Three decades ago, Rick Gottsponer was raising quarter horses in New Mexico when he began trading with Navajos for pottery and rugs.
He and his wife, Julie, began traveling and selling their traded pottery and rugs.
“We just sold the pots and … went and bought more, and slowly, slowly we did little shows here and there,” Julie Gottsponer said.
Eventually, they came to Wichita and set up a booth outside what was then the Farm & Art Market in Old Town. That led to moving into the market in 2001 and opening Sandbar Trading’s first permanent space to sell Native American art.
Then, Old Town developer Rich Vliet approached the Gottsponers about moving into their own storefront. In 2002, they opened at 922 E. Douglas. Today, Sandbar Trading is one of Old Town’s oldest retail businesses.
Julie Gottsponer said having a larger store of their own has changed what they’ve been able to offer.
“We just expanded out into all kinds of different lines once we got the store.”
In 2009, the Gottsponers also briefly opened a store in Santa Fe, where they hope to one day do business again.
Q. How has business been along Douglas?
A. You know, it took quite a while to get traffic, and there’s been quite a few businesses come and go. I think we’re probably the oldest one on the block, but it’s always been good for us. It’s pretty much a destination.
Q. What happened with your business in Santa Fe?
A. We just did that for the summer of 2009, and then we came back here because the economy turned really bad in Santa Fe. We’re always looking to go back. … We just have a love for that area. That’s where we get most of our products. Santa Fe is always kind of the ultimate if you’re in our business.
Q. How has the economy affected your business here?
A. When we started, it was real good, and we kept increasing every year. And then I think it’s been three years since we had an increase. We’re just kind of holding our own. It comes in waves. We never know when we’re going to have business and when we’re not. It’s very unpredictable.
Q. How is Old Town as a retail center?
A. I don’t think retail is really what Old Town is trying to improve on. … I think they mainly want hotels and places for people to live, and they really don’t support retail at all.
It seems like the leases keep going up, but the foot traffic never increases.
I love Old Town. I just like the old buildings and, I don’t know, just the feeling of it down here. I would like to stay in Old Town. … There just needs to be more people down here. Some days you could shoot a cannon down Douglas. There’s just no people out there.
Q. Will you stay?
A. It just depends on what the economy does. If people start buying again. It’s pretty tough, though.
This is the business I love. I learn something new every day in it. I meet really great artists in it. I don’t really see myself doing anything different.