The newly-rehabbed Horsefeathers building at 346 Connecticut St. has drawn considerable attention since it reopened in June with an upscale restaurant and several food-making companies.
But Horsefeathers Architectural Antiques and Hollywood Hank’s, the West Side building’s past resident, continues to offer its mix of vintage and nostalgic wares in a two-story brick building in Black Rock.
The location, at 37 Chandler St., remains as much of a museum-like attraction – with such unpredictable items as a fiberglass buffalo, classic Coca-Cola machine, gargoyle and barber shop pole – as a place to find antique lighting, doors, windows and other hard-to-find architectural pieces sought by Buffalo homeowners.
“Someone throws them out and we give them life after death. There are a million items, and a million stories,” said Hank Sontag, who owns and operates Horsefeathers with wife Cindy. They’re helped by sons Kurt and Garrett. Another son, Henry, owns the Kennel Club, a dog grooming business on the first floor, and Buffalo Can, which gives away free dog food to people who can’t afford it.
“The craziest thing is,” Sontag added, “I’ve been trying to get out of this business for 20 years and I’m still in it.”
Sontag owned Goody Two Shoes, a high-end clothing store with four locations, for 10 years beginning in 1968. He eventually went into the antique business, opening Hollywood Hank’s in 1989. It merged with Horsefeathers after he bought that business following the death of founder James C. Curran in January 1997.
Besides buying and selling items, he and the family put woodworking, plastering and framing skills to work when necessary to repair and restore items in one of their several workshops on-site.
That can be anything from furniture, architectural items and garden artifacts to mid-century antiques and pop culture memorabilia.
“This is my therapy,” Sontag said, noting he can restore up to 20 pieces on a good day.
Sontag also occasionally partners with Coo Coo U, a mid-century antique furniture business Michael Merisola operates next door at 27 Chandler St.
A walk through Horsefeathers’ 13,000 square feet in the main building reveals everything from old movie posters and circus memorabilia to carousel horses, a vintage puppet theater, a giant crystal chandelier and Kittredge furniture. A room added on after Horsefeathers moved in contains fishing- and hunting-related items, along with restored antique and original boat motors.
A different space that holds antique furniture, including a Tiffany-like lamp, and original sculptures and paintings is adorned with bottles of champagne that add ambience and, sometimes, the bubbly itself.
“We’re the only antique shop with a champagne lounge that I know of,” Sontag laughed.
Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, which will be using some of Horsefeathers’ belongings for its planned January 2014 Buffalo opening on Franklin Street, is one of many restaurants and roadhouses among Sontag’s clientele.
The proprietor grew up several blocks away on Gordon Street, and held a “Neighborhood Appreciation Day” on Sept. 15. He gave out hot dogs, toys, furniture and clothing to residents of the struggling neighborhood.
The inspiration came after he caught two young children stealing inside the store.
“We felt so bad about it, that the same day we decided to have an event for the neighborhood,” Sontag said.
The event raised about $2,000 for several charities, including the Boys Club of St. Francis, Hearts for the Homeless and the Black Rock Riverside Emergency Food Pantry.
“It was such a great feeling to give the stuff away,” Sontag said. “The handshakes, the smiles – it was priceless. It was an honor and a privilege to give back to the neighborhood.”
Horsefeathers is open 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. For an appointment, call 523-8331 or 523-8304.