ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
She grew up in Marion and always loved Central Park in the downtown area. The light filtering through the mature trees and dappling the green grass reminded her of its sister park in New York City.
Kay Navrat has recently returned from living in the southwest to resettle in her hometown of Marion. With partner Fred Housman, she will soon open Central Park Antiques and Furniture-at Main and Fourth streets-just a block from the nostalgic park of her youth.
“It’s a retirement business,” Kay said. “People have told us, ‘We’re so glad you’re here. We need another store in town.'”
In addition to selling antique furniture, primitives, used furniture and antique collectibles, the couple will offer an area golf shop. Fred’s sign, “The Golf Shop,” will let golf enthusiasts and pros know where to come for golf-club repairs and custom-made clubs.
“Not everybody fits the standard golf club, and not everybody fits the standard shaft,” Fred said. “I can make any club anybody wants.”
Plans are underway to have the dual shop ready to open before Chingawassa Days-the Marion summer festival scheduled for the weekend of June 4.
“It’s going to be somewhere in that week,” Kay said. “We’ve got all the stuff in here but now, we have to go over it and fix some pieces up and clean it all. There’s a lot to do.”
Kay graduated from Marion High School in 1956. She moved away to go to college and graduated from Kansas State University in education. She went on to earn her masters in social work from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Fred graduated from the University of Houston with a major in business. His business acumen led him to eventually work for the past 30 years as a real-estate broker in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He officially retired from real estate in December but still has connections with two builders in that area when they need his help.
Kay moved to Santa Fe about 14 years ago and eventually met Fred. For eight years, her career there has included social-work consulting with State Adult Protective Services, an occupation that allowed her to travel extensively around certain areas of the state.
After her regular working hours, she visited the antique shops in the various counties and accumulated personal treasures that may eventually show up for sale in her Marion antique store.
The couple have six children and 11 grandchildren between them.
“They’re extremely important to us,” Kay said. “Family’s been a priority, and we both love to travel. So we’ll have (the store) open as much as we can, but we’ll put signs up that say either gone on vacation or gone to visit grandkids.”
Kay’s mother, Veva Navrat of Marion, is in her 90s. Kay retired and started spending more time in the area about two years ago, when her mother became ill and needed her help.
“I’d go back to Santa Fe once a month or every six weeks, and stay a few days and then come back,” Kay said.
“Then, after eight or nine months, there was an opening at St. Luke Living Center, which she took last May. I felt like I needed to be here with her so she could have somebody here in town.”
When he retired, Fred told Kay he was ready to make a permanent move to Marion.
“Marion has a lot going for it,” Kay said. “It’s personable, a small town, and we know people.”
Fred’s enthusiasm for the area bubbles over like the fountains in Central Park. “I’m glad we’re back to a small town,” he said. “I love to fish, I love to golf. I love it here, I love it.”
The leased building on Main Street used to be home to an early 1900s grocery store and has gone through several transformations since then. The couple didn’t have to undertake any extensive remodeling, except to put up rustic 2-by-4 rails to hang pictures along two long walls.
Tentative hours for business will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, and closed Sunday and Monday. But those planning to make a special trip to the store should call ahead at 620-382-3220 in case the hours change after opening in June.
Marion High School art teacher Jim Versch has painted the store sign on the front window.
“We’re using the three-prong lights that are still on the bridge by the park,” Kay said. “He’s using that for our logo, and he thought that would be a nice recollection that associates us with Central Park.”
When the store opens, browsers and buyers will find primitives antique furniture such as dressers, tables and chairs, pie safes, rockers, quilt racks and book cases. Furniture will range from the early 1900s to the present.
“I think, with Tabor College and people coming to town to live in apartments wanting pieces of furniture, there could be a market” for good used furniture, Kay said.
Her antiques and collectibles will include hand-made quilts and embroidered items.
“I love afghans and embroidery things that anyone has hand done,” Kay said. “That’s just a treasure.”
She plans to sell glassware and hand-painted dishware.
“I have quite a few pieces of lavender glass,” Kay said. “It’s glassware from before 1915. Some people collect that, and I had a collection, so we’ll sell some of that.”
In the past, she collected antique jewelry. “I got into estate jewelry,” Kay said.
“Then, when I moved out to Santa Fe in the 1990s, I got much more interested in the Southwest jewelry. I’m going to have a case (here) and put some of that in and maybe a few estate pieces. So there’ll be a little bit of jewelry, but I’m not a jewelry store.”
As furniture and collectibles sell, Kay plans to restock by going to estate sales and auctions. She will also consider purchasing pieces from individuals if the items are appropriate for her clientele.
“I’ve had numerous people in Marion ask me already if I’ll take consignment pieces,” Kay said. “Depending on the piece, I will.”
For the past five years, Fred has been repairing and making golf clubs. Just recently, he completed an advanced club-making course at Golfsmith’s Teaching Academy in Austin, Texas, where he earned his certification at the fitting and repair school there.
“I’ll make and repair golf clubs of all kinds,” Fred said. “The key to it is I can make them as good or a better set of clubs than they can get off the rack-a whole lot cheaper.”
An area in the store contains Fred’s tools, and another space has been earmarked for customers to custom fit their swing to their clubs. “People tell me it improves their golf game,” Fred said about custom clubs.
He plans to visit area golf courses to hand out his business cards and talk to area golf-team coaches to see if can help.
“You should see these kids play,” Fred said. “Who wouldn’t want to come in here and help them? I’ll do anything for kids.”