Go Claire

Antique Emporium


PASSOW NOT PASSE: Antique Emporium and Main Street Galleries owner Hugh Passow keeps a collection of treasures you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere in the city. © 2014 Elizabeth Jackson

Story by Elizabeth Jackson, Photography Editor

While Eau Claire may have a couple neat museums — The Paul Bunyan Logging Museum and the Chippewa Valley Museum, both located in Carson Park — by far the most interesting is the “unofficial” museum.

Antique Emporium and Main Street Galleries, located on the corner of Barstow Street and Main Street, is a delightfully strange antique store, akin to a curio shop. It’s three floors of strangeness, old things and a little dust thrown in for good measure. According to owner Hugh Passow, there are approximately 100 taxidermy animals (all bought from estate sales and auctions), which aren’t for sale, in the building, including a hyena, an ostrich and a few other exotic animals

Antique Emporium and Main Street Galleries has been around Eau Claire for 30 years. Passow originally started the business in the same building it’s housed in today with other antique vendors. This is where the business gets its double name. Passow sold his antiques in the Main Street Galleries, and the other vendors sold in the Antique Emporium. But eventually, Passow bought the building and decided to get rid of the other small vendors.

This doesn’t limit the amount of antiques in the building, though. The three floors are packed, and I mean packed, with books, clothing, furniture and a myriad of other things. I found out about the Antique Emporium my freshman year at UW-Eau Claire and find myself wandering around the building once or twice a semester, but I don’t think I’ve seen all that the place has to offer. It might actually take years to look at every antique that is there.

Passow said he is on the road almost half of the year on the quest to buy product for the store. He doesn’t just travel around the Midwest, but also to the East Coast.

While some of the pieces of furniture are probably out of the price range of students, the prices of smaller antiques and books are a little more reasonable. I actually really enjoy sewing, and the Antique Emporium usually has a few interesting vintage patterns (from the 1940s on) for $2.50.

I usually base my opinion of how good an antique store is or isn’t on the eccentricity of its jewelry and clothing. Most antique stores I’ve been in usually fall short on this expectation, but the Antique Emporium has a whole room devoted to vintage clothing — and decent vintage clothing.

And then there are the books. Oh, the books! There are shelves upon shelves of books that take up about a quarter of the second floor (which is huge, if you haven’t gotten that impression already). If you’re at all interested in finding a vintage copy of a nice, classic book, go here. It will be reasonably priced. And for you magazine readers — check out the copies of National Geographic from the 1920s.

All in all, Antique Emporium and Main Street Galleries is an interesting place. If you ever find yourself wandering around Barstow, stop in. And if you do, here’s a challenge: find the mummy.