BUTTE – It’s no secret many Butte and Anaconda residents have an affinity for the past.
Their businesses are often lined with historic photographs, while residents of both towns speak passionately about bringing century-old buildings back to life after years of standing vacant.
But for Robert Lescantz, the old, tossed away, forgotten things of the world have special meaning.
They’ve been a part of a family tradition, dating back to the 1990s when his father, John Lescantz, operated two antique stores in Anaconda.
Following in his fathers’ footsteps, in October Lescantz opened his own antique consignment store with business partner Stephan Kocher.
Journey into the past with Rusted Metal
Rusted Metal antique, home-furnishing and consignment store in Uptown Butte is preserving the past in more ways than one. Robert Lescantz and Stephan Kocher opened the business in October, and the duo says that for every vintage object in their store there is an equally compelling story.
Rusted Metal, 117 W. Galena St., is next door to Lescantz’ already-operating business, Lescantz Restorations, where he provides reupholstery services, restores old cars and uses their parts to make sofas, wall hangings and end tables.
Today the walls of Rusted Metal are filled with curiosities of the past, while the backyard looks like a rehab center for cars, dotted with dilapidated vehicles waiting to be brought back to life.
“I grew up learning how to appropriate things,” said Lescantz.
But holding it all together is the Rusted Metal sign out front, which spells out the store’s name in a rebellious, side-slanted script.
Lescantz and Kocher both said what they like best about the antiques business is the story behind the products that they sell. The duo pointed to a tiger-oak dining-room table, whose owner claimed it had been in her family for generations.
“She said it came up the Missouri River on a steamboat” Lescantz said.
They also highlighted an antique sideboard Kocher inherited from his grandmother, who passed away two years ago.
“Her mother brought it over from Sweden when she came over. So to me it has a history,” said Kocher. “We like furniture that has a story.”
But like many of the objects at the Galena Street store, the Rusted Metal sign also has a story to tell.
Lescantz commissioned the sign to look like his father’s handwriting in a poem he wrote in the 1970s.
Lescantz said he found the poem, along with his journal, in a safety deposit box after John passed away in 2009.
“Rusted metal lay in a field / Forgotten secrets forever sealed / Once a king, a big time boss / Now even to itself, a loss,” the poem begins.
Lescantz described his father as a bit of a renaissance man, a larger-than-life figure who took a four-year road trip after graduating high school in 1968.
“In his younger years I think he kind of did the whole Jack Kerouac thing,” said Lescantz. “He drove all across the country. He stayed in Florida, Alaska; he got thrown in jail a couple of times. His journal is also pretty entertaining.”
In addition to establishing the two Anaconda stores, John was also a car enthusiast who helped start the Lost Creek Raceway with his former wife Jeanne Stone.
Lescantz said he inherited a lot from his father, including an entrepreneurial spirit and knack for picking antiques that will turn a profit. However, he also inherit an appetite for vintage cars.
Lescantz said he and his father often took road trips together looking for cars to restore for the family business, and during those trips John would talk about his adventures.
“He’d always just tell me about people that he met, places they spent (the night).”
According to one story, John spent his birthday in jail not because he was arrested but because it was the only place he and his friends could find to stay the night.
The date was July 20, 1969, when John and the rest of the country saw a man walk on the moon for the first time.
Lescantz first thought of opening his own antique shop a year and a half ago.
“We decided, because I had a history in it and knew somewhat about it through my dad and whatnot, to go big or go home and just open it and do something.”
Stephan said he got interested in the antique and consignment business through Lescantz. They’ve been friends for about seven years, so when Lescantz asked him to take part in the business, he didn’t hesitate.
“Bob inspired me to get involved with it. I’ve always like antiques, old things … I do like the old stuff. I really like some of the cars that Bob’s finished,” said Kocher.
Today Rusted Metal offers consigned goods and crafts, home furnishings and antiques.
Lescantz and Kocher said they tried to select items that would appeal to a range of tastes, including automotive signs for people who want to decorate their “man caves” to turn-of-the-century furniture for those who simply like to surround themselves with objects of the past.
“We want to be able to appeal to a wide audience,” said Kocher. “It’s not just a man cave. And it’s not just your mother’s doilies.”
“Although there are some over there,” said Lescantz.
The duo said people who want to consign their products can rent booth- or shelf-space for about $1 per square foot. Currently five booths are rented, but Lescantz and Kocher have space for 10 more booths.
When asked what in particular appeals to them about the antique business, Lescantz and Kocher said it’s all about renewal.
“(Bob) buys old cars that have been laying and a field for 60 years. People look at them and they’re literally rusted, but he looks at them and he sees a couch,” said Kocher. “(He) has great artistic vision for something like that … he goes to all of these auctions and he buys (cars) for pennies on the dollar and he repurposes them into something more beautiful.”
Plus, the duo said, they enjoy going to estate sales, farm auctions and even other antique stores, where they buy items and turn them around for a profit.
“It’s the American way,” Lescantz said, with a smile.