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Used Around Town: Kay’s Korner Experienced Goods

Eden and I walked into Kay’s Korner on Cook Street to be greeted by owner Karin Knowlton, who was busy painting an old piece of furniture. We took a quick tour and were impressed by how many beautiful and unique items there were in such a small space: everything from furniture and décor to a few curios scattered throughout for good measure.

Karin’s family has owned Kay’s Korner for 22 years. She carried on tradition when her mom retired 10 years ago, and told us that even before her family came to operate the store, 3 previous owners also ran it as a second-hand store. With such an extensive history, it is truly a Cook Street Village staple. Karin told us, “There is a real community atmosphere here in Cook Street Village; I wave to about 100 people a day. I just think with the recycling of items and such it makes for kind of a good feeling, someone’s getting good quality used furniture that’s being recycled, not tossed in a dump.”

Kay’s Korner’s inventory comes from a variety of places: garage sales, estate sales, from professional pickers, as well as from the odd phone call from someone downsizing or a person with a friend or relative who has passed away and has left all sorts of items in need of a new home. Karin and her team refurbish much of the furniture themselves if it needs a little sprucing – and every item is labeled with a handmade tag.

It is obvious from the items for sale at Kay’s Korner, the attention to detail and the care with which many of these objects have been brought back to life, Karin and her team are passionate about used goods. When I asked her how she chooses a piece of furniture, a decorative piece, or even a wacky mug, she told me, “I just generally go with what attracts me, I go with what I love and what I like and that seems to work for me. I’m not always looking for the most high-end item or something, it’s just what feels good, what looks good to me.”

Karin’s personalized approach to selection is obviously working very well – that and her keen eye for trends. China is out, teak and Danish modern are in, if you didn’t already know.

Like the other used, thrift, and consignment stores we have visited in this city, it is difficult to draw comparisons between them. Everyone seems to have their own little niche, by location and by what they specialize in selling. But what is Karin’s fool-proof tip for buying used? “Buy what you love”.  An eavesdropping customer added, “And don’t buy anything schmenky”.

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