IDAHO FALLS – A few miles outside Idaho Falls, off U.S. Highway 26, is an iconic building with an eye-catching display of inventory and history.
The Country Store Boutique has sold antique items to customers spanning the globe for more than 45 years. You name it, and the Country Store Boutique probably has it. Its inventory includes everything from furniture and old trunks to vinyl records, signs, yard decor and jewelry.
Eric Seneff, owner of the Country Store Boutique, tells EastIdahoNews.com the inventory comes from a vast array of suppliers.
“It comes from all over the world. We have stuff from as far away as India. We have antique things that come from the Orient,” Seneff says.
But most of the items in his store come from pickers within a 300-mile radius of Idaho Falls. Pickers are collectors who buy items from shows, auctions and yard sales. They sell to Seneff for a percentage.
“That’s basically how we make our living. We find something, clean it up and make it look home-ready. There’s not a lot of people who do that anymore,” he said.
Just as interesting as the items inside is the history of the building itself.
The Country Store Boutique was a one-room school house from 1896 to 1936. It sat vacant for many years until the Seneff family bought it in 1972.
“My mother saw the old building was vacant,” he said. “It looked like it was in disarray. She approached the people who owned the property, and it turned out they were happy (to sell it). They agreed on a price and (my mother) purchased it.”
The east side of the store used to be a barn, which was relocated from its original location to where it now sits. The Seneffs added the middle section to connect the barn to the original building.
You could say that running an antique shop is in Seneff’s blood. Collecting antiques and restoring old furniture is something Seneff has enjoyed since he was a little kid growing up in Connecticut.
“We were always around antiques,” he said. “My mother was always an avid collector, especially Indian jewelry, rugs (and other crafts). So it’s something that developed from childhood.”
Restoring old furniture is a service that Seneff says is particularly popular and rewarding.
“Millennials like the painted furniture. They like that distressed look and things that are made out of metal, so we have to change with the times,” Seneff says. “When you find something that looks like it’s ready for the junk heap, and then you restore it, it really gives you a great sense of satisfaction.”
Melanie Seneff, Eric’s wife, is a full partner in the business. She handles the retail side of things, keeping the books and interacting with customers, many of which have become lifelong friends.
“We have some that invite us to dinner. We exchange Christmas cards and birthday gifts. Meeting young people who don’t know anything about antiques but get turned on to the idea and mentoring them through that — I enjoy the good people we meet that come in the store,” Melanie says.
The Seneffs get an even mix of local and out-of-town customers and are proud to include Arnold Schwarzenegger and Henry Winkler among their list of clientele.
Though the Seneffs are proud of the business they’ve worked a lifetime to establish, Eric says the family-run business won’t last forever.
“We have one son, and he’s got his own career. At some point, we’ll probably sell the business. We don’t have anyone to whom we’ve planned to pass it on,” Eric says. “We’re one of the last ma-and-pa operations. There aren’t too many family-run businesses left anymore. We are a true specialty store and try to find things that are unique and one of a kind.”
Country Store Boutique is at 4523 E. Ririe Highway (U.S. 26). It is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. To learn more, visit it on Facebook.