Kenton Antiques 2.0 – Uncovered History and the Big Remodel

Kenton Antiques 2.0 – Uncovered History and the Big Remodel

I have been a small business owner for just over 2 years now, and over the past two years I have learned exactly what it means to BE a small business owner. I have learned what it means to put every single ounce of being into an idea; to invest countless time & energy while possessing limited resources and even more limited capital. I’ve learned that daily life as a small business owner is a rounded mix of not just  fear, struggle, and exhaustion, but also joy, laughter and constant optimism.

Over a year ago, I sketched out an idea of what the main room in Kenton Antiques would look like if I had the opportunity to remodel. As someone who works 7 days a week to keep the business active in what we can all agree is a crummy economy, I promptly stuffed the crudely drawn sketch (I never said I was an artist)  in my “wishes and dreams” file, which resides just above the round file known as the trash can.  There it sat until January of this year, when Jessie Burke, owner of Posies Cafe & President of the Kenton Business Association informed us that we had won the Venture Portland Economic Development Grant.  I have known for a long time that I wanted to make a big change but have been mired in the process of scraping together loose change just to get by. I immediately decided that now was the time, and that none of the concerns I had (length of time closed, additional costs, limited funding, etc) were sufficient enough to just not go all in on this dream.

Right Wall at Start of Demo

Day 1 of Remodel

main room, day 1


Personally, I love garages & basements. Every sale I go to, I always try to get into the garage or basement first – these are the  spaces where items are sent to retire. They are also the spaces where the highest concentration of stories reside. From decades of rock collecting, to a secret box of photographs from the war, these spaces are rich with history. Beneath the dust and rust, there is a constant warm glow of a life once lived.

My vision has been to have an interactive space for us to engage with History. I am drawn to items that seem to tell their story in every layer of their surface. Everything that comes to my store has lived at least one, if not several former lives, and they come  imbued with the story of not just where they came from, but of the people that owned and used them.  I wanted a space to curate the History of items, to showcase their unique stories in a way that would allow people the joy I experience at discovering new meaning in an old item.

So, on February 1, 2012 I closed the doors to Kenton Antiques. Since I had never attempted a remodel of this magnitude, I was more than convinced I would be done in 9 days, with money in the bank, and I’d be able to reopen with a good night’s sleep under my belt. Just kidding!

demo nearly complete

In reality, this process involved roughly 20 continual 16+ hour days, a resourcefulness and creativity that I dare MacGyver to match, a metric ton of caffeine, the support and help of  friends & family, many of whom are also small business owners in the Kenton area, and the refusal to give up the dream I’ve been poorly sketching for over a year.  Some highlights:

  • Behind the structure that held the shelving on both sides of the room we found no less than 8 different paint variations/layers that all spoke to the history of this building.
  • Untouched, behind the wainscoting on the right side of the room are the painted outlines of the booths & table top mounted jukeboxes from when this building was a Chinese Restaurant.
  • We built the left wall  using wood, crates, deconstructed furniture and shelving from the shop along with reclaimed lumber from the awesome (Kenton business) Salvage Works.
  • The mural on the right wall was designed, drawn and hand painted by the incredibly talented (and crazy) Perry Pfister, owner of The Tiny Spoon screen printing studio (who also has worked with me on my business cards and a super awesome new set of backing cards for some of my collected photos which will coming out for sale over the next few weeks).

    Hand Drawn & Painted by Perry

  • The wainscoting along the right wall is held in place thanks to B.F. Goodrich’s Industrial Adhesive from the 1930s. Estate sale score, and the only thing that worked!
I will be doing my thank you list on our facebook page, because it deserves to be well known, but suffice it to say that there is no way this EVER would have happened if it had not been for Venture Portland’s support of Portland Business districts, and their commitment to the economic development of small business’ like mine.  Thanks Venture Portland! You can check out their website here:
Additionally, I owe more than I can say to my Dad, who traveled up from California, and spent every day for two weeks working tirelessly to help me achieve my vision- even when he wasn’t quite sure what in the heck I was talking about.

The Dad!

My Dad was able to keep me on track (I’m all big picture and easily distracted and stuff) and motivated to keep going until the very end.  He can also solve any problem with a bottle of Coke and Peanut M&Ms so the coolness factor alone was a huge inspiration. I would have given up too easily without him to tell me to shut up and get back to work- so thanks Pop, I really couldn’t have done it without you.

Please check out our Facebook page for the extended version of thank yous, as well as a complete album of remodel photos that will be added in the next day or two.

I reopen the doors Wednesday 2/22, and will be open every day until the end of the month. Stop by this Friday from 5pm-8pm for the official reopening party – aka when I finally get to relax and have a beer! :) I’d love to talk about what we accomplished, and some of the neat details that we uncovered. I’m also more than happy to talk about my plans for the space now that the remodel is complete, for now. ;P

Right Wall: After

Suffice it to say, I am incredibly proud of what I have been able to achieve in such a short amount of time. It could not have happened without the help and support of a lot of people. I am deeply indebted to the belief  that this new space embodies all of the very best of small business ownership- community spirit & shared passion.

The Final Tally:

Estimated Budget: $1,000 / Actual Budget: ~$1,200 and some change

Estimated Time: 9 days / Actual Time: 21 days

Biggest Expense: Paint accounted for right around $520 of total spent. Insane. But also incredible to look around and see just how much we did with what was left of the budget. Yay for re-purposing items!

While I am completely exhausted, starving, ignoring bills and totally freaking out about how close we are to the 1st (the dreaded day of rent), I believe I made the right choice in going all in.  I’ve been saying this will either make me or break me, but after everything I’ve learned over the past few weeks, I’m starting to realize that in making this dream a tangible reality, I’m leaps and bounds ahead of where I was just a few insane weeks ago. Thanks again to everyone who has shared in this experience with me, and who believed in me and my small business enough to care about the changes we’ve accomplished. Can’t wait to see you here! I’ve tried to fill the space with some pretty special items that each have a story to share. Cheers!

Left Wall: After







One Response to “Kenton Antiques 2.0 – Uncovered History and the Big Remodel”

  1. Mr. Ben says:

    This looks amazing! I cannot wait to get in there and check it out.

    Thanks so much for doing much more than your part to help Kenton become more beautiful, homey, and inviting every day. You’re awesome!

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