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Where celebrities shop for buffalo skulls

Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyBattle Mountain Trading Post owner Bill Reis looks at a view that he has enjoyed for the past 30 years Wednesday in Minturn. After 30 years in business Reis has decided to close the antique store.
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MINTURN ” There’s a stuffed bear, a Navajo blanket, a chandelier made of antlers, an Indian headdress, a gas pump and a 1931 Model-AA Ford.

That’s just the beginning. There are old license plates, antique coffee cans, a painting of a Revolutionary general, a buffalo’s skull, a jukebox and a huge, ornately carved buffet that costs $27,000.

In the middle of all this is Bill Reis, the handlebar-mustachioed proprietor of the eclectic mix of antiques that ranges from taxidermy to cowboy and Indians-themed.



The Battle Mountain Trading Post has been a fixture in Minturn for 30 years, but Reis is set to close his doors in the next few weeks.

“I always thought, ‘I’m going to grow old sitting on that front porch out there during the summer,'” Reis said. “But it wears on you after a while.”



He’s ready to do other things ” travel and work on the burl wood furniture that was his first trade before he got into the antiques business.

The California native came to Vail in the ’70s to make burl wood furniture, but later started the Battle Mountain Trading Post in an old gas station in Minturn.

He began to acquire antiques from all over ” from collectors, from auctions, from old ranchers, on road trips. Lots of second-home owners became devoted customers.



There was, for one, President Ford. Reis helped the president restore some antiques.

“He was an average guy,” Reis said. “Just a gracious man.”

Reis still has a letter from the Fords with a handwritten addendum from the president: “P.S. I tried to call you before you left but missed.”

He’s encountered other celebrities, too. The Morita family, founders of Sony, once bought truckloads of Western memorabilia to decorate a theme park in Japan.

And a pre-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger, looking for a unique pool table, bought one with cast-iron legs from Reis in the early ’90s for $55,000.

But now the Internet is cutting into business, Reis said. People used to stop and shop after they ski, and now it seems they just head home, he said.

“I think the Internet really has made a big difference,” he said.

Reis is trying to sell all his inventory at sale prices. The store’s building is up for sale.

Jolene Welch of Fruita, who bought a cribbage board shaped like a fish Wednesday, said she was sad to see store close, even if she was visiting for the first time. The store’s signature antler sculpture caught her eye as she drove past.

“They’re going to have to go a long ways to get all the goodies he has here,” he said. “And he has a lot of goodies here.”

And what was Reis’ biggest-ticket sale ever? He sold a bi-plane to a California man. The price was $125,000.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.


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