of the 20th century, they competed with each other to see who could make the most unique or ornately-decorated model.”

He noted that most of the models were wood-burning stoves, but many also were able to burn coal, which was readily available during the late 1800s and the first half of the 20th century.

“The stoves we have were originally selected to complement the Victorian style homes of that era,” Hund said. “Today they’re still operational and efficient.”

Hund said that many of his customers are looking for a vintage stove to put into a restored home, “especially a stove with a ‘wow’ factor, rather than just a black box in a room.” He tells about one customer who got rid of a brand-new wood-burning stove and replaced it with one of Hund’s vintage ones.

Hund and his crew also restore stoves for individual customers, as well as those that go into the Mill Creek Antiques shop. He’s also done vintage stove restorations for various museums around the country. Hund noted that the shop has between 25 and 30 stoves on the floor for sale at all times.

Mill Creek Antiques is located in a 14,000-square foot building that started life in 1886 as a general store. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Besides the antique shop, the building houses two smaller antique shops, a café and Hund’s workshop. It’s located in a town that has 10 antique stores, three cafés and a population of 200.

Lighting is the other specialty at Mill Creek Antiques.

“We like to sell anything that burns oil,” Hund pointed out. “In fact, we’ve been an Aladdin lamp dealer for 35 years and supply replacement parts for them.”

Besides vintage Aladdin lamps, Mill Creek Antiques also offers examples by Bradley & Hubbard, Meteor and Rayo, among others.

In addition to stoves, Mill Creek Antiques also carries furniture, back bars, and architectural items, such as wrought iron fencing, tin ceilings, doors, windows and stained glass.

The town of Paxico holds several festivals during the year, according to Hund. This year the town will run its inaugural Meatloaf Festival on June 27, which is a cook-off for anyone who wants to enter a meatloaf recipe. It’s a judged event and music and entertainment will be provided.

On Sept. 19 the town will hold its sixth annual Blues Festival where the downtown street is blocked off and Kansas City musicians in 6 bands will entertain. Food and refreshments will be available. In 2008, 5,000 people attended.

On Oct. 10 the town will sponsor a Harvest Festival, a German-type festival with food, music, parades and entertainment.

Hund believes there are many good things happening in the antique business, despite the doom and gloom of the general economy.

“There are some bright spots and I think recent auction prices reflect that,” Hund said. “The auction houses are reporting good attendance and sales. I think the future of antiques looks bright.”

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