Step into Another Era--The Atomic Kitten

The Atomic Kitten

Owners: Paul and Jonna Olenaicz

Why Bellingham? "My wife's job is what brought us here. [Why open Atomic Kitten here] Nobody was doing it, it's unique and not another hair salon, bar, or restaurant. Hopefully it brings business not only to Commercial Street but to other vintage stores." 

What is your favorite shop downtown? "Aladdin's and Penny Lane Antique Mall. They both have some good midcentury furniture that comes through the door."

Midcentury modern, Hollywood regency, glam, glitz, and retro. As you walk into The Atomic Kitten furniture store, an air reminiscent of the Rat Pack movie days envelops the space. A minimalist design contrasted with rich metallics, shiny lacquer finishes and ornate trims give this style its vigor and appeal. 

Owner Paul Olenaicz has always been a fan of all things vintage. His father worked as an art teacher and cultivated his love for both art and antiques. As a transplant of the East Coast, Paul was formerly a professional in the fast-paced advertising industry. After moving into nonprofit work the last 12 years and bouncing from Spokane to Hawaii, his wife and fellow Atomic Kitten owner Jonna found an opportunity in Bellingham.

Appropriate to their love for vintage, Paul and Jonna both enjoy classic Italian Vespa scooters. They found a scooter-riding club called the S.O.Bs (Scooters of Bellingham), and sealed their decision to make the move here.

While Jonna took a position as a physician's assistant at Mount Baker Imaging, Paul brought his branding skills to serve as development director for Cascade Connections, a nonprofit that provides services for people with disabilities. After a satisfying two years of building the organization, Paul now devotes himself full-time to his passion. 

The Atomic Kitten opened last month with a mission to bring the hipness of midcentury art and furniture to Bellingham. Much of their inspiration and business advice come from the owners of The Fab Pad, a similar vintage store in Richmond, BC.

In preparation for their showroom, Paul and Jonna spent their free time hunting through estate sales, Craigslist, Goodwill, and Value Village looking for projects. Once they've found them, items are refinished and sometimes reupholstered in vintage old stock fabrics. 

"I love clocks, furniture, funky lamps," Paul said. "But I'm not a very good picker on the china side. Jonna has a good eye for small items, what I call 'the smalls.'"

When describing the store, Paul said it gives the feel like you're walking into someone's living room. "People walk in here and say, 'this is like the house I grew up in,' or 'this is like my grandparent's house,'" he said. Paul responds jokingly, "Well, your grandparents must be pretty cool."

He admires the style as a time when furniture was well made, and hopes to appeal to customers with the same values that coincided with this era. "It was a different time, and in many ways a more stable time," he said. "It's another period that's in the hearts of a lot of people." 

Whether your love is for Danish teak, Lucite glassware, or vintage eclipse china, Paul and Jonna aim to fill their store with something for everyone to "live midcentury."

Head to 1305 Commercial Street to check out their latest showroom additions.

Today's post was written by marketing intern Ashley Conradi.