By Norm Cannada
SENECA — Inside Kayla’s Hobby, Thrift and Consignment in the shopping center on Walhalla’s East Main Street, there is a treasure of clothes, home furnishings, videos, wall hangings, diapers, stereos, decorations and many other items.
There’s even a heat press where owner Nathan and Kayla Phillips can make T-shirts.
They get many of the items on consignment from local residents and buy other items from flea markets, yard sales, overstocked or returned products or auctions — including a recently acquired glass tube, which Nathan said is his most unusual item.
“I still haven’t figured out what its purpose is,” he said of the tube. “I picked it up at auction just because it was something different. Hopefully, somebody will want it.”
The couple haven’t always been collectors, but have recently made a business out of looking for treasures someone else might want.
“I got into this just getting rid of a few things in the house that we didn’t need anymore, going to a flea market, and just was like, ‘This did a lot better than I thought it would. Let me see what else I can find,’” he said. “I started going to storage auctions and stuff like that, and we started growing our inventory and we started needing larger and larger spots for it.”
In January, the Phillipses moved their business to the storefront at 315 E. Main St. in Walhalla.
“It’s a little bit of everything,” he said. “If you’re looking for something in particular, we’ll find it for you. If we don’t have it in our store or you’re looking for something — a certain coin or something — we’ll get it ordered for you.”
Opening the new business location in January was exciting with customers and consigners coming in. But the COVID-19 pandemic slowed that excitement, as fewer customers visited Kayla’s and other locally owned small businesses. They closed temporarily in early March.
“This was supposed to be a really tremendous opening,” Nathan said. “I mean, we’ve got a lot of money invested into it. And just two months after being opened, it was like, ‘Bam!’”
Kayla’s reopened last week for the first time and is now part of the Neighbors Helping Neighbors program — a partnership with The Journal and residents in the community to help locally owned small businesses promote their specialties as they recover from the economic effects of the coronavirus.
Local people are donating to the program, and The Journal is matching dollar-for-dollar in advertising space to promote the efforts and products of businesses in Oconee County at no cost to the businesses.
Nathan said the pandemic has hurt their store significantly.
“A lot of stuff here, you can’t really sell online without people coming in and seeing it, so it really cut our sales down,” he said. “We didn’t really have anyone bringing in inventory, and the auctions were shut down as well, so getting new inventory became impossible. We’re still not there. It’s been very difficult. Customers still haven’t been coming back in like they were in January and February.”
But he added the Neighbors Helping Neighbors program has given the couple hope things will turn around soon.
“We’re hoping it will get the word out and bring in some new consigners,” Nathan said. “We’re hoping it will bring new customers into the store that will learn about what we’re doing and it will help business in the long run.”
He added that he and Kayla are especially appreciative that local residents are contributing to the program.
“It really gives me a new faith in people that people are trying to help out where they can and giving back to the community that they’re in,” he said.
Nathan said it is important to support locally owned small businesses.
“It’s important to support your community,” he said. “It’s important to support those local small businesses that are bringing in people from all over into the town, that pay sales taxes and all that makes living in our town a better place.”
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