PUNXSUTAWNEY — When they looked for a new spot to sell their antiques, Katrina Horner and her husband, Andy, found one so perfect that they brought about 30 other vendors with them.
That’s because the building wasn’t just a small, hole-in-the-wall storefront. It was an 80,000-square foot warehouse with about half of that space available for them to use.
Katrina Horner credits Mike DeFelice, who owns the property, with stepping in when they needed a new place, calling him “her hero” for offering it for their business.
Seizing the unique opportunity, the Horners transformed their portion of the brick building — which, in the 1800s, housed a silk mill — into a veritable antique mall. They turned the storage spaces into individual booths where vendors can sell everything from penny candy to antique furniture.
The Nomadic Trading Company — the Warehouse, at 400 N. Walnut Street, held a soft opening for family and friends earlier this month. Another opening for Facebook friends and others was Friday. From now on, the Warehouse will be open to the public every Friday from 4 to 9 p.m.
The response, Katrina Horner said, has been very good. About 1,000 people attended the first opening event. She credits her vendors for taking a chance with the new endeavor.
“We have such an allegiance to our vendors,” she said. “It’s a leap of faith for them to come in and support you in transforming a dirty warehouse.”
Those vendors feature a wide variety of items.
Furniture made from reclaimed wood. Children’s clothing made from vintage fabric. Gluten free and organic foods. Jewelry made of old silverware. Pizza from hometown favorite Laska’s restaurant. Knitted hats, clothes and accessories made from alpaca wool. These are just a fraction of what the vendors sell.
And there is more interest. According to Horner, she has received “request after request” from others looking to set up shop there.
The operation looks to complement, rather than compete with, other antique and resale businesses in the area, she said.
“It’s important for us to not take away from people in the community,” she said. “We want to bring in something. There’s enough business around for everyone.”
Among the vendors, she said, she tries to foster a strong sense of support and doesn’t book sellers whose wares are too similar. She finds that a camaraderie has already developed among those selling at the Warehouse.
“It’s a little community inside of a community,” she said.
Vendors come from all around western Pennsylvania. Many are those Horner and her husband met through their previous antiques shop.
The couple, both in their thirties, have been involved with antiques for a number of years. They also hold full-time jobs.
The two love what Horner calls the “blue collar” feel of the space. It’s a feel that was earned honestly.
For countless years after its life as a silk mill, it housed a number of factories. Even now, Horner said, customers that come through remark on how they worked in a certain spot for decades when the building housed one factory or another.
She and her husband are even considering making plaques or markers to point out where people worked.
The space itself seems to reflect a repurposed sensibility, right down to the hardwood floors worn down by years of factory foot traffic.
That sensibility seems to align well with the couple’s new venture.
“For us,” Horner said, “it’s about saving things that otherwise maybe wouldn’t have been saved.”