The best kinds of places are the ones that you come across by accident, when you are driving for five hours to a small, rural town in the middle of upstate New York, where cell phone reception is scarce and the squatted cows on the side of the road tell you that its going to be a rainy week. It is during these monotonous journeys, when your legs are going numb from sitting so long in a cramped Volkswagen, that unexpected, roadside finds are the most refreshing. It was during a trip like this that I came across Aunt Katie’s Attic, along the never-ending stretch of Route 5 in Scotia, New York.
With just a $200 loan and a few left over estate sale pieces, Kate Halasz opened the consignment shop in 1995. After a full year of scrounging for additional items to fill up the shop, she began her search for consignors. To draw more people in to the eclectic joy that is Aunt Katie’s Attic, the store founded an annual outdoor flea market, which it continues to have each year. It is sixteen years later and Aunt Katie’s has just been acknowledged as Metroland Magazine’s (an Albany based publication) “Top Pick for Best Vintage/Antiques.”
From the outside, the shop doesn’t look like much. It is housed in a worn, barn-like building (that I see now only adds to its charm), and with just two cars parked in the front lot it would be easy to drive by it completely. Although the store did not exactly look promising, I am a treasure hunter by nature and decided to give it a try.
The word “attic” caught my eye, from the name on the big sign facing the highway. It said: “Aunt Katie’s Attic: Fun, Funky, Functional.” I have always considered an attic to be a spot for forgotten possessions, where underneath dust and cobwebs there are treasures just waiting to be uncovered. As I approached the door to Aunt Katie’s, I was about to find out just how right that sign truly was.
On the front porch, there were a few bigger pieces of furniture: wooden tables and chairs that would need to be refinished, a retro, white refrigerator that seemed a little unpractical, and some handcrafted shelving units. This was really just a taste of what was to come. I opened the door to the shop, which was kiwi green. I heard the wooden door signs clank as I shut it behind me. One said, “Leave your stress and worries out here!” and that is exactly what I decided to do.
Once inside I was completely overwhelmed by the quality and the quantity of the items positioned all around me. As far as I am concerned there are two types of junk in the world. There is “old sneakers, rusty nails” kind of junk, and then there is Junk, with a capital J. Priceless junk. Objects that get traded in for newer, technologically advanced items. However, most times people don’t know the true value of what they are giving away. I have an eye for this type of Junk; I can find it in almost any location. For me these items are nostalgic and timeless, a flashback to the time of my parents, grandparents, and even my great-grandparents.
This is the kind of Junk that Aunt Katie’s contains. It is a building stuffed from corner to corner, ceiling to floor, with marvelous Junk, every piece smiling at me with a brilliant potential. The potential to be adopted, reused, and most of all re-loved. Like a child, I wanted to pick up each item and feel its warmth in my hands. I saw old Pyrex dishes like the kind my grandma still uses, antique gold lockets, a soup ladle with just the right tilt, vintage cookbooks and dress patterns from the 1930’s, old sewing machines, and even wire birdcages hanging from the ceiling. There were cookie cutters and embroidered aprons, costume jewelry, salt and pepper shakers, and jars of old glass milk beads. A particular favorite was the kit cat clock in bright turquoise that hung on the wall behind the register. Its eyes shifting from left to right, following me as I moved around the store.
As a consignment shop, each section of Aunt Katie’s is dedicated to the items of a particular vendor; I have had particular luck with the collections of Mark. Perhaps one of the best things about Aunt Katie’s is that there is always something new. Vendors are constantly updating and improving their collections. I have found that it is best to go into the shop with no expectations. That is when I come away with the most delightful pieces.
The atmosphere inside of Aunt Katie’s is snug and pleasant, like that of my grandmother’s house. All that is missing are those delicious chocolate jumbo cookies and a warm piece of fudge. The store even has two cats that bring a charm to the shop as they maneuver around even the most fragile items with delicate ease. So, don’t be surprised if as you are making your purchases, one of them brushes up against your leg to say “Hello.” It’s simply part of the experience, an experience that you definitely will not want to miss.
Story and Photos by Claire Schmidt