From Tea Rooms to Antique Malls and Art Galleries, the Barkers Did it All

Please join me today in welcoming Kathryn Barker to aNewsCafe.com. Kathryn, who also answers to Kate, owns Oregon Street Antique Mall in Redding, a place she has recently sold. But before Oregon Street, Kate and her husband opened a tea room in what is now Woody’s.

(Full disclosure: My twin and I have a booth in the Oregon Street Antique Mall. So much fun!)

I thought we would talk with Kate today about the sale of Oregon Street Antique Mall, but also other endeavors she shared with her husband during their 49 years together. Kate credits “the steadfast love of the Lord” and help from her husband Phil Barker for successfully raising three extraordinary children, now all married to remarkable spouses. As a couple, the Barkers fed cattle in deep snow, doctored cows, horses, chickens, pigs, goats, and sheep, drove a team of horses, made soap, spun wool, opened a tea room and an antique mall, had tea in a ger in Mongolia, viewed the Three Gorges Dam in China, and waved to the Queen of England. She’s taught school, is an avid photographer, loves all things vintage, cannot stop writing and is positively addicted to her grandchildren. Kate says she’s never met a child, a tea, or a baby animal she didn’t love.

Hi, Kate. First, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me here on ANC today about the changes happening at Oregon Street Antique Mall, the store you own and have sold. Full disclosure for our audience: My sister and I have had so much fun with our booth at the Oregon Street Antique Mall, pretty much since the store’s inception. I’ve loved all the other booths, adore the other vendors.

You and Phil started something pretty special, and although I’m sad to see O St. close, I’m happy that you’ll have time to focus on you, and just relaxing and doing exactly what you want. You deserve it!

Second, I hope you were OK with this Instagram photo I posted of you, above, that I borrowed from Facebook. It’s a selfie inside your car on your way to an antique show. I know it’s kind of a wonky angle, but I love how you look in this photo because it’s how I think of you: always with that beautiful smile.

There’s so much to talk about, but before we start chatting about O Street’s ending, I’d love if you could talk about your and Phil’s first introduction to Oregon Street, before the mall. Can you refresh our memory about what’s transpired in that space since you first bought it? Many people will be interested in hearing about the history of that block.

Hi Doni, thanks for asking about our delightful vintage shop. We’ve owned the whole building…which takes up the entire block except for the REU substation for about 13 years. We had invested in Bryan Matthews’ creative concept called “Bry’s Specialty Market” years ago. He was WAY ahead of his time, though, and when that had to close, we acquired the building.

In our travels in Asia tea time became a cherished relaxing time and Phil and I both attended classes in San Francisco to become accredited tea specialists, and decided to open a traditional type tea room in the space where Woody’s is now. At that time the Oregon Street Antique space was occupied by an Oak Furniture store. The tea shop closed, and Tapas Restaurant opened and the Oak Furniture closed. Cayse Casey opened Oregon Street Antique Mall in its present location. After several years, Cayse and her mother, Debbe Salley, decided to move to a new location.

Phil had been part of our family-owned business in Sacramento from the start, and our entire family participated in the ranching business in Surprise Valley. When Phil and I were young and newly married we used to dream of owning a business together. We thought a bookstore or an antique shop would suit us, so when the opportunity to continue the Oregon Street Antique Mall became available, we jumped on it. We’d never done retail, but with the help of our very capable Amanda Smith, we mastered the cash register! Lynn Pinon, who had managed the Oak Furniture place, but who was with Jindra’s Antiques at the time, helped us learn the computer program for antique malls. We had incredible support from this wonderful Redding community and were able to bring the Oregon Street Antique shop from a handful of dealers to more than 50 wonderful vendors!

Thanks, Kate, for sharing that part of your and Phil’s history. I am so sorry that he died. He was an amazing, larger-than-life guy. He’s missed. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for you to carry on and keep running O Street. But you did it. Hats off to you for the courage and strength it took to take on the task of running O Street without Phil.

Kate and Phil Barker were married for 49 years.

Can you talk about the store’s before-and-after operations. And I’m wondering if you and Phil had different management styles?

Phil is missed by everyone. He touched so many lives! The operation of the shop is definitely a two-person, if not more, job. Phil was very organized and good at setting up systems. He handled the financial aspects of the business. He had the foresight to insist I learn how he did things. I was reluctant because numbers are NOT my favorite way to spend time! However, it is a good thing he was adamant that I learn, because it did allow me to carry on after he passed away. I don’t think I really imprinted much of my own style that wasn’t already in place…but I don’t know…maybe so?

Oh, I do think you had a distinct management style: Firm, fun and friendly, like the store’s mother. Really, you’re a natural. And I remember you at the tea shop, a place I loved. I still miss it!

Kate, I’d love to talk about how Oregon Street Antique Mall expanded its scope into the art world in a huge way that still continues. (And another disclosure: My catering partner Chris Carter and I catered the art receptions and art luncheons upstairs because of my artist twin’s connection.) OK, carry on. 🙂

My sweet husband and I always shared a love of art. He took art classes in college and I was an appreciative supporter of him and many artistic family and friends. After we acquired the Oregon St. Antique space we felt part of the upstairs would make a lovely eclectic art gallery. With the help of the inspirational and creative Shelly Shively, wall space and lighting were established and then she and Chuck Prudhomme contacted our amazingly talented local artists to participate in our quarterly art shows at O Street Gallery. Shelly gallantly curated the art gallery for more than a year and a half…it was a colossal undertaking and monumental achievement. Our gallery celebrations, catered by you (Doni Chamberlain) and the delightful Chris Carter, were some of the most outstanding and well-attended events in Redding at the time. We have all missed the art showcasing our amazing local artists and of course, the fun and exuberant parties honoring the artists in Redding! Hopefully, someone will pick up the torch and carry on!

Thank you, Kate. I have to say, I don’t know  when I’ve seen such cooperation and engagement in Redding’s art community as when O St. Gallery was at its peak. Fun times!

So, one of the reasons I wanted to talk with you is that there are many questions circulating about the sale of O Street. For example, one of the rumors is that Bethel Church is the buyer. Can you clarify this for us?

Bethel Church did NOT purchase the building. A young man purchased the building and is working with a group of investors.

OK, another rumor has to do with what the buyers plan to do with the space. Have you heard, and/or are you at liberty to say?

I’m not sure what is happening with the Oregon Street Space. There have been lots of ideas, but nothing has been decided yet, as far as I know.

Something else I’ve heard questioned a lot is that the buyer will buy the entire building. Can you clarify exactly what he’s buying? Woody’s will still carry on, correct?

The buyer did purchase the entire building. Woody’s and the Veteran’s Club will continue as tenets. Yes, Woody’s is definitely an integral part of downtown Redding’s fabulous energy and they will continue to provide great beer and delicious pub food!

That’s good to hear. Woody’s is one of my favorite places, and I’m glad to hear that the sale won’t effect their restaurant.

Subject change, Kate. You’ve put so much heart and soul and time and energy into O’ Street. What are your plans after the sale is final? Something fun, I hope?

Wow… I haven’t really had time to make a lot of plans yet. I’m anxious to devote more time to writing and traveling. I’m excited about a trip to Idaho with my granddaughter for a family reunion and I’m going to New York in July for a writing conference!

Those all sound like great fun. Good for you, Kate.

So, back to Oregon Street Antique Mall. When is the last day of O’ Street’s operation?

With tears…May 31st.

After May 31, when Oregon Street Antique Mall closes, Kate Barker will have more time to spend with her her grandchildren.

Gosh, May 31 will be here before we know it. Well, speaking of tears, I know you’re not alone.  So many vendors and customers are sad, too. I know in my and Shelly’s case, we’ve reduced most of our items’ prices by 50%, because this will be the end of our antique booth days, and we aren’t looking for an another antique mall. It was fun while it lasted. How about the other vendors? What is the range of scenarios for them?

Many of our vendors have found homes in several antique shops here in Redding and Anderson. The Red Door, Memory Lane, Trends Vintage Marketplace and Marigolds in Anderson, to name a few.

I’m relieved that some of the vendors have found new places to move.

Kate, thank you so much for taking the time to chat. And most of all, thank you for the tremendous amount of hard work you invested in Oregon Street Antique Mall. I’ll miss it for so many reasons, mainly the wonderful people and the awesome selection of vintage items, but also, having a booth at the antique mall helped support my thrift store and garage sale addictions. I’ll get over it.

Yes, it will be an adjustment, even though I’m looking forward to more free time. I LOVE vintage, and our family of vendors at Oregon Street, and will miss everyone so very, very much. It’s definitely bittersweet.

Anything else you’d like to say, Kate?

Phil and I were always grateful for this community’s support of small businesses! It seems there is an ever-growing commitment to shop local and shop small businesses. I am so very excited for what is taking place downtown. We were in Sacramento when the decision was made to revive Old Town…we saw first hand the change in the city after the downtown was renovated and brought to life! We invested in downtown Redding hoping a revitalization would take place and change the hopeless attitude to one of positiveness and believing businesses in downtown could be successful. It’s happening! I feel honored to see the energy and confidence of a new vision for downtown Redding being implemented.

Thank you very much, Doni, for taking time to talk with me. You’ve always been an amazing supporter of our downtown!

My pleasure, Kate. I look forward to hearing about whatever fun, creative thing you’ll come with next. Please, let’s stay in touch, OK?

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate. Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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