Sioux Villa Curio offers ‘a lot of crazy things’
In 2005, Matt MacQueen walked into a closed-out, warehouse-like Sioux Villa Curio looking for light fixtures.
He walked out with the keys.
Sioux Villa has a long history in Glenwood Springs, dating back to 1955. Almost anything people can imagine as far as novelty and classic T-shirts, toys and candy is nestled in the shop.
“This is the first store I’ve ever shopped in,” MacQueen said. “I was intrigued by this store when I moved here 29 years ago.”
He said he was shocked when he walked in 10 years ago to see it gutted out. As an owner of rock and mineral stores, MacQueen wanted to find displays and counters for his stores. Though he pioneered the Silver Bead and High Country Gems and Minerals in Glenwood, he never owned a souvenir shop before.
“I just wanted more and more,” he said when he went to Sioux Villa in 2005 to buy fixtures and displays. He said finally, he just asked what everything and the keys would cost.
Long list of ex-owners
Three sets of owners preceded MacQueen in running the shop.
Larry and Beulah Billesbach started the famed local souvenir shop in 1955 and owned it for 10 years.
Following them were John and Connie Gilcrest, who took over in 1966. The Gilcrests owned the shop longer than anyone, selling in 2000 to Tom and Shawna Engle.
MacQueen took over five years later in 2005 from the Engles.
Though he bought without souvenir shop experience, MacQueen said John Gilcrest mentored him.
It took a year to fix up the space after his purchase. MacQueen took inventory from other stores he owned and from what previous owners Tom and Shauna Engle had.
MacQueen built a steady momentum over two to three years to learn the souvenir shop business. He wasn’t dealing with just rocks, minerals and beads anymore.
Although, he said, “We still do rocks. I’ll never get away from that.”
Since owning Sioux Villa, MacQueen has sold his other stores. He said upon buying the place, he knew he could “put it back together.”
From Colorado mugs to plastic poop and Mexican jumping beans, MacQueen packs the store with variety.
Five hundred vendors contribute to the inventory, creating a plethora of products for both young and old.
“We have a lot of crazy things,” MacQueen said.
He attends the Rocky Mountain Mineral Show to supply a selection of earthy and sparkly items. A Navajo woman also contributes to the store’s selection with her handmade jewelry.
The wealth of vendors helps “keep the vibrancy” of the shop and keep things “creative, neat and fun,” MacQueen said.
Of course, he said everything’s always fun around the shop because people who come in are usually on vacation.
Debbi Fadli has worked at Sioux Villa for a year and a half and still can’t seem to stop gushing about her workplace.
“We work really hard, but we have fun,” she said.
Fadli said she loves hearing customers tell her they visited the store when they were young. She said people like to pass down the Sioux Villa experience to other generations while walking down memory lane.
“That’s nice to hear,” Fadli said.
She said the shop is “considered a fun store,” and she doesn’t have a lot of stress while working. As a former employee of the hospitality industry, Fadli said she likes the diversity of people who visit the store.
“I love meeting new people. You’ll see every kind of walk of life come in here,” Fadli said. “There’s a little something for everybody.”
MacQueen said with the increased construction around the area, including the upcoming Grand Avenue bridge replacement, the shop could have some major changes.
Kjell Mitchell, owner of the Glenwood Hot Springs, owns the space Sioux Villa is in, MacQueen said. He said the Hot Springs is “desperate” for parking spaces, so the area could possibly be leveled, leaving the shop in need of a new location.
“They don’t want to see it go,” MacQueen said of the Hot Springs owners’ thoughts of Sioux Villa.
He said they know the history and recollections it brings to Glenwood and its visitors.
“It would be sad” if the building was leveled for parking, MacQueen said, but he understands that parking is an issue. He said he’d be searching for other locations for the shop, hopefully near the bridge to attract pedestrians.
Glenwood has never been more vibrant with tourists than this summer, MacQueen said, which contributes to the need for more space.
“I love this business,” he said. “Honest to goodness, I could do this for the rest of my life, without retiring.”