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Laurene Runner’s Gypsy’s Attic in Kingsburg

Sep 23, 2016 11:00AM ● By Jordan Venema

More Than Profit

October 2016
By Jordan Venema

Capitalism states that business should always be about the bottom line, making a buck, but once in a while you get a business whose commodity is much more than the product it pushes.

Laurene Runner, founder and owner of Kingsburg’s Gypsy’s Attic, paints and sells reclaimed and antique furniture, but all that is really secondary to the message and motivation behind it all.

“When I opened my store, and the other women walked through the door at Gypsy’s Attic, we shared a sisterhood,” explains Runner. “Because they were also survivors of breast cancer.”

Runner and her husband moved to the Kingsburg area about five years ago, and just two weeks later she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had had a clean mammogram only six months before.

“You know how people say it’s so surreal? It really is,” Runner says. “You hear the news, you swallow hard. I woke up the next day with the first thing on my mind: I’ve got cancer.”

Though in a state of disbelief, Runner quickly resolved not to give up or give into depression. She was encouraged by the experiences of other women like Robin Roberts of Good Morning America, who had publicly shared their stories.

“I thought that if she can do it, I can, too,” says Runner.

After her diagnosis, these stories not only became a source of inspiration to Runner, but she also realized how many people are affected by breast cancer, whether directly or through a family member.

“If you were to walk down the street, the people you’d run into, they’d know somebody or they’ve gone through breast cancer themselves,” says Runner.

During her recovery, Runner made an effort to keep busy. “I didn’t want to feel depressed, and I don’t think I ever did because I kept active,” she says. And that activity: chalk paint.

She discovered chalk paint toward the beginning of her recovery, which also complemented her physical therapy. “I’d gotten involved in painting to regain the strength of my arms,” Runner explains. “Then people saw my work and said, ‘Gee, you should sell what you’re doing.’ So I started seeking out vintage pieces of furniture at local yard sales, estate sales, rummage sales, thrift stores.”

She began selling pieces through a local consignment shop, but soon outgrew the space. So she leased a space in Kingsburg and opened her own shop, Gypsy’s Attic.

“I decided I’d do it for 90 days, and 90 days turned into three years.”

Gypsy’s Attic sells furniture painted by Runner, some antique and reclaimed, and other pieces by commission. But it was after opening the shop that Runner discovered why her store really mattered.

“I felt humble at times, whiny, asking the reason why me,” she says about her journey through cancer. “Then hearing customers’ stories and their journeys, it was inspiring to me, and gave me the feeling that this is why I’m here. Because I also have a story to share.” 

Many of these stories helped Runner adjust through the difficulty of the double mastectomy. There was a day Runner was meeting her mother for lunch, and after putting on a padded bra, she looked at her reflection. “I looked in the mirror and thought, this picture doesn’t look right. So I pulled off the bra and stared back and said, ‘OK, this is right. This is who I am today.’” 

Perhaps it was the journey toward self-acceptance and confidence, and sharing it with others, or hearing it from others. Whatever the story, says Runner, “it warms your heart.”

This October, to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Runner will set up a pink display in her store and 20 percent of proceeds from sales will go to nonprofits (details are still being worked out).

What is certain is that Runner will continue sharing her story, and continue painting furniture. She can say positively, and without any regret, “there was a reason I got breast cancer: so I could reach out. Some days I don’t sell a single piece of furniture, but somebody walks through that door and shares their story, and that, to me, is worth more to me than selling a piece of furniture.”

1332 Draper St., Suite D, Kingsburg

(805) 234-4861 • Find them on Facebook

Monday-Friday 10 am-4 pm, Saturday 10 am-2 pm