An international journey reveals the American dream.
A 200-hundred-year-old apothecary cabinet from Mongolia, elm wood chairs from India, and cabinets crafted by Missouri Mennonites all vie for space within the same setting, an eclectic mix of old and new, the forgotten and recovered. Collectively, they represent Samsara Vintage Home, a unique trove of home décor treasures located at 12 East Street in historic downtown Parkville.
Not so many years ago, three to be exact, the home to Samsara was a ramshackle building housing a survival prep store. Little did it resemble the haven of home décor and remodeling that’s quickly gained an enamored following.
The owners of Samsara Vintage Home, Alex Iglesias, Juan Carlos, and Michael Coyazo, haven’t always been in the décor business. Cousins Iglesias and Carlos were students in their home country of El Salvador, while Coyazo resided in the Kansas City area. But as it does, life happened.
“I was attending college in El Salvador,” explains Iglesias. “My father died during one of his many trips to Aspen. At that time in El Salvador, there were no student loans or scholarships; everything was paid out of pocket. My mother worked in a prestigious job, but I did not want her to pay for my school.”
Shortly after Iglesias’s father’s death, the cousins, determined to earn their way in the world, obtained temporary visas to the US and headed for Aspen. “We’ll be back in six months,” they smiled as they took off on their adventure. Six months came and went. Their temporary visas became permanent; a family vacation spot turned into their permanent place of residence.
Upon arrival in Aspen, neither cousin could speak English. Iglesias credits Days of Our Lives and General Hospital with his language education. Carlos found employment assisting an Oriental rug salesman. This was their entry intro the American way of life and pursuit of the American dream.
Not surprisingly, Carlos and Iglesias fell in love with the artistic ambiance of Aspen. It there they discovered their talent and passion for designing, decoration, and creating.
“As humans, we don’t always know what we want to do, but when we find it, or it finds us, we must be open to accepting it,” reasons Iglesias. “Aspen moved us closer to that goal. I really believe things happen for a reason. Nothing is coincidental.”
The cousins soon discovered Aspen’s eclectic beauty came at a price. After four years in Aspen, the pair realized it was time for a move to a more affordable locale.
Carlos took a job in Kansas City with an upscale Oriental carpet retailer; Iglesias followed and found employment with CBIZ. But, when the economy tanked, the rug business closed; people were not spending money on luxuries.
“These failures opened our eyes to new possibilities,” Iglesias says. “We were freed from what we had to do to start doing what we wanted to do.”
Unemployed, the pair began going to auctions and estate sales and buying furniture. They refurbished it, painted it, and set it out in the driveway of their home. The demand for the painted furniture and other found items began grew quickly.
“People consistently asked if we had a store they could visit,” Iglesias says. “Maybe they saw something in us we hadn’t seen before. We began thinking maybe we should open a store. Our search for a building began.
Carlos and Coyazo came across a building in Parkville. When I first saw the space, I was so disappointed. It wasn’t on Main Street; it was in terrible condition. But, Carlos, being the visionary he is, convinced me we could transform it into something wonderful,” says Iglesias.
The three partners began brainstorming the store concept and what they should name it when Samsara came to mind. Samsara is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘the circle of life’. The trio agreed their goal was to find old things and give them new purpose and new life. Samsara fit their concept perfectly.
Samsara Vintage Home will celebrate three years of business this May. Customers come from throughout the metropolitan area to survey each week’s offering of the new and unexpected.
Samsara tripled in size during its first 18 months. The ownership team leased adjoining space, knocked down walls, and added bits of local flavor.
“We were trying to figure out something to do to represent the northland,” Iglesias offers. “There was a Platte City Church built in the 1800’s that collapsed. We acquired some of the church’s original corbels and integrated them into our internal and external design. There’s an old door from a house on 8th and Main Street in Parkville behind the cash register. Our entry door was rescued from Architectural Salvage and painted our signature color of red. Red represents passion and love. We are passionate about what we do and we love doing it!”
Iglesias, Carlos and Coyazo contract with a source in the Mongolian region of China that ships crates of finds from small villages four times a year. That’s where the 200-year-old dough tray came from, as well as the original Chinese spice jars, the apothecary cabinet, and many other one-of-a-kind items in the store. They have repurposed 100-year-old barn wood into farm benches, tables, and birdhouses. They attend estate sales and auctions and take advantage of any adventure to bring unique merchandise to their store.
“We buy much of our merchandise from sales in this country, but we have passion for all different styles ranging from primitive to traditional. If we only focus on one particular style, we limit our audience,” explains Iglesias. “We prefer an eclectic mix from Malaysia, Thailand, and Mongolia. We hired a local Mennonite carpenter to build our shelves, cabinets, and our farmhouse tables. We incorporate contemporary and traditional pieces with antiques and reproductions. Our selection and design at Samsara are intentional and symbolic. There’s a story behind every piece.”
“None of us (the three owners) have any traditional training in design. Because of that, we are not confined by what we’ve learned. Passion and purpose are what drive us. We are constantly inspired by what we feel, what we see, and the people we meet.”
Samsara offers complete home design and remodeling, from cabinets to countertops to flooring. Additionally, they consult and advise on holiday and event decorating from mantles to the entire house. Despite their far-ranging expertise, they’ll be the first to remind you they are designers and consultants, not architects, but they do contract with individuals who are.
The recent expansion at Samsara includes a fully equipped kitchen that doubles as a display and a setting where Carlos, Iglesias, and Coyazo can invite patrons to visit, talk about design trends and other topics while sipping beverages and noshing on savory appetizers. It’s all free and by invitation. Each month they pick a group of 20-30 customers that have signed up on their list. They consider these guests to be their family.
Carlos, Iglesias, and Coyazo agree the support of the Northland and the Parkville community has been overwhelming. “We are so happy here. We are happy with the way we are treated and the friendship of all who enter. This is the place we want to be the rest of our lives.”