SALT LAKE CITY — It’s a piece of the old world in the new. But for the owner of one downtown antique store, the march of progress has helped lead her down the path of retirement.
For nearly 20 years, Carmen von Bothmer’s been buying and selling old collectibles at her shop, City Creek Antiques. But she doesn’t just call herself the owner — if you ask her, she’s also called the “entertainer.”
She isn’t just known for her knowledge of the items she sells, although she jokes that “sometimes you have to make up a story.” She’s also known for her dry sense of humor, and spending her days laughing and joking with those who walk through her door.
“Good customers,” she said, speaking of her favorite part of the job. “I mean, there are always some idiots.”
It can be a little tough to tell when von Bothmer’s joking, but she makes sure to let you know with a little laugh after a lengthy pause. Her humor is part of what’s helped draw customers back often enough that she often asks how their families and pets are doing.
Von Bothmer also draws in some who simply stop by to visit and speak German with her. After all, Germany is where she grew up and lived before coming to Utah.
“A bad decision,” she said with a laugh. “Now I’m stuck.”
And although von Bothmer admits she loves it here, she’s seen the city shift.
“It’s changed,” she said. “Not for the better, I think.”
A few years ago, a developer bought this building. Although that could be the cause of concern for many shop owners, von Bothmer said the arrangement has worked well.
“They were always very nice to us and always helpful,” she said. “Didn’t raise the rent, so we cannot complain about that.”
But recently, von Bothmer stood on the corner just down the block from her shop, using her phone to record video as the Tavernacle Social Club was torn down to make way for new construction.
“It’s a matter of time,” she said. “I taped it, and then I said, ‘Oh my God, nope. That’s it.’”
Von Bothmer’s shop is shutting down. Signs out front proclaim “Store Closing” in giant red letters. Christmas Eve is her last day.
“Before they kick me out, I can retire,” she said with a smile.
Although von Bothmer knows of no immediate plans to build something new, cranes loom on the horizon. She says she’s seen businesses moving out or closing down, all to make way for growth.
“There’s nothing to do,” she said. “Tourists are coming and saying ‘Where are all the local shops?’”
While she understands there’s a need for new housing, von Bothmer says a small shop like hers can’t afford the rent in new developments. What she’d like to see is more of a balance, where local stores can still stick around — not just for tourists, but for residents as well.
“Maybe I should run for mayor,” von Bothmer said, before quickly clarifying that she’s joking.
But despite the crying emoji in the window, there are no tears here. Although they won’t be able to stop by and find her behind the counter, the friendships she’s built with her customers will never be up for sale.
“We can play golf,” von Bothmer said. “Or go on a hike. Why not?”
Although not every antique can last forever, and no matter what the future may hold for her block, the memories will stick around for years to come.
“It was a fun, fun time being here, and hopefully see lots of my customers again,” von Bothmer said.