Words by Mary E. Mayer
Photos by Last Vestige and Mary Mayer
Tucked deep in the back row of a neatly lined up storage unit in Huntington Beach lies a wonderland of vintage treasures. Last Vestige is a collection of stunning, eclectic and one-of-a-kind vintage finds. Karen Joyce – curator, designer, owner and vintage visionary – has thoughtfully sourced, handpicked and collected unique, imaginative items from all over the country. From small scale figurines to oversized architectural pieces, Last Vestige is stocked with truly wonderful finds.
Karen describes herself as a creative person that struggled to find an outlet for that expression for many years. She definitely did not find that outlet in visual art, sewing, cooking or music. However, later in her life she had a serendipitous reunion with her birth mother. Karen recalls walking into her lovely home set by a river in Wyoming and experiencing an overwhelming sense of awe when she saw how creatively and colorfully her home was decorated. Her birth mother expertly mixed textures, tones, and a variety of styles and genres. “Her aesthetic blew me away,” Karen noted. Soon after they reunited “she reeled me in” remembers Karen, and her formal education in the world of antiques and vintage began. With the renewed companionship and mentoring of her mother, Karen began going to flea markets and estate sales to expand her horizons. She started purchasing items slowly, and before long her personal aesthetic emerged. She was drawn to bigger pieces, which meant she needed more space to store her collection – thus, her Huntington Beach warehouse came to be. Eventually, the two of them realized what retailers were getting for their wares, they agreed it was time to start selling some of their fabulous finds. In true full-circle fashion, Karen found herself back at flea markets, but this time as a seller.
According to Karen “My favorite thing is finding a piece with history. You can tell by the evidence of craftsmanship and wear that there is a fabulous story behind it.” This keen sense of inquiry combined with an artistic sense of style allow her to find some pretty amazing pieces. She combines her contemporary styling, skilled photographic eye, and eclectic inventory to create eye-catching images that she posts on a variety of platforms. Instagram is her main tool. It drives her followers, and fellow designers to her warehouse, pop-up events, and flea markets turning curious creatives into loyal customers. The diverse methods of selling online and in-person have given Karen a broad range of clientele. From EBay to Etsy to creative live events, Karen has navigated the entrepreneurial seas of selling vintage wares like few others have. Plus, her birth mother is still deeply involved in the business and even attends shows and buying trips with Karen, to look for that special, amazing find together.
The flexibility of running a small business has been a perfect fit for raising a family and two children. It has allowed Karen time to build a strong base of customers as well as attend sporting events and school functions with her now teenage kids. As the kids have grown, so has Last Vestige, which Karen calls “more than full time work.” Between buying, cleaning, hauling, photographing and marketing her inventory online and in person, Last Vestige has become a robust, big league player in the vintage marketplace of Southern California – keeping Karen busy and smiling through it all.
In her down time, you will find Karen and her husband kayaking or enjoying the beach, and spending time with their family. She is happy to report the love of vintage vibes has been passed along to another generation – her daughter. She has developed an interest in vintage clothing and quite a flair for fashion.