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Nova Engle: Giving New Life to Mid-Century Classics

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Nova Engle believes in being green. She and her family compost table scraps and yard clippings; they rely on solar panels for much of the power to their home. For her, it made perfect sense to transfer that knowledge and passion to what she does for a living. At her newly opened shop, Nova, her business is based on reclaiming, reusing or recycling unique, timeless mid-century furniture. She saves pieces that might have landed in a landfill to settle in the homes of fashionable Kansas Citians.

“I love mid-century furniture. It’s made so well and lasts, and I respect that era of production,” stated the 34-year-old wife and mother of two. “I enjoy discovering these pieces; in fact, I’m more of a hunter and a thrifter. I’ll put in the miles and time to find them: estate sales, garage sales, even Craigslist. There are many opportunities to find pieces. I’ve seen a chair on a porch on a house after driving around for a while, and I’ve knocked on the door to ask to buy it. I’ll do what it takes to get the furniture.”

A Good Name
The 400-square-foot establishment is named not for herself but for her own namesake, a grandmother on her father’s side. “I named the shop as more of an homage to her,” recalled Nova. “She always had a positive outlook on things, and I think she’d be proud of what I’m doing.”

Doing something she loves makes Nova happy. She’s finally moved a long-held dream into reality by opening a shop focused on loving things that others have discarded. “I have wanted to have my own store and to work for myself for so long. Nova is the kind of store that allows me to make sure I’m doing my part at home and in my career to help the environment,” she shared. “For me, it’s a lifestyle, not something we say we do. We looked at ourselves as a family to determine how we could be greener. We actually changed our vehicle to one that was more efficient. We want to set an example and live that way completely. I want my business and family life to blend together.”

Nova, the store, sits at 1515 Walnut, Kansas City, Missouri, in the heart of the Crossroads Art District, just blocks from the Power and Light District. The six-unit multi-use restored building features six living spaces and two business spots. With attention to its artful design and environmentally sustainable green footprint, Nova pictured 1515 Walnut as the perfect spot for her new shop.

“I had been looking for a commercial space that would be close to home for about a year. I couldn’t find the right fit for me until I saw the ad for 1515 Walnut, but by the time I called, it was already leased. I told the owner if anything fell through to let me know. A short time later she did get back to me with the open spot,” she recalled. “The utilities are solar and it’s a redeveloped historic building, so it made sense to locate Nova here. It’s a small space, but I wanted that so it wouldn’t overwhelm me to fill it up. I want to be happy, not necessarily the most successful vintage furniture supplier, but to be happy and be able to keep up and love it.”

Defining the Dream
Nova has always enjoyed feeding her creative side. She was heavily involved in art in high school, but when marriage and her children came along, she focused on them. Art fell by the wayside. “When you’re young, you don’t know what you want. I had a few jobs and then I got into clothing and was passionate about working retail. It was a management job; I worked long hours and wasn’t spending time at home with my family. I wanted to love what I did and be at home, too,” she shared. “My husband, David, asked me if I could do anything in the world, what would it be. I said it would be finding and selling vintage, but added it didn’t seem realistic. He asked why not. Later that evening I saw an ad for a store needing vintage furniture, and that’s when I decided I would begin my own business.”

Nova describes her style as an eclectic blend of mid-century pieces with bohemian influences. Her pieces are sturdy and solid, built to last through time with clean lines and sophisticated flair. “I find pieces that I repaint but only if I have to. If I have a dresser with a mirror that’s destroyed or that’s been repainted so many times, I’ll fix it. But if I find a piece that’s okay, I might re-stain or re-oil to preserve the original piece, helping to keep costs down. I’ve found tables that are so badly scratched it took 70 hours to redo. Yes, it took a lot of time, but I tell myself I’ve saved and preserved that piece for others.”

Not only does Nova offer reclaimed furniture, she’s moved into creating her own paintings to highlight her display settings. “I had a hard time finding art that was affordable so I started doing paintings of my own,” she commented. “My pieces feature large abstract colors to complement the furniture. The paintings help me sell furniture and vice versa with the paintings. I try to group my pieces so that customers see everything together and can imagine them in their own homes.”

Vintage Surprises
Nova opened just a few weeks ago and her solid base of followers on Instagram is heading to see the shop. She also believes the housing boom in the downtown area will give her another set of customers to entice with her reclaimed furniture. Given that she’s the sole employee of Nova, hours of operation are limited to Thursday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Special appointments can be made via email or private messaging through Facebook. She’s also consigning items at Dear Society, with two locations in Kansas City, Missouri.

“Nova gives me the opportunity to present my own vision of what the store should be and the products I want to carry. Eventually, I want to add local vendors to sell their merchandise,” Nova added. “I considered doing wholesale as a means to have plenty of merchandise available when busy. But with vintage, you don’t know what you’re going to find, and I need extra time to find environmentally friendly products.”

Those friendly product offerings and an inviting atmosphere in the store are key to Nova’s business success. She wants her customers to feel they’re important when they walk through the door. The icing on the cake is focusing on her green roots in everything she does.

Building Community
“Being environmentally conscious is a lifestyle, not just when you feel like it; because of it, I’m creating a career to be what I want it to be, and I love it. Being small is okay because it allows me to take on what I can handle and be content. Maybe I’m a bit unconventional, and that’s okay,” she laughed. “The community of vendors that I’ve met in KC, especially the female vendors, have been so wonderful. They make me feel that I’m part of a group. It’s community over competition. It’s such a great feeling that I’m a part of something that wants to help others do well.”

Nova is realizing a long-time dream to have her own business and combine it with her core sense of values. She urges other women to experience success by following their hearts, being themselves and working hard. “You can make a living doing what you love, and it doesn’t have to be a conventional, nine-to-five job,” she enthused. “You make your career; create the profession you want to have. I’ve made mine specific to my needs and those of my family while doing everything I can to protect the environment. It doesn’t feel like a job because it’s fun.”

Find Nova on Facebook, follow her on Instagram at novamadeandfound or email her at