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Monadnock Profiles: ‘That wild vintage lady’

  • Kari Lindstrom of The Melamine Cup in Jaffrey. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Kari Lindstrom of the Melamine Cup in Jaffrey. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Kari Lindstrom is constantly surrounded by retro gear and antiques at her store, The Melamine Cup in Jaffrey. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Kari Lindstrom of the Melamine Cup in Jaffrey. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 7/24/2020 3:05:03 PM

There’s a straw hat that hangs in the bedroom of Kari Lindstrom’s Jaffrey home.

She’s not sure where she got it or who gave it to her, but Lindstrom knows it’s from Haiti and “its literally moved to every place I’ve lived,” she said.

It’s just one of those items from her childhood that she can’t imagine letting go of.

“It’s hung in my bedroom since the dawn of time,” she joked.

In her collection of childhood items there’s artwork from preschool, posters she got in high school, Smurf figurines, Garfield toys and a Michael Jackson book.

None of it is going to make her rich some day, but it’s about the memories that each of those possessions brings about. They each have a story and long ago Lindstrom made the decision to keep them alive.

“Everything meant something to me,” she said.

She’s always been a lover of vintage stuff and has long been one of those people who stopped at shops wherever she happened to be on the lookout out for something old to take home with her.

“It was always going to antique stores and finding cool stuff,” she said.

Along the way, she always thought it would be fun to open a vintage store, comprised of items that bring people back to a certain time in their life.

So in 2013, Lindstrom and her husband Jim Quiter opened The Melamine Cup in Jaffrey. It fit perfectly with both her hobby and Jim’s job as an auctioneer and appraiser.

“You only live once, so follow your dreams,” Lindstrom said.

She started doing house calls for people either downsizing or who had a death in the family and were looking to get rid of things, and it has morphed into now where she travels all over New England.

“It’s really to sit down with a family, hear some stories and buy some stuff,” Lindstrom said.

One of the first families she worked with was in Worcester, Massachusetts. Both parents had passed and they had kept everything, and the kids weren’t sure what to do with it all.

“It was a time warp of a home; it was like walking into 1962,” Lindstrom said. There were things they were willing to sell and others that had too many memories attached to part with at the time. Then recently she got a call, and bought 40 boxes of vintage toys from the siblings.

“That was the last piece of the story to go,” Lindstrom said.

And more than anything, that’s what Lindstrom sells in her store – a story. Sure the items have value and people want them, but she thinks of herself more as an intermediary who passes along its previous life.

“It’s coming to me with love,” she said. “So if I can think of a story quickly when people are checking out, I’m going to tell them.”

Lindstrom has heard hundreds of stories over the years and as a person who as a child kept everything with a meaning behind it, she understands just how important sharing those memories can be.

“It’s more like legacy sharing,” she said. “I want to know where things are from and the story behind them.”

Whether she’s in the store or out and about, Lindstrom is that person who will strike up a conversation with anybody.

The Melamine Cup began with items from the 1950s through the ’70s, but Lindstrom has expanded all the way into the early ’90s because a 30-year difference is really what makes something considered vintage.

She said ’80s stuff is super hot, mid-century furniture is always sought after and vintage Christmas “is the biggest to-do.”

But old toys and games are what bring about those nostalgic feelings for people that transport them back to their childhood. It’s why Lindstrom has hung on to so many of her own after all these years. One recent find, a 1950s Mystic Board now has a new home in the Salem Witch Board Museum.

Lindstrom grew up in the Greenfield/Francestown area and graduated from ConVal in 1992. She went off to St. Anselm College to pursue a degree in criminal justice, but always knew she’d live in the Monadnock region as an adult.

Community and family have always been important to Lindstrom and as an only child, there was no way she could leave her mother. “Not that I wanted to anyway,” she said.

During college she interned with probation and parole in Keene and loved the work. She later worked one year as a correctional officer at the old Cheshire County House of Corrections in Westmoreland. At the time she was the only woman on the second shift, but realized it just wasn’t as fulfilling as she thought it would be.

“I liked it, but I didn’t think I was making a difference in people’s lives like I wanted to be,” Lindstrom said.

Prior to pursuing her career in corrections, Lindstrom was involved in therapeutic work with foster children and it wasn’t easy.

“They had a lot of trauma in their lives,” she said. Unfortunately, she even saw a few come through the corrections system when she was in Westmoreland.

Her one year in corrections was “just enough information for me,” Lindstrom said, so she transitioned to disability advocacy with Monadnock Worksource. That morphed into her next venture in career counseling, starting the Employment Resource Center at the River Center before branching out on her own in 2011 to form Monadnock Career Connections, working with anyone from high schoolers to business professionals.

“I’ve done a lot of really interesting things,” she said. “And everything I’ve done makes perfect sense for me.”

But there was an undeniable pull to do something drastically different, to follow that dream.

“So then I haphazardly opened a vintage shop,” Lindstrom said. “Just because that was always a goal of mine and I really love vintage stuff, I love stories.”

She spent five years on the Jaffrey Chamber of Commerce board of directors, including two of them as vice president. She still helps with Chamber events, like the annual town-wide yard sale, but these days she doesn’t have the time to be tied down to a weekly or monthly commitment.

“I believe in supporting your community and people,” she said.

Lindstrom and Jim, who married in October of 2008, have four children between them and two grandkids.

“It’s like yours, mine and ours,” she said.

She likes to garden and loves animals, including the family’s two dogs and two cats, all of which are rescues. She even was recruited by Lucky Lab Rescue to conduct home visits in the area.

When she’s not working, which she says in pretty much at least a part of every day, Lindstrom is all about family time – camping with the kids, board game nights. Her ideal day with Jim is getting in the car, going on a drive and stopping for lunch along the way.

As a small business owner, the onset of the coronavirus was not easy. But Lindstrom is someone who is used to adapting, so she started making mystery boxes with stuff around the store and could barely keep up with the demand. Then, thanks to the suggestion of a friend, she started What’s in the Cup? a weekly Facebook Live event on Wednesdays where she shows off what’s in the store, sips on a specialty drink made using a vintage blender and plays music. Last week’s installment had 13,000 views.

“I’m not a typical shop owner,” Lindstrom said. “I’m just that wild vintage lady.”


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