By William Thompson
It’s called Uncle Sam’s Wild West Trading Post, and it owes it’s “wildness” to owner Steven Benavidez.
Benavidez has operated the second-hand store seven days a week at the corner of South Seventh Street and West Route 66 Boulevard for the past four months. He said he’s trying to create more than a store where customers can buy, sell or trade.
“I’ve got a wood shop here where anybody can come in and make items to sell in the store at a commission,” Benavidez said. “I’ve also got some welding equipment for anybody who wants to weld. I want this place to be a gathering place for the community.”
Benavidez rents space for $5 per day in the large lot in front of the store for people wanting to sell a variety of items — kind of a makeshift flea market.
There’s also a “community garden” in front of the store. Benavidez’ wife, Jeanne, explained.
“People can plant small gardens here,” she said. “Many people don’t have room to plant gardens at home. We’re also trying to get a co-op started where we can buy large quantities of food staples for co-op members.”
Steven Benavidez already has a name for the future co-op if it materializes. He calls it the IWBHT co-op, or “I Want Better For My Hometown” co-op.
Benavidez said he’s been selling second-hand items for more than 40 years. On Friday morning he was trying to sell a chainsaw to Mauricio Urquiz who stopped in to look around.
Urquiz asked about a lawn mower for sale in front of the store.
“It’s not starting right now,” Benavidez told Urquiz, “but it’s only 10 bucks. Take it home. Take the carburetor out and clean it up and it will fire right up.”
Urquiz said the reason he came to the store was to look for a dresser.
Inside the store, a variety of items, from stereo equipment to china sets, are on display.
Benavidez pointed to a couple of sugar and flour canisters inside the store.
“If somebody said they really needed those, I’d sell them for a buck,” he said. “The point is not to make a lot of money, but to keep people coming back. In this business quick sales are important.”