White Hart Gallery closes doors Wednesday on Lincoln Avenue after 30 years in business
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The doors of the White Hart Gallery were still open at 7 p.m. Tuesday night as longtime owners Cindy Arnis and her mother, Irene Nelson, worked inside.
“It’s been interesting,” Arnis said of her customers’ reactions when they learned that the store was closing after 30 years. “People are really devastated that we’re leaving.”
When the downtown furniture business, located at 843 Lincoln Ave., closes its doors for the final time Wednesday evening, it will mark the end of its three-decade run. It began selling Southwestern home furnishings in the late 1980s.
The women say they are not going to miss the long hours or the ins and outs of doing business in a ski resort town. They would, however, miss the people who have walked through their doors throughout the years.
“Oh gosh, you know it’s such a pain in the butt to go to work all the time and always be working,” said Nelson, 84. “But when you’re in here you always have interesting people coming into the store. You run into people that are really fascinating and you establish a friendship with them.”
Arnis said the business over years has served locals, but also developed a strong following among second-homeowners and visitors who have discovered the store’s unique items and perfect pieces of furniture.
The store had a Southwestern feel when it first opened at its initial location, just a few doors
“They ruined (Southwestern art) by commercializing it,” Nelson said. “It wasn’t fun anymore because you saw howling coyotes in every furniture advertisement.”
At the time, Nelson did interior design work and she started bringing in more furniture. The store kind of evolved.
The business rolled through the 1990s and into the 2000s carrying the work of many original and local artists. Arnis said the challenges brought on by the 2008 recession, and then the surge in popularity of internet shopping, impacted the business.
“We’ve had to cut back on our place just since the recession. We used to have a lot more employees and a lot more merchandise,” Arnis said. “I think it is just so easy to order online, and that has definitely taken a toll on retail. We’ve noticed a big drop off since the internet, and we’ve definitely noticed since the internet has taken over.”
Though, both Arnis and Nelson said they have had a good run in Steamboat and will hold onto the memories of the good times while celebrating the success they enjoyed.
On Tuesday, Arnis just wanted to say “thank you” for all the years.
“We are just really thankful for our customers, and we’re so thankful for all the support we got over the years,” Arnis said. “There are no bad feelings in any way; there is just a matter of like, ‘It was awesome, but now it’s time to time for it to come to an end.'”
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