By Laurelle Walsh
Clear your agenda for Saturday morning (April 18): The White Buck Antiques is (re)opening.
Except for a few family heirlooms, the Lester family’s entire inventory of antiques is for sale for the first time, a collection which includes “the biggest display of World War I posters this side of the Mississippi,” according to Carol Lester. The sale will go on at least until next fall, she predicts. Doors will be open seven days a week, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
After Kjell Lester shut the doors of the White Buck Trading Company and Museum last October, the family was faced with what to do with the 50-year antiques collection that filled the museum, as well as countless boxes in the building’s basement.
“It’s hard, but no one in the family wants the stuff,” said John Lester. “I couldn’t see boxing it all up again.”
“We’ve been working every day for two months researching prices,” said Carol. “Some things I can’t find on the Internet, they’re so old.”
“We’re still opening boxes,” said John.
The family collection dates back three generations, started by Carol’s parents, Herb and June Gatewood. “My parents didn’t go to the dump often enough,” laughs Carol. “And then I got the bug.”
Some of the antiques first adorned the walls of H&J Hardware, co-owned by the Lester and Gatewood families from 1966 –1976 at the four-way stop in Winthrop, where the Emporium is today.
“When we bought the hardware store, we bought out a second-hand store in Wenatchee and hung items on the walls [of H&J Hardware],” Carol said. When the families sold the business, all the antiques went into boxes and stayed there until the Lesters’ sons Kjell and Kory opened the White Buck Museum on Riverside Avenue in 1993.
“We had never sold a single antique until the Pickers came,” John said. (The “American Pickers” television show filmed part of an episode at the White Buck in 2012.) “They liked a very large, very old bear trap and wanted to know what we’d take for it,” John continued. “We said $700. They came back and said their appraiser in New York valued it at $6,000. We didn’t know what we had.”
The Lesters ended up selling that bear trap to the Pickers for $3,500. “They were very fair with us. Really great people,” John said.
Over the years the Lesters have tried to return some antiques to their original owners — if they could track them down. In one instance, the museum had a set of chairs that were made in Kentucky in 1828, and were part of the inventory that came from the second-hand store in Wenatchee. The Lesters eventually located members of the Sloan family, who had originally owned the chairs, and “gave them back to the family,” John said.
Now they’re ready to find new homes for the old treasures that were displayed in the White Buck Museum for over 20 years. “We’re hoping that valley people who have supported us over the years can come in and pick out something they’ve liked,” John said.
The White Buck Antiques is located at 241 Riverside Ave. in Winthrop. For more information, call John Lester at (509) 951-0888.