Bidding on history

The Trail's End Bar on West Broadway finally reached the end of its own trail last week as nostalgic old barflies picked over the remnants of a classic local dive bar.

Trail's End owner Mike Grunow put 155 items from the bar up for auction, including tables, chairs, light fixtures and a host of neon beer signs. The result was what Randy Kearns, co-owner of Gardner's Auction Service, describes as a lively and successful liquidation sale.

"There was some nostalgia there," Kearns says. "A little bit of history...A lot of the old guys showed up just to reminisce about the good old days."

Many of those memories, Kearns found, revolved around the bar's original owner, Sammy Thompson, a car enthusiast and local celebrity who opened the Trail's End back in the 1960s. Thompson's old bumper pool table, in good condition, wasn't the highest selling item in the auction, Kearns says, but it certainly generated more personal interest than the kitchen's meat slicer.

"The guys that were there could remember exactly where it sat in the old bar," Kearns says. "[The Trail's End] seemed like it was probably a pretty cool place."

As historic a drinker's staple as the Trail's End has been, Grunow says he's had a full liquidation in the back of his mind "for a while." Grunow owns the adjacent Osprey Nest Liquor Store, Lounge and Casino as well as Lolo Creek Steakhouse, but has long-standing ideas for improving the Trail's End location.

"We've got some other plans for that property, and we were probably a little behind schedule in what we had planned to do with it because of the economy, but we're kinda moving in that direction," Grunow says, declining to elaborate on those plans. "At this point, [an auction] was just something that was ultimately going to happen anyway."

One piece of the Trail's End legacy continues to generate buyer interest. Kearns fielded several requests during the auction from folks hoping to buy the iconic bar sign facing West Broadway. He told them what Grunow told him: that piece of history ain't for sale.

"It's older than the hills," Grunow says. "It'll take an act of God to get it out of there at this point."

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