La Verne Magazine
"La Verne's Small-Town Businesses"
Treasures From Grandmother's Attic
by Erin Grycel
photography by Summer Herndon
Huddled amongst the orange trees and the remnants of the former chicken
ranch that used to reside on the land are the employees of Ken's Olden Antiques.
Ken (second from right) works alongside his mother Ann and his sons Dustin
(far left) and Kenny (far right).
The former chicken ranch on White Avenue appears to be abandoned and
almost lifeless. Creaking in the wind, a sign states "We sell, buy,
or trade antique furniture." The long gravel path, along with rickety
antique furniture and looming cobwebs, evokes images of Boo Radley peering
through a broken window at onlookers.
But step inside. The once ominous atmosphere is transposed into a feeling
of warmth as Ken Ruppert, owner of Ken's Olden Oddities Antique Store, welcomes
the customer over the Righteous Brothers, which bellows from a radio atop
an old armoire in the store.
A seller of antiques for more than 30 years, Rupert relies on his merchandise,
customers, advertising and pricing "through years of experience."
The prices of the antiques vary according to each specific purchase. A vintage
chest of drawers can range from $100 to $200 depending on "the type
of wood and level of restoration," says Ruppert.
"I do not think that [furniture] books and price guides really
mean that much," he says. "I know what something will sell for
and what people want."
The store focuses its efforts on items from the 1920s and the turn of
the century. Ruppert explains that his store concentrates on all items from
the time period, not just collectibles. "Some stores might just specialize
in hot wheels, but those are something to collect, not antiques."
Betty Kalousek, owner of Generations, an antique store on D Street,
claims, "Ken has larger items. He has complete furniture sets, and
he will repair and finish them."
Just like the old dentist chair, pot belly stove and rustic flour sifter,
Ruppert has a unique past and an important purpose to contribute to his
community. "It is not that I always wanted to be in the antique business;
it was my way of life," says Ruppert.
Growing up on an orange grove in La Verne, Ruppert was surrounded with
old farm tools and barns. "All year around I worked on the groves and
was surrounded with old stuff," he says. "I just began to like
"The biggest start was when I began collecting old turn of the
century antique bottles when I was 12 years old," says Ruppert. "My
dad would take me to the Pomona Swap Meet so I could sell the bottles."
From that point on, Ruppert has been involved in the antique business.
"I worked at grocery stores and various other jobs, but I always had
my antique shop." He began renting an antique shop in Pomona in 1964,
and moved to La Verne 18 years ago.
He claims the difference between an ordinary business and his antique
store is the profit and personal satisfaction. "I never expected it
to be a killing, but I have made a living," he claims.
There is another advantage, Ruppert adds, to owning an antique store.
"I was actually able to enjoy my children. I would close my shop and
go watch my son's baseball game. I couldn't do that in a regular job."
Kelly Rico, long-time customer of the store, says, "Ken is very
helpful, but he is not pushy. He knows what to do, how to do it and saves
Although Ruppert's store is "a one man show," and he has odd
store hours, he affirms, "I need the time to treat the customers [individually]
so I can meet their needs and make them happy." His philosophy on maintaining
a successful business is: "If you give good service and don't misrepresent
what you sell, you can't go wrong."
Kalousek describes Ruppert as a person who "marches to the tune
of his own drummer." Ruppert's ability to divert from the routine way
of life is, in essence, the core of his many contributions to the community.
"I have teachers come in here and borrow things for Gold Rush Days,
turn of the century cooking utensils and other items," he declares.
"I never worry about them breaking; I think the children can learn
more from the antiques."
Hanging on the wall, there is an award from the La Verne Police Department,
thanking Ruppert for his generous support. Even though he has helped many
members of the community, Ruppert says, "I am more of a quiet person.
I am content with my business, and I enjoy my work."
Ruppert says many changes have taken place within the last 15 years
in the antique business. Store owners currently prefer to have a communal
setting, centered around antiques as opposed to individual locations.
"I used to make antique maps of all the stores around the vicinity
of La Verne, Claremont and Pomona for antiques," he says. "The
stores were all single dwellings."
Presently, he owns the only antique store around La Verne "that
stands alone instead of turning to an antique center." He adds, "There
is no personal contact when dealers turn to antique malls."
When Ruppert bought the property, the former chicken ranch was disintegrating.
When he restored the roof, Ruppert built wooden beams, which hang from the
ceiling, to display chairs and various lights.
Hidden in the back of the store lies an orange crate made by the city
of La Verne; it is a sentimental antique that he refuses to sell."It
reminds me of the orange groves," he says, reminiscing about the past.
From auctions, to estate sales, to European wholesalers, Ruppert tries
to meet the needs of all his customers. "I deal with children from
10 years old all the way up to 80-year-old people," he claims. "People
are beginning to realize that antiques do not decrease in value."
Teresa Warren, a customer of the store, says the shop suits her needs.
"I love to go through all of the stuff because it is interesting. You
never know what you're going to find," she says.
Each piece of merchandise is not only appealing aesthetically, but it
represents a point of time in history. Separating the antique store and
Ruppert's personal workshop is a light fixture that hangs alone, from a
high beam. Sitting in a corner there is also a stove that could reveal a
lifetime of stories.
Ruppert says, "This light fixture is from the turn of the century,
when electricity was first being used. This stove was found in the mansion
behind the Riverside Museum." Hairpins from the 1920s, a novel by Winston
Churchill and numerous stained glass windows are some of the rarities that
contribute to the store.
Kalousek says there is a unique component that sets Ruppert's store
apart from other antique shops. "Ken is a professional restorer not
just an antique dealer," says Kalousek.
"In all the years, a piece of furniture has not become unimportant
to me," says Ruppert. "I understand that it is something that
makes you really happy." He adds that "to trust me with the [furniture],
it has to be done right, and there has to be no problems; that is the way
Although Ruppert describes his store as a place "to step back in
time," he acknowledges that the community cannot stay complacent. "The
city has changed immensely, but when progress comes, you must go with it."
The antique business has enabled Ruppert to stay in contact with the
past, yet meet the needs of today. It is a subtle landmark of the city of
La Verne. It symbolizes the cozy, small town atmosphere that has withstood
the test of time.
"I will run this antique store, as long as life goes on. This is
what I do," says Ruppert with a sudden sparkle in his eyes.
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