Giovanni Gelano drew on his love of history and weapons for the foundation of Old Steel Historical Firearms, a recently opened business at 12 E. Girard Ave., Englewood.
“I was born in Argentina and grew up with a love of history and antique firearms. My grandfather was in the military and my father was a policeman for 40 years so I learned a lot about modern and antique weapons. On top of that I am huge fan of history,” he said. “I decided I wanted to collect, buy and sell antique military firearms but there were many, many restrictions in my home country. So I came to the United States about 20 years ago.”
He said when he moved to the United States he began collecting antique weapons, and he also became fascinated with American history, particularly the time from the Civil War to the modern era.
“I settled in Englewood for a while and that is where I started collecting, buying and selling weapons,” the Centennial resident said. “My collection grew and grew to a point where I decided to make buying and selling weapons and military memorabilia a full-time business.”
A visitor entering the store is greeted by a wide variety of items. There are weapons on the tops of cabinets, rifles standing in racks and there are even guns on the floor. There are glassed-in cabinets of guns ranging from pre-Civil War to World War II and Korea. There are helmets and military caps arrayed for easy viewing, plus there are glass showcases of pistols, knives, swords and bayonets.
There also is a lot of military memorabilia on display including ammo pouches, caps and armbands as well as hat and collar insignias. There also is an area toward the rear of the store that displays and sells modern firearms.
Galeano said he has a federal firearms dealer’s license and he looked for a good location for quite a while to open a shop and finally settled on the Girard Avenue building.
“This is a good spot right off Broadway and Englewood is a good place to do business,” he said. “I decided on this location because a lot is happening in Englewood plus there are a lot of stores selling antiques and that fit in with the items we have for sale.”
“Of course we do a lot of business on the internet,” he said. “I would say about 90 percent of our business is done online.”
He said he will look at anything that is brought to the store that has historical value and will be considered for purchase.
“As a source for purchases, I work with auction companies, estate sales and maybe the biggest source is gun shows,” he said. “Items are always available from every era. There seems to be a collector for items from any era you can mention. Right now there is a lot of interest in World War II and, as you can see, we have a lot of World War II items here in the shop.”
There are a number of machine guns on display. He said some of those weapons are semiautomatic and others are just display items. However, he said in July he will upgrade his license to be able to buy and sell automatic weapons.
“Individuals who want to own automatic weapons are required to obtain a federal license,” he said. “It is a process and it can be done.”
Gelano said he like all military firearms but his personal favorite weapons are the German 90AK, the standard service weapon for German soldiers in World War II, plus he likes swords and knives. But he is always looking for the unusual historic firearms to add to his private collection.
“Guns will not go away. There are people who like to have guns to shoot. But there are also a lot of people who are most focused on the history behind the weapons and military items that interest them. That is why I see doing our shop doing well,” he said. “This space is pretty nice but we have a lot of items in storage so we are hoping to expand our space before too long.”