Atomic Kitten stands out on Commercial Street, its painted blue bricks contrasting sharply against the surrounding dull red buildings. Guarded by a cartoon kitten, the brightly lit showroom beckons from behind the windows. The store, which opened in July, is home to a collection of vintage furniture from the mid-century
Oleniacz compared it to Mad Men and in some ways, it does feel like walking onto the set. If anything, The Atomic Kitten hits on a recent media trend. In addition to Mad Men the store shares certain commonalities with other shows like The Americans or games like Fallout.
It has the look and feel, “Like the house they grew up in,” as Oleniacz describes customers’ reactions.
Oleniacz owns the store with his wife, Jonna. Previously, the couple lived in Hawaii, but found that the island life was
better for vacations and not for living. With Jonna working as a physician’s assistant, the couple needed a place that was good to its medical community. Bellingham thusly became their new home.
Previously, Oleniacz worked with a non-profit organization, but left them in December. After looking around for a new place to work and finding nothing, Jonna suggested opening a mid-century store. After making the decision, it became a rush to prepare the store for its soft opening in July.
The re-touching, or as he calls it, “re-loving” of worn pieces, is done by Oleniacz. While, for the most part, he tries to keep it true to the era, occasionally he upgrades the piece to have a more modern feel to it.
WHAT YOU’LL FIND
If you’re not familiar with the pop-culture surrounding the mid-century, then stepping into The Atomic Kitten is like stepping into a time machine. You might even feel like you’re opening the door to your grandmother’s house.
Well-made furniture that has been re-loved lines the shop from wall to wall. While Oleniacz handles any kind of sprucing up that the wooden pieces might need, upholstered furniture is tended to by a professional. Pieces like those are re-done with textiles from the era whenever possible. The goal, of course, is authenticity.
In one section, lamps in all shapes and sizes line the shelves, dressers, tables and end tables. Period glassware is displayed by color and style. Chairs in different styles and colors surround the pathway that leads to where Oleniacz sits. Behind him, Frank Sinatra or other period musicians croon to the Kitten’s patrons.
“That’s like asking us to pick a favorite cat out of the four we have,” Oleniacz said. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, given all the love that goes into each piece that enters the shop. And like a cat, Oleniacz hopes The Kitten has nine lives.