After 25 years in business, Oklahoma City antique mall proprietors look to future

Bill and Denny McConnell, owners of the 23rd Street Antique Mall in Oklahoma City, have been living their dreams for 25 years.
By Steve Gust, For The Oklahoman Published: July 23, 2014
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Although the 23rd Street Antique Mall specializes in past vintage items, its owners continue to bring a sense of vibrancy and newness to the area.

Bill and Denny McConnell are celebrating 25 years in business. They’re delighted with their retail fortunes and look forward to many more years of doing what they love: selling antiques and collectibles.

“Looking back, we can see the hand of God in this,” Bill McConnell said.

Today, about 70 dealers use the 23rd Street Antique Mall to display their wares. It covers a gamut of items, from handcrafted oak furniture to old clocks, clothes, record players and almost any other classic item one can imagine. The displays of each dealer are neat, in order, and the condition of a lot of the merchandise is stunning.

Before their business journey got underway, Bill McConnell worked for a freight company, now out of business. In his heart, he knew his real passion was collecting and admiring antiques, and his wife shared his zeal.

In 1989, the May Antique Mall at 1515 N May came into being. Within six months, Bill and Denny had the opportunity to become managers. They said they were told they would have an opportunity to buy the business and lease the location, if they were successful. That’s exactly what happened.

Six years later, they wanted a place they could own. They found it six blocks away at 3023 NW 23, the former home of Adair’s Tropical Cafeteria. Well-crafted, old items may be in demand, but not so much so with old rundown buildings. There were problems with the roof and a lot of renovation had to be done before it became a first-class retail operation.

Getting a quality structure was only part of the business success model.

Another aspect, perhaps the biggest, was providing a personal touch.

“I don’t know how he (Bill) does it, but he will call people by name who haven’t been in the store for a year,” said Denny McConnell. Some of those customers come from as far away as Japan.

The owners have a servant philosophy and believe they work for each person who comes through the door.

“There’s nothing that bothers me more than when I go in somewhere and I’m not greeted,” Bill McConnell said. “The chances are I probably won’t do business there.”

Perhaps their hands-on approach is why they have a display of readers’ choice awards from publications including The Oklahoman.

Mad money, famous clientele

Over the years, there have been some interesting sales. One came years ago when a three-piece Victorian bedroom set sold.

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