8 Wonders of Kansas commerce

An 8 Wonder of Kansas Commerce

Mill Creek Antiques, Paxico

Address: 109 Newbury Ave., Paxico, KS 66526
Phone: 785.636.5520
Website: www.millcreekantiques.com

Mill Creek Antiques is a finalist for the 8 Wonders of Kansas Commerce because it is the largest stove restoration business in the Midwest and anchored the comeback of Paxico.

Where would you find one of the best stove restoration businesses in the U.S.? In small but mighty Paxico, population 210!

Who would you seek out? Self-taught expert, Steve (Bud) Hund, Jr.!

When a young Kansas man, Steve Hund, a lineal descendant of the German founders of Paxico, rented an old house on Vera Road in Wabaunsee County, in the early 1970's, he found it had no heat. He bought an old Round Oak wood stove for $14.00 and engineered it into the house, and figured out how to stay warm with a wood stove. Thus, the beginning of a love affair and a business that still thrives in Paxico, Mill Creek Antiques & Stove Restoration.

The 1970s were the years of the fuel crisis and friends of Hund's were noticing that he was keeping warm with his old stove. Soon they were asking him to find stoves for them and when he lost his job with the railroad, the business-on-the-side became a full-time.

Today there are always 15 to 20 stoves on the floor that have been restored from rust and breaks, missing parts and abandonment, to now blackened, nickel plated and repaired working stoves. When visitors enter the Mill Creek Antiques stove room, "Wow!" is the word most often heard, as they witness the beautiful pieces from the past, now brought to life again.

Specializing in the restoration of vintage wood and gas heating stoves and cook stoves, business comes from across the nation. The process includes disassembling, resealing, cleaning and polishing, and locating original replacement parts or to cast new pieces as needed. They nickel-plate the trim for the final touch.

They also have an extensive line of antique wood stoves and cook stoves for sale. You can see these beautiful stoves at www.millcreekantiques.com.

The antique store is a great one, too! The collection of American and Victorian antiques reflects thirty-seven years of buying, selling and trading high quality antiques. Strolling through the store will conjure up memories for some and curiosities for others. Naturally rustic with a splash of entrepreneurship has worked well in Mill Street Antiques and other shops in town.

Located 1 mile North off I-70 at Exit 333. Just follow the blacktop into downtown Paxico and you can't miss us!

Source: www.millcreekantiques.com


Article by Marti Attoun, a contributing editor for American Profile.
First appeared: 1/29/2006

Steve Hund Jr. paid $15 for a rusty potbellied stove at an auction in 1971 to heat his drafty farmhouse. That purchase sparked Hund to open a stove restoration shop in Paxico, Kan. (pop. 211), which rekindled business for the entire town.

The thrill and challenge for Hund is transforming the rusty heirlooms that people haul in, often in boxes and missing parts, into beautifully restored stoves that warm hearts as well as homes.

"The stoves remind people of a simpler time," says Hund, 57, surrounded by 40 gleaming cast-iron heating and cooking stoves at Mill Creek Antiques in Paxico. "People remember going into grandma's house and smelling apple pie baking in the woodstove."

More than practical sources of heat, the antique wood-and coal-burning stoves from the 1850s to 1920s are works of art embellished with floral designs and scenes and nickel-plated trim.

Such fanciful adornments, though, weren't the initial attraction for Hund. When he and his wife, Kathryn, were newlyweds, they lived in a fixer-upper farmhouse and needed cheap heat. They were impressed by the efficiency of the stove he bought at an auction, as were friends.

Hund, who worked on the Rock Island Railroad at the time, soon was buying stoves and fixing them up for friends. As his stove collection grew, the then 24-year-old talked a reluctant banker into giving him a $2,500 loan to buy the vacant C.J. Glotzbach General Store in boarded-up downtown Paxico and he used the money to open Mill Creek Antiques in 1973.

Today, Hund restores about 100 stoves a year, including wood-burning cook stoves, and scrambles to keep up with demand from people reclaiming family heirlooms and seeking period furnishings for their Victorian-era homes. Reconditioned stoves sell for $3,000 to $20,000, depending on their rarity and ornamentation.

Hund also restores stoves for museums, including the 1859 Fort Larned military post in Larned, Kan., (pop. 4,236) and President Harry S. Truman's farmhouse in Grandview, Mo. (pop. 24,881).

Restoration involves disassembling the cast-iron stoves, sandblasting them to remove rust, locating or casting new pieces, and nickel-plating the trim for sentimental customers.

"I remember my granddad sitting in the old wicker rocker beside the stove and smoking his pipe," says Enid Crabb, 45, of Council Grove, Kan. (pop. 2,321), who paid Hund $930 to refurbish her great-grandparents' stove. "Granny would pop popcorn on the stove and put sugar on it." Her children are the fifth generation warmed by the stove. "I love the family continuity."

As Hund's sales heated up, so did business in downtown Paxico. Other antique dealers were inspired to buy or lease buildings in the town, which looks more 1906 than 2006 with its brick streets and gingerbread-trimmed storefronts. Today, a dozen antique stores attract thousands of bargain hunters on weekends.

The town's centerpiece is Mill Creek Antiques, housed in an 1886 building with its original fixtures and counters, pressed-tin ceiling and creaky wooden floors. Hund fixed up the basement in the sprawling half-block-long store so townspeople would have a place for music performances and community get-togethers.

"Every little town I've ever seen has one person like Steve who has a vision and is relentless," says Mike Holper, owner of Old Woodman Antiques, who visited Hund two years ago to sell him some furniture and ended up leasing a building in Paxico.

Hund shrugs off praise, but admits that Paxico has undergone a transformation since he began restoring stoves 35 years ago. "I looked down the street one day and it had happened. We didn't have any empty buildings."

Or any cold toes among customers and neighbors sitting around the crackling stoves in downtown Paxico--where Hund keeps the home fires burning.