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New owners of Eighth Street West want to restore previous inventory of women's fashions

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— Eighth Street West wasn't destined to remain closed for very long.

The women's clothing store at 817 Lincoln Ave. closed last month after 15 years in business. The store reopened last week under new ownership.

Longtime Steamboat locals Leon Rinck and his wife, Bette Vandahl, together with Gary and Loretta Hammerslag have purchased the inventory and fixtures from Vectra Bank. They have signed a new lease with building owner Pam Herz.

"We're going back to what Eighth Street West was before," Rinck promised. He is the owner of Steamboat Treasures and Tees, just a block away from Eighth Street West.

Rinck said he would put his retailing experience to work overseeing the business operations of the store, while Loretta Hammerslag and Bette Vandahl operate the store and oversee the buying.

Rinck said the store has been busy selling existing inventory and the new ownership group is already ordering new merchandise. Still, it could take a couple of months before the new owners can reposition the store in the niche they envision for it, Rinck said.

"It was a real good opportunity. If there wasn't a women's clothing store there, you'd have a void," Rinck said.

Vandahl said she wants to see Eighth Street West regain the customers it had when Herz owned the business.

"We would like to go back to that sort of clientele," Vandahl said. "We will have something for the middle school girl through middle aged women, like Loretta and I. A little less trendy than what the store had most recently, and good quality clothes."

Some of the labels the store intends to carry include French Connection, Chava sweaters and Blue Dot.

Loretta Hammerslag said she has definite plans for the store's inventory.

"We want to bring some affordable clothing back to Steamboat," Hammerslag said.

Vandahl said the store has been busy since quietly reopening. And it made good sense for her and Rinck to acquire an interest in a second retail store. Having two stores allows them to justify more management and keep an accountant busier, she explained.

"We knew we had to open before Christmas, but we didn't expect this," Vandahl said. "We have people coming in who tell us they live in another state but always shop here when they come to Steamboat. I think people were so interested in Eighth Street West, and whether it had reopened, they just came to find out."

Herz started Eighth Street West in 1985. She sold the business to Chris Linn in 1999, but retained ownership of the building.

However, Linn defaulted on her lease this fall and Herz went to court to recover the premises on Oct. 30.

The retail space at Eighth Street West encompasses about 3,500 square feet.

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