Times change, the pandemic propels the ancient Emporium of Eau Claire into antiquity


EAU CLAIRE, Wisconsin (WKBT) – Eau Claire’s Antique Emporium will soon become something of an antique, when owners Hugh and Marcella Passow sell it to the Pablo d’Eau Claire group.

The Passows have operated the eclectic business of 306 Main Street, which has provided a museum feel with over 100,000 items, for over 36 years. The couple had been considering the sale for some time, but the COVID-19 pandemic pushed their decision, Hugh said.

“We don’t really want to stop,” said Hugh. “But I’m 69 and the world has changed. The antique trade is not like it used to be. It’s all live now, and I can’t go to an auction and buy big lots to fetch and dig like we did before.

Hugh plans to continue his business on a smaller scale at another location and plans to strengthen his presence in online retail.

The three-story structure was built in 1899 as a Masonic Lodge and has been home to The Antique Emporium since 1985. The building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, has been home to many other businesses, including the Kelly Furniture Co., The Eau Claire dance school and The Main Street Deli.

Hugh observed that he had always liked the idea of ​​a catered style restaurant in the building, but that he trusted the Pablo Group and his vision for the building.

“When I knew it was time to move on, Pablo Group was the first group I thought of because I saw the good things they did in and for the city center Eau Claire, ”said Hugh.

An inventory sale should begin immediately, with many items being sold at a discount. During the holiday season, the store will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Matching items are also available for purchase on eBay and AbeBooks online retail platforms.

Pablo Group co-founder Julia Johnson expressed mixed feelings about the transition.
“We’ve found a lot of treasures at the Ancient Emporium over the years, including the ECDC tip jar,” Johnson said. “It will be sad to see Hugh and his company leave the building, and we hope the next use of the building will be appreciated as well.”

The Pablo Group will renovate and modernize the building, while preserving its historical integrity. CoLab, Eau Claire’s downtown coworking space, will move into the building when renovations are complete, according to the group.

Johnson, Zach Halmstad and Jason Wudi founded the Pablo Group in 2013. Its mission is to improve Eau Claire experiences and opportunities. His projects included renovating The Lismore and The Oxbow hotels and operating the Racy d’Lene Cafe, Nucleus Cafe, Firehouse Bar and CoLab, as well as downtown housing and commercial buildings.

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