Strasburg Emporium has a new owner

STRASBURG — What was once the largest antique outlet in the commonwealth now has a new owner, as of late February.

Paul Mott, of Ruckersville, bought the 52,000-square-foot Strasburg Emporium at the tail end of last month for $765,000. Mott, a former chief financial officer for Fisher Auto Parts, said he caught the antique bug when he started collecting items connected with Virginia history, particularly the University of Virginia.

“I have the largest collection of UVA antiques … they’re talking about starting a museum with my collection,” Mott said. “I have books signed by Thomas Jefferson, the founding documents of the university, sports memorabilia, old photos from the 19th century.”

Mott retired from Fisher in 2005 and three years ago he got into the antique business when he established the Ruckersville Gallery, a 30,000-square-foot outlet featuring 95 antique dealers. He said he wanted to merge his business experience with his hobby.

“I was the CFO for 25 years, I did a lot of acquisitions, billions of dollars worth of acquisitions, so I combined my management of properties and running of companies with my antique interest and passion,” Mott said.

Mott said while running an antique outlet and a large company is drastically different, the same principles of business still apply.

“We had 4,000 [locations] at Fisher and were located across the eastern United States, so you can’t be at the counter at every sale in 3,000 locations,” Mott said. “So you have to develop systems to manage, so here we’re doing the same thing.”

Mott added, “Business is business, you got to pay attention to keeping expenses low, attract customers and employees to keep happy.”

There are between 60 to 70 dealers at the Strasburg Emporium, who pay rent to the outlet as well as allow the outlet to collect a little money off the top. Mott said his role as the outlet owner is to foster business for the dealers.

“Largely, I’m a landlord, I don’t go to auction and buy the antiques to sell them,” Mott said. “It’s sort of like a business incubator where you’re supplying space, heat, employees to check out customers at the counter and advertising so someone can successfully run a business and have low overhead.”

Mott said when he first bought the shop some of the dealers were a little “nervous.”

“In any kind of transition, people get nervous, but one by one we meet with people and every day they’re more calm,” Mott said. “This business has been for sale for years and it’s been to auction, so somebody could’ve bought it and turned it into something else.”

Mott said he subscribes to the “Warren Buffet philosophy” of how long to keep an asset, which is forever. He hopes to hand the business down to his children one day and to that end has began investing in infrastructure for the facility, replacing the roof, looking into Wi-fi and getting the word out the business is changing.

“We want people to know there will be improvements every day, but there will still be the same employees, the same dealers and the same quality products,” Mott said.

The biggest challenge facing the antique business, Mott said, is getting younger folks interested in buying items. Antiques just aren’t “cool,” Mott said.

“A lot of younger folks seem to be attracted to ‘vintage’ but not ‘antiques,'” Mott said. “They’re practically the same thing. We just want to get the word out to the younger generation that we have the same goods you can find in a department store, but at a higher quality and half the price.”

In the near future, the outlet will host estate sales, tag sales and coffee and doughnut events. Mott said he “hopes to make Strasburg proud of the emporium again.”

The Strasburg Emporium is located at 160 N. Massanutten St.

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com