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‘Specializing in Guns for the Ladies,’ Linda Romero reflects on 37 years of business

The sole proprietor of Frontier Antiques and Collectibles discusses life in her iconic Cheyenne shop

Linda Romero counts change for a customer. (David Dudley)

by David Dudley, WyoFile

CHEYENNE—Linda Romero has a precise routine refined by decades as Frontier Antiques and Collectibles sole proprietor.

She arrives just a few minutes before 10 a.m. to open the shop. She props the front door open, then she works her way through the shelves and furniture, flipping light switches, turning on fans placed strategically around the shop. She turns on the radio — today it’s Prince singing, “You don’t have to be rich to be my girl.”

It was a muggy Monday morning in July, less than a week before Cheyenne Frontier Days kicked off its 127th season. When her first customer of the day entered, Romero led the woman through the shop, pointing to various items — books, dishes and cutlery — on the shelves. Romero paused before a vanity.

“I’ve got this beautiful cherry oak vanity with matching chair,” she said. “I found it at an estate sale. It’s worth $400, easy, but I’ll let you have it for . . . $300.”

The woman wasn’t interested in the vanity. Instead of easing off, Romero leaned into her pitch, offering to sell the shop to the woman.

“I’ll give you the whole thing for . . . $350,000,” Romero said. “That price is a steal for a turnkey business that’s always done good. Look around. Don’t you think I’ve done good?”

The woman nodded and smiled politely. After browsing for a few minutes more, the woman thanked Romero, then left.

After being in business for nearly four decades, Linda Romero imagines retirement. (David Dudley)

She’s always keen to earn a buck, working tirelessly to become the successful businesswoman Romero’s mother said she could be. And Romero had countless ways to do it. Not only does she curate and buy the antiques and collectibles in her shop, she also sets up a hotdog stand out front during the Frontier Days rush. She earns enough money during the busy season, as she calls it, to winter in Las Vegas.

But after 37 years in business, Romero is thinking of what retirement could mean. She could move to Vegas for good, and spend more time playing the slots, one of her favorite pastimes. That would give her more time with Albert, her husband of 63 years, luxuriating in the sun, surrounded by their daughters and grandchildren.

“Wouldn’t that be nice?” Romero mused. Then, she returned to cleaning and arranging items on her shelves.

‘What do you want?’

While Las Vegas, Nevada is Romero’s endgame, her roots are in another Las Vegas — the northern New Mexico railroad town — where she was born and raised. That’s where she met Albert. The two married in 1960 and hit the road to Cheyenne, a city she’d never seen. Albert took a construction job. They had two daughters, and Romero went to work for Pat Flashley, who ran a truck stop on the westside of town.

Flashley taught Romero everything she knows about the business.

“She taught me where, and how, to buy things,” Romero said. “And she taught me that customer service is the most important thing in business. If you’re good with people, you’ll do good. If not, well . . .”

The golden rule of customer service, Romero advises, is to ask people what they want.

“A lot of times, they come in and they’re looking, looking, looking,” Romero said. “They don’t know what they want until you ask them.”

As she finished that thought, a pair of women walked into the shop. After they wandered for a few minutes, Romero approached them.

“Can I help you find anything?” Romero asked.

One of the women was looking for a Saint Michael rosary.

“In Catholic mythology, Saint Michael protects police officers,” the woman explained. “My son just graduated from the police academy. He’s joining the Cheyenne Police Department. He was sworn in today, and I want him to be protected.”

Romero nodded, then led the proud mother to a section stocked with candles and rosaries replete with pictures of various saints.

‘I had to fight’

Visitors are often drawn to the shop after reading the signs plastered to the front of the building. Romero sells furniture, lamps, clothing, hats, depression-era glassware, knives and religious items, according to the signs.

The sign that draws the most interest reads: “Specializing in Guns for the Ladies.” She doesn’t sell firearms anymore but she did for 10 years. 

Romero wasn’t raised around guns, but she fell in love with them while on a hunting trip in 2008.

“I bagged an elk and a deer and I was hooked,” she said.

Shortly after that, she decided to start selling firearms. There was, however, a steep learning curve.

Linda Romero shows off a picture from a 2008 hunting trip. During the trip, Romero bagged an elk and a deer — and she fell in love with guns. Within a year, she began selling them. (David Dudley)

“First, you have to submit to a background check yourself,” Romero said. “Then, they look at your family history, your acquaintances and all that. Then you have to learn to do background checks on other people.”

A blessing in disguise, those background checks gave Romero an out when she encountered someone who she felt shouldn’t have access to a weapon.

“Certain people just shouldn’t have a gun,” Romero said. “But you can’t just tell them that. I could always say that the results of a background check came back, and I couldn’t sell it to them. That made it less confrontational.”

Because she’s a woman, Romero said that some customers — men, mostly — would try to take advantage of what they perceived to be ignorance on her part.

“I’d have a really beautiful pistol for $1,200, and they’d offer $600,” Romero said. “They’d argue with me, saying I didn’t know what I was doing. But I wasn’t going to let them rip me off. I had to learn to be firm. My livelihood depended upon it.”

“And they weren’t all nice,” she added. “I had to fight to build my business. I had to fight to be here. My grandfather told me I could be anything — and I believed him!”

‘Where do you keep the firearms?’

It’s never been all about the money. There’s a thrill in buying and selling, not unlike gambling, Romero said.

“When something catches your eye at a yard sale, or an estate auction, you buy it, hoping that someone will come into the shop and take it home,” Romero said. “I love that challenge.”

Romero rotates items from her shelves to a storage space in the basement. As items sell, she brings things up from the basement to restock the newly empty spaces.

“Everything sells eventually,” she said.

Her customers come from all around the United States, and the world. Romero is a consummate people person who deftly connects with her would-be customers.

One of them, an elderly man, entered the shop a little after noon. When Romero asked if he was looking for anything in particular, the man volunteered that his wife had recently died of cancer.

“Now, I’m all alone,” the man said, placing a can of 7-Up and a $5 bill on the glass display case.

“When you come in here, you’re not alone,” Romero said.

The man smiled, then he toasted Romero on his way out of the shop.

Linda Romero counts change for a man who was recently widowed. (David Dudley)

As the widower exited, a pair of young men entered. Romero greeted them, then asked if she could help them find anything.

“Where do you keep the firearms?” Asked one of the men. He wore a black button-up shirt, jeans and boots. When Romero said she no longer carries firearms, his eyes drifted to the floor.

“I sold guns and ammunition for more than 10 years,” Romero told the man. “My daughters pleaded with me to stop selling guns for years. They feared for my safety. One day, I woke up and decided it was time to move on. I sold all of them.”

Romero said that she had plenty of swords and knives for sale.

“I don’t have much use for swords,” the man said. 

After milling about the shop for a few moments more, he thanked Romero, then left.

‘Till I can’t unlock the door’

For the first time all day, the shop was empty. It was nearly closing time. Romero looked out the front door, reflecting on big sales from recent weeks. A California woman spent $2,400 on rare old hats and diamonds, she said. And a man dropped $1,500 on a lamp fixed to a painted ceramic base shaped like a cowboy.

It’s in those quiet moments, which are rare, that Romero allows herself to feel tired. It’s also when she’s likely to connect with her fellow downtown business owners like Carman Hess, who owns and runs Wyoming Home. 

“I was immediately drawn to Linda, because of how friendly and knowledgeable she was,” Hess said of her first time meeting Romero in 2001.

As a budding entrepreneur, Hess said that she was inspired by Romero’s approach to business.

Linda Romero poses for a portrait during a lull in an otherwise busy day in July 2023. (David Dudley)

“She’s always looking for the next thing that people need,” Hess said. “Whether it’s hotdogs or firearms, she identifies a niche, then jumps in to provide it.”

When Romero decided to stop selling guns, Hess considered buying them.

“I talked with my husband about it, but ultimately decided it wasn’t for me,” she said. “There was just too much new stuff to learn.”

Though Hess didn’t jump into the gun business, she’s still inspired by Romero.

“I think we can all learn something from Linda’s longevity,” Hess said. “When she finally decides to retire, the business community will miss her.”

That day, though still not determined, is closer than it’s ever been. In 2019, Romero used the money from gun sales to buy a house in Las Vegas. She paid in cash.

“That’s my retirement plan,” said Romero, as she turned off the radio. She walked through the shop in silence, turning off fans and lights as she went. Asked when she planned to retire, Romero laughed.

“Why would I do that?” She asked rhetorically. “I love what I do. I’m not gonna retire till I can’t unlock the door.”

This article was originally published by WyoFile and is republished here with permission. WyoFile is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.