Bursting with antique jewelry, collectable pieces of the past and taxidermied animals, Uncommon Objects has been South Congress’ not-so-secret treasure chest for more than a quarter of a century.
But on Oct. 17, the well-known antique shop will move from its iconic home to South Austin on Fortview Road because of rising costs in the South Congress neighborhood. During the last three days at its current location, the store will have a farewell sale, close their doors and take down their sign.
Owner Steve Wiman said that the move is more than a sad goodbye and has created a new opportunity for the store and the loyal following it has garnered over the years.
“We are finding we have lots of fans who are excited to join us at our new location,” Wiman said. “I am amazed at the outpouring of generosity and spirit.”
Wiman, a UT alumnus, said the idea for the store began in the early 1990s, when he was driving to Austin from Dallas at least once every month to set up a booth of similarly unique items at the city garage sale. When he realized Austin felt more like home, he moved to the area and began working at a shop called Artifacts on South Congress Avenue.
Wiman said this is where he found his inspiration.
“People are born with the collecting urge or they are not,” Wiman said. “I have a natural affinity for collecting things, even as a kid picking stuff off the street and keeping it. I feel like I have been lucky to funnel that into a sort of high-functioning hoarder approach to the world.”
Collecting unusual artifacts came naturally, Wiman said, due to his background in art where he helped create the Funk Shelves, collections of unusual objects at the entrance of Chili’s restaurants nationwide. When the owner of Artifacts later decided to move on to other projects, Wiman and his then-business partner took over the store and Uncommon Objects was born.
“We have developed an incredible, loyal set of fans,” Wiman said. “Our fan base is extremely diverse — it is not one particular buyer that has made us what we are. It is lots of different people with lots of different interests.”
Wiman said some of his favorite memories include special visitors, such as celebrities like Rob Reiner and Yoko Ono.
Longtime employee Daniel Schmidt said he believes what makes Uncommon Objects so unique compared to other antique shops is their eclectic merchandise and the way they artfully present it.
“We are a good combination of keeping Austin weird,” Schmidt said. “There was a really amazing, giant set of drawers, I think 57 drawers. That is one of the coolest pieces of furniture we have ever had. We have had a Native American bear claw necklace from the 1930s that was really amazing (and) we have a baboon head right now.”
Lisa Schemanske, an employee-turned-art-dealer over the last decade, said it has been an adventure to work at Uncommon Objects with a group of people who share her passion. She now looks forward to embarking on their upcoming move.
“We are a nimble bunch, and I think it is not going to be exactly the same — it is going to be better,” Schemanske said.
Wiman said the shop has grown to mean a lot to him over the years and has given him an opportunity to practice his lifelong training in the arts. Now he is prepared to see it through in its new home.
“The shop allows me to make a living doing what I love to do,” Wiman said. “It is one long, continuous, ever evolving piece of sculpture because of what sells and what comes in.”