Karen Rempel’s summer gig at Krystyna’s Place at 12 Cornelia St.

Krystyna's Place Etsy Logo
Etsy Logo

Sept. 14, 2017 – I worked a part-time job at Krystyna’s Place on Cornelia St. in New York this summer. I wanted to have the experience of doing a regular job, interacting with people, showing up for scheduled shifts. I walked into Krystyna’s Place one Friday night on my way to a wine bar with my friend Heather. I was dressed in an Iris Apfel t-shirt that my friend Dianne got me in Shanghai. This set off a conversation, and by the time I left the store, I’d bought a fantastic beaded belt and agreed to work at the store 2 days a week for 7 weeks while Krystyna was in Europe.

Karen Rempel in fantastic green beaded belt, with Bowie haircut and lightning bolt boots
Fantastic green beaded belt, with Bowie haircut and lightning bolt boots

I have to say this was the most fun job I’ve ever had. I opened and closed, served customers, dressed the windows (and myself!), and created an online store for Krystyna’s Place on Etsy. This entailed creating all the visual and design elements for the store, including a logo and header. I photographed 30 pieces that Krystyna had selected, measured them, wrote descriptions, and fell in love with the clothes!

Karen Rempel in mash-up of vintage necklace, studded cowboy belt from the Calgary stampede, Helmut Lang t-shirt, and black sparkly goth boots from Vaudeville and Trash
Mash-up of vintage necklace, studded cowboy belt from the Calgary stampede, Helmut Lang t-shirt, and black sparkly goth boots from Vaudeville and Trash

When the gig was over I spent half my final paycheck on clothes, shoes, and purses I’d fallen in love with in the store, and then came back again and bought half a dozen of the Etsy items!

Pink and green tea dress from Krystyna's Place Etsy store
Pink and green tea dress from KP Etsy store – ignited street commentary the moment I walked out the door wearing it to a dinner party at Arthur’s a few days later!

The store ambience is fantastic, with old black-and-white movies playing, along with contemporary jazz by a fantastic Polish jazz trio, and of course all the gorgeous vintage clothes. Krystyna is an amazing artist and designer. She paints ceramic animals, like the pig  below, and she painted much of the wall art, furnishings, and rugs in the store. She is truly an inspired genius, with an irrepressible creative flow. Everyone who walked in was amazed and said they loved the store. If you live in New York, check it out at 12 Cornelia St.

Green flying pig adorned with vintage jewellery
Green flying pig adorned with vintage jewellery

During the time I worked there I met many interesting folks from the neighborhood, as well as visitors who wandered into the store on their way to restaurants on the block, including Pearl Oyster Bar, Palma, and Cornelia St. Cafe. One day the LA stylist Sophie Lopez came in and picked up two gorgeous crocheted sweaters (one pink, one yellow) and matching plaid pants. I didn’t know who she was, but found out afterwards. On my last day, one of the store’s neighbors, himself a designer, walked by and admired my window display. He told me he regularly sends pictures of the displays to his friend who is the aforementioned LA stylist!

Final window display at Krystyna's Place
My final window dressing. Model is wearing a print scarf under metallic belt for a cummerbund effect. Beret is adorned with vintage brooch. Both animals are adorned with vintage jewellery, and a green crinoline forms a froth ocean at model’s feet.

One day a rather sketchy woman came in, with bleached hair with 24″ roots, who sniffed constantly. She spent a lot of time looking around the store, trying things on, and chatting. I even asked for her advice about one of the Etsy photos. But when she left, her bag looked a little lumpy, and there was a blank space on the shelf where these white shoes used to be. Dang! A shoplifter. Another time I lost a sale because the payment processing vendor stopped the account in order to force us to call them. They wanted to sell us a payment processing machine. The nerve! So this is New York—unbelievable splendor, and the petty dark side as well. And a lesson for me about keeping an eagle eye on sketchy customers.

These white shoes were stolen by a sketchy, sniffing store patron
These white shoes were stolen by a sketchy, sniffing store patron

Karen Rempel enjoys a rainy day in Chelsea

Sept. 7, 2017 – Yesterday I felt like a real New Yorker. A funny thing happened on the C train. This man sat down next to me, seemingly too close given the amount of space currently available in the car, and I was going to edge away, when he said “Cornelia St.” His face looked familiar, and it turned out it was Robin, the owner of the iconic Cornelia St. Café. He recognized me from when we met during a photo shoot I’d been in on Cornelia St. on Monday. He invited me to go with him to the wine tasting he was on the way to, but of course I was on my way somewhere too—to a much less glamorous osteopath appointment. So he invited me to an upcoming artists’ salon at his cafe instead. What a lovely coincidence to meet him on the train!

And then as I stepped off the train someone called my name, and it was my wonderful friend Sally Sommer, a leading expert on modern dance, who lives in my building, and her brilliant friend Suzanne Carbonneau, a visual arts professor and modern dance artist Paul Taylor‘s biographer.

I came out of the subway feeling very connected to the city, and then saw this wonderful sight:  New Yorkers helping each other!