Jan. 15, 1945 - July 27, 2017
Hank Sontag, an antique dealer who owned Horsefeathers Architectural Antiques and Hollywood Hank's, loved what he did.
Two years ago, he reluctantly signed an agreement with his family promising to retire. He slowly phased out the store – but not the wheeling and dealing.
"We'd get mad at him because he would still buy stuff," said Cindy Sontag, his wife and partner for 41 years. "It was in his blood. He just loved the business."
Mr. Sontag, a man with a hardy laugh and outsized personality, died Thursday at Buffalo General Medical Center. He was 72.
"Hank had so much life in him, and so many people knew him," Cindy Sontag said. "He lived every day to the fullest, or at least tried to. And he always had a story."
Mr. Sontag was born in Black Rock and lived his whole life in Buffalo. He graduated from the University at Buffalo with a bachelor's degree in sociology.
Mr. Sontag's first business was Goody Two Shoes, a high-end clothing store with four locations. He later went into the antique business, opening Hollywood Hank's in 1989. It merged with Horsefeathers after the owner's death.
The emporium's first location, at 346 Connecticut St., was packed with four floors of inventory. The sheer variety – ranging from vintage memorabilia and pop-culture artifacts to mid-century furniture and antiques and hunting and fishing gear – was unparalleled in Buffalo. It was the place to go for that rare circus poster, barbershop pole, Victorian statuary, hard-to-find spindle or billboard from "The Natural."
"Someone throws them out and we give them life after death," Sontag told The News in 2013. "There are a million items, and a million stories."
Horsefeathers later moved to a smaller location at 37 Chandler St. in Black Rock, several blocks from where Mr. Sontag grew up on Gordon Street.
Mr. Sontag also handcrafted and restored industrial furniture – he once called doing so "my therapy" – and provided eclectic decor for businesses that included Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, Frankie Primo's, Colter Bay and Allen Burger Venture in Buffalo, and Balloon's Restaurant & Nightclub in Ellicottville. Many of his wares were used in movie sets.
Mr. Sontag, whose gruff exterior masked his generosity, often went out of his way to help others.
He held a "Neighborhood Appreciation Day" in 2013 after catching two young children stealing in his store, raising $2,000 for charities. In 2015, Mr. Sontag donated 25 percent of the gross income from Horsefeathers' close-out sale for several charities as well.
"Last month we gave a bunch of stuff to Scout Haven," said Kurt Sontag, one of Mr. Sontag's sons. "He said, 'The Boy Scout camp looks empty,' and he brought stuff for decorating. He was really happy doing that."
"He was very generous," Cindy Sontag added. "He loved doing things for people."
Other survivors include two daughters, Lisa Ludwig, and Rachelle Sontag; two sons, Henry Jr., and Garrett; and two sisters, Arlene and Patricia.
Services were held at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at St. Louis Catholic Church, Main Street. Burial will be in Forest Lawn.