Check Out Our Cool Magic Blog Write Up About Classic Hardware

December 3,2014


This October we were very honored to have awesome writer Sandy Abrams cover Classic Hardware, our 20 years serving up Class and Sass, new store opening, inspirations and influences in business! Check out Karyn’s interview below or here at the original post on the official MAGIC blog.


BEHIND THE BOOTH Classic Hardware Founder: Karyn Cantor

by by Sandy Abrams

It takes a unique sense of creativity and confidence to cobble together items like broken rosary beads and various supplies from hardware and thrift stores and create coveted pieces, but these random combinations are what set Karyn Cantor’s Classic Hardware apart.

She’s been making her own unique pieces since she was kid and launched  Classic Hardware in 1995, expanding into to a whole line  of unique jewelry  and accessories. Karyn also opened a retail store this year. It’s been a  passionate journey, not only creatively but  as a long time supporter of Made in  USA.

She began her business in San Francisco selling to some retailers on Haight St.  and then got into American Rag and quickly gained  traction  with big accounts  like Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Macys, Nordstrom and custom design  work for designers Betsy  Johnson and  Anna Sui.

 Strong Work Ethic

Ever since childhood, Karyn wanted to work, getting her first job at age   13.  She continued to work part time jobs through high  school. After college, she  worked in photography and photo labs, as an account exec., and studio  manager. This is where she  learned hands-on about running a small business.

Unlike many creative types, Karyn has a strong grasp on both design and business.  She enjoys reading business books for both  insight and inspiration. After enrolling in a business course and learning about cost analysis and profit margins, she realized that she had to be a bookkeeper whether she wanted to or not. Karyn says, “Numbers don’t lie and it can actually be fun. The smartest thing I did was decide to run my business as if I were a film director. So, the star of the film can act, but she doesn’t know make up and costume design. Those roles have to be filled by other people. When it was possible, I began to fill roles with others who had strong skills where I was weak. Being able to let go of business aspects is tough but critical. We can’t control every aspect of a business that’s growing fast. If you can train someone well, they can do it too.”

Karyn’s grateful that she learned the biz skills and was able to recover from a ‘bad book keeper experience.’ She still does checks and balances herself, keeping a second set of eyes on everything.

Jewelry Capital of USA: Rhode Island 

After gaining exposure in big chains like Urban Outfitter and Anthropologie, Karyn experienced cheap overseas imitations invading her space. But her passion for supporting her USA vendors was unwavering. She wasn’t going to change her process. Karyn says, “Rhode Island is the costume jewelry capital of the USA. I’ve been working with the same vendors from there since I started.  Rhode Island is definitely having struggles because of the exodus to China, but I’m determined to continue to support these family run businesses.”

Benefits of MADE in USA

Not only is supporting local businesses important to Karyn, but she sees other benefits to Made in USA. “The quality is better,  it’s easier to follow a product through production, I can get things completed in a timely manner, keep inventory tight and there’s rarely a problem with a product, but if there is, it’s easily remedied locally and quickly. With my long term relationships, I know these small businesses truly care about our product.”



One way to continue to grow a business is through innovation. Karyn began to  expand into accessories,  metal boxes,  card cases, t-shirts, towels and one big hit was  their tampon cases. Karyn says, “It was something different. Our  tagline was ‘It’s  neat to be discreet.’ Uncommon Goods loved them and that took  things in a new  direction for us.  Classic Hardware wasn’t just jewelry.”

“I also started working with contemporary and pop culture artists. Now, I work with  about 15 artists and  utilize their  artwork to put on products. It’s a great collaboration  for artists; exposing them to another  audience, while we bring  something unique,  affordable and fun to the market. It’s a win-win.”

Karyn also saw an opportunity to innovate with bakelite, an older type of plastic,  circa 1920, no longer  produced  because of it’s high content of formaldehyde. But  it’s highly collectible. Karyn says, “ I came up  with way to  emulate it and coined the  name ‘Retrolite.’ That was a big milestone and a signature product  element for  Classic Hardware.”

This year Karyn took a leap of faith by opening a retail store, in a time when many  businesses preach the  benefits of  closing their brick and mortar in favor of online  sales.

 Customer Service is Alive & Well!

The storefront location seemed to fit perfectly, located in Burbank’s Magnolia Park in  an area called Retro Row. Karyn opened the store in 2014 and is thoroughly enjoying  the connection she makes with customers every day. She thrives on offering top notch  customer service and customization options.

“Having the store is a great opportunity to play with design flair too. The store has  pink and purple striped walls! It’s also a great opportunity to bring in other  company’s products, items that I personally love but don’t have to make. The  amazing thing about the store is the immediate feedback that I get. Being a wholesaler for 20 yrs., I’ve mostly heard feedback through our reps or at trade shows and it’s not necessarily enough.”

Karyn enjoys interacting with customers and taking requests on the spot. If you like a pendant at the store but want to tweak it, just ask! If someone likes a bracelet but they’d prefer it to be a necklace, she’ll make one. She says, “People feel special, they can get a piece exactly how they want it. We offer personal attention that you just can’t get online. We can also do custom/personalized work for people from one piece to many. People can bring in (or send) a picture of their pet and we can mount it in a necklace, the options are limitless.”

Karyn also notices that being connected directly with her customers lets her see who the end user is and it’s frequently different than she’s imagined. “Maybe the customer likes a piece simply because it’s a little different or unique but they aren’t creating a whole subculture look for themselves, they just want that one piece. I still feel giddy when people buy something and I see that it makes them smile. It can really make my day.”

Store West Wide

Designer Collaborations


Karyn started working with Betsey Johnson in the late 90’s, selling her designs to Betsey Johnson’s store and then she started doing different designs just for them. Designer Anna Sui also had a love for Classic Hardware. Karyn has also designed custom pieces for benefits and causes and done licensed work on Disney’s Nightmare Before Christmas and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland film, as well as custom pieces for the Sailor Jerry (a tattoo artist) brand and Nancy Drew.

Collaborating has been great for both sides. Karyn says, “The collaborating companies see the benefit of being associated with Classic Hardware’s quality brand and Made in USA is a bonus, especially with original artwork from artists. Making it in the USA helps protect the likelihood of knockoffs being made quickly overseas.” She welcomes other custom collaborations. “Collaborations are an image based business, it’s easy for us to insert those images into our pieces or develop a new piece, if they meet a minimum production requirement.”

MAGIC Offers Community

Karyn says, “I’ve always been a huge fan of fashion and clothing and it’s been great to be part of the alternative section at MAGIC. I’ve been there since the 90’s, in an area that was originally called the Edge. Now, we exhibit in Juniors/Subculture area. It’s high energy being around like minded brands and styles.”

In It For the Long Haul

Karyn’s very candid and open about how business has been rough at times but she loves what she does, so she rolls through changes with innovation, passion and persistence. “Jewelry is a saturated market but we are unique. Opening the store has been wonderful! It’s like having a new baby. I’m really enjoying this stage!”

After 20 yrs. of building Classic Hardware, Karyn still has the excitement of an emerging brand. She doesn’t rest on her laurels, she’s constantly finding new ways to keep things fresh and new. The store adds the personal connection that seems to have been the one missing link.


What are you reading?  Delivering Happiness Tony Hsieh.

What do you do to de-stress?  I love to travel and visiting other stores is inspiring…and the trailer rally is so fun! (Karyn has a vintage trailer)

What is non-negotiable in your daily/weekly schedule? Exercise.

Who inspires you in biz?  Oprah Winfrey and Dolly Parton.

Back to Business … School, that is

June 20,2013


If you know me, you know I enjoy talking about things I am passionate about like music, art, vintage finds, kittens and especially … business!

Over six months ago I received a call out of the blue asking me if I would be interested in being part of a business program called 10,000 Small Businesses for CEO’s to help grow business in the USA. I followed through with the somewhat daunting paperwork process (a good prep for the soon to come homework process). The requirements were you had to be the owner of the company, be in business over 2 years, have at least 4 employees, and have to meet their gross revenue, etc. I hit all the right things and then went through the interview process. I made it in, but apparently there were over 100 people who applied and only 22 were chosen, so my fellow classmates and I felt pretty good about being selected. The course was funded by Goldman and Sachs and is hosted at many community college campuses throughout the US.

It was an intensive 4-month course that was that has been equated to an MBA on fast track (however, I don’t get to use those 3 letters next to my name). The main goal of the sponsors is to grow business in the USA and to add jobs to our economy. To do this they needed to make sure we as business owners had all of our business best practices in order – from our employees, to our financials, to our company processes, to marketing, to being bankable and to having an exit strategy even if you have no current plans of exiting. They are all of the things business owners should already know, but we all know we don’t excel at everything. We talked a lot about the difference of working “on” your business vs. working “in” your business. We all get caught up in the day to day of working, but it’s so important to step back and look at how you are doing things and to critique yourself and be open to change. You really have to ask yourself where you want to be and how you will get there. If you are focused on only what is in front of you in the day to day, you can’t see the bigger picture for growth.

I’m a big fan of education and feel one should always be learning. My focus in college was photography, jewelry and art history. A couple years after starting Classic Hardware I took a business course somewhat similar to the 10,000 small business course, but it was focused on start up companies. That was in 1997 and it really helped me learn a lot about running a small business. The group is called Women’s Initiative in San Francisco and they are fantastic! In fact they just celebrated their 25-year anniversary and I was one of the honorees of the evening! It was a big fundraiser up in San Francisco and a wonderful event honoring many women and their small businesses. 25 of us were all ambassadors for the evening … or as I enjoyed saying … “badassador!” Here is a video they asked me to do for their social media.

So now that I finished with my recent business program, I have a growth plan I am putting into play and that includes adding more t-shirts as well as small bags to the Classic Hardware brand. I will also be bringing in new artists to the mix. I’m very excited to continue growing and expanding my line and my designs and still having all of our products made in the USA!

As a last note, I also just finished reading a very inspiring book on customer service and company couture. It’s called “Delivering Happiness – a path to Profits, Purpose and Passion” by Tony Hseih who was the CEO of Zappos that sold it to Amazon for over a billion dollars. For those of us with small businesses, we know how important customer service is. In fact, for those of us who ever deal with customer service people in our lives (all of us), we know how important great customer service makes us feel. It feels good to make people happy and feeling satisfied and taken care of. We can all use a bit more of it in our lives!


Special thanks to my sweetie, Ron for his support and lovely pictures and video!


I know it’s only rock and roll, but I like it!

May 28,2013

On Monday May 20th 2013 my boyfriend, Ron and I went and saw the Rolling Stones at the Staples Center here in Los Angeles. When I heard tickets were going on sale a few weeks back I told Ron we needed to get online that morning and try for the cheap seats. This was a case of the cheap seats being $150! The good seats were $650! Ouch is right. No one ever said the Stones (and especially Mick) are not good businessmen. It’s a lot of dough, but since they said it was their last tour (and at their age, how can I not believe that) we got sucked in. We did end up getting two pairs of the um … Cheap Seats so we were able to ask a couple friends to join us.

Pre-show Prep

The Place was Packed!

The show was amazing! Yes, these guys are old, but man, that Mick Jagger did his famous dancey-prance-dance the entire two hours. He is mesmerizing to watch. The energy and charisma that he exudes is fascinating. Keith is amazing on guitar as usual and yes, he is the most weathered of the bunch, but his singing “Happy” and “Gotta walk before they make me run” were my favorites of the show. Ronnie Wood still seems the youngest and was running all over the stage and Charlie Watts … what can I say … that silver fox, holds the whole sound together! Sure, it was nice Mick Taylor was back and he did an amazing guitar solo, Bill Wyman should have been there and we always need to remember pretty boy Brian Jones, who wrote some of their best music back in the early days.

Jumbo-tron always a help


Ronnie Wood

When I first started listening to rock and roll, the Stones were part of quintessential rights of passage soundtrack for 13 year olds, along with Led Zep, The Who, The Beatles , etc. But funny enough it was The Who and The Stones that were the crossover bands when I later got into punk rock music in the early 80’s. The Who had the energy and the rip-it-to-shreds attitude. The Stones had the bad-boy-raw-dirty-sound on their early recordings but also on my favorite Stones album, Exile on Main Street.

Beatles or Stones? I have been known to ask this question. In fact, on first dates, I would often ask this question (Ron got the answer correct). It was a little bit of a test of personality and a little just for fun, because others were confused by the question. Was there a right answer? Not entirely. It’s kind of like the cats or dogs question …

Yes, I like them both but to me the Stones ARE rock and roll. Even in the 60’s the media asked “Would you let your daughter marry a Rolling Stone?” Many parents said they would let their daughter marry a Beatle. The Stones are the dangerous ones, the bad boys and isn’t that rock n’ roll personified? The Beatles were singing, “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” while the Stones were singing “Let’s spend the Night Together”. The Stones were always masters of marketing and they marketed quite well. They are the last ones standing as far as 60’s rock n’ roll bands, and frankly they did “Rip this Joint” up at the Staples Center Monday night. I got my “Satisfaction”!

Rockin' it


The Tongue Pit all Lit

Lovely Creatures of the Sea

April 22,2013

I recently visited the  The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach for the first time. Even though I have mixed feelings about zoos and animals living in captivity, I can’t help but be fascinated by the beauty of the ocean and sea life. Seeing the animals playing made me so happy, I felt like a kid again.

The sea otter is so darn cute and amusing I could have watched him all day! The sea otter wears the heaviest fur coat in all of the animal kingdom. This has, sadly, made it an extensively hunted species in the past. The good news is … they have been protected in more recent years and remain on the endangered species list. They use rocks as tools to dislodge their prey and open shells, such a clever little character! They also help protect kelp forests from damage from over population of sea urchins (they eat them for lunch). We just added a new wallet case featuring a little sea otter by artist, Kelly Vivanco. Look at this adorable little guy holding his sea urchin lunch.

I absolutely love the penguins! Always so formal, they make me feel under dressed.

The jellyfish are so gorgeous and graceful and fun to watch (especially with glass between us). Jellyfish have roamed the seas for at least 500 million years (or more) which makes them the oldest multi-organ animal.


The sea lions love to chat!

The seahorse is so prehistoric and mystical looking to me. The male seahorse actually carries the eggs for the female. When he gives birth, his belly swells from contractions and he expels anywhere from 5 to 2,500 tiny seahorses, depending on his size! Geez! Freakishly fascinating creatures! He is then ready to mate again within hours with the next female seahorse that comes along, they are not a monogamous lot!

Speaking os sea life, I love this new painting by Caia Koopman. It depicts the endangered monk seal. Caia’s painting is part of a multi-artist print release done with PangeaSeed, a Japanese/Hawaiian marine life focused environmental organization. The prints are available here.

Cicada Club

March 25,2013

Last night my boyfriend and I celebrated our 3 year anniversary at what we think is the swankiest dance & dinner club in Los Angeles, Maxwell DeMille’s Cicada Club.

When you enter you feel that you are stepping back in time and you are … the Cicada Club was a high-end men’s clothing store/haberdashery back in 1928. It is situated in the famed Art Deco Oviatt building in downtown Los Angeles.

They offer fine dining and talented dance orchestras that bring you back to the the golden days of Hollywood. Last night, one of our favorite bands was playing, Janet Klein and her Parlor Boys. They perform lovely, naughty and obscure music from the 1910’s, 1920’s and 1930’s. They play Old Time Jazz, Blues, Ragtime and Novelty songs. Janet is always adorable and a hit on the ukelele!

The Cicada Club is often featured in movies (“Pretty Woman“, “Mr. and Mrs. Smith“, “J. Edgar” & “The Artist“) and television (“Madmen“) and print (Vogue). It is such a rare gem to have such a gorgeous glamorous place in our fine city. If you are in the LA area you should stop by … but don’t forget to overdress!

The Parlor Boys.

Dining and dancing at the Cicada.

Me & my friend Carolyn enjoying the atmosphere.

Ron, Karyn, Carolyn & Greg – celebrating their nine year wedding anniversary.

Janet Klein with a fan in similar chevron dresses.

The deco glamour begins at the entrance.

The details are amazing.

Look what we found! Rusty Frank, swing teacher and tap dancer, wearing Classic Hardware
at the Cicada Club with the likes of William H Macy and Cicada Club owner, Maxwell DeMille. Photo courtest of

Fun with Displays

March 13,2013

Jewelry display in stores and even at home can be a fun process but it helps to have some design inspiration from time to time. At Classic Hardware, we do trade shows and craft fairs. We find it easier to pin everything on our display boards for easy travel and quick set up. However, if you have a store and some space to create and spread out your jewelry and accessories, it can add a dimensional quality that is very appealing to your customers. I like using vintage finds such as books, plates, small drawers, boxes and suitcases. A great place to find these items are flea markets and yard sales. If you prefer modern fixtures, there are lots of display companies out there, like Acme Display or Rio Grande .

Below are some ideas Classic Hardware has used:


Here are some images of how we have been featured in stores:



One last thing, we just posted a step by step video on YouTube about how to create a display from a vintage frame. If you have any display ideas, please send them to us!


Bernie Dexter

February 11,2013

Bernie Dexter is a pin up model who has for modeled for several retro inspired clothing companies and lucky for us … Classic Hardware jewelry as well. Bernie is one of the most recognized pin up models in the rockabilly and retro pin up girl genre.

I first met Bernie years ago at a musicians benefit concert in August 2008. We had several mutual friends so it was nice to get to hang out and get to know each other better. I was familiar with her husband, Levi Dexter, of the band Levi and the Rockats  from many years ago. He was a huge influence in the rockabilly music scene since the 1970s.

In the past few years Bernie has designed her own vintage inspired clothing line. The designs are adorable and we love that it is all American made! She has a great eye for patterns and design and has had great success on popular websites like Modcloth. Her designs are also sought out internationally, especially in England and Australia.

Bernie is a very personable, fun sweet gal and I really enjoy when I get to spend time with her. She has a huge fan following on Facebook where she is often posting new designs and pin ups shots mainly taken by her husband, Levi, who does a great job with the photography. They are a very adorable team!

Check out her website for all the latest.

What’s cooking at Classic Hardware?

December 6,2012

We thought it would be fun to put together a short commercial-type video for Classic Hardware. My long time friend Breezy (Bryan Petty) came up with the concept of “cooking up” our products in a retro setting. I added to his idea with the product that keeps coming out of the oven as an homage to “I Love Lucy”  when she pulls the long bread out of the oven, “Pioneer Women.” When I was a little girl my grandfather phoned me after a rerun of that episode aired, he told me that he had baked the actual bread for the show at the bakery he worked at in Hollywood, CA. I do Love Lucy and that episode has always been dear to my heart because of Grampa.

Breezy works in post production on one of my favorite shows, Always Sunny in Philadelphia along with Sean Palsgaard, who did the cinematography on this video. Breezy did the directing and editing and we think he did a great job all round! A special thanks to Ron Groeper, my sweetie, for letting us use his fantastic photo studio. Kudos to them and the lovely ladies of Classic Hardware, for their hard work and for being fun characters. Deirdre Hartman (The Villianess) and Michelle Oura (The Temptress) and then there’s me … The Damsel in Distress.
Watch it here and Please let us know what you think of it!

The Art of Saving Animals

November 7,2012

This season at Classic Hardware I collaborated with four talented artists and asked them to create an Endangered Creatures Collection.
Kelly Vivanco painted a touching series of bears. Bonni Reid created a wild series of big cats. Melissa Contreras did a lovely gouache series of baby animals from Africa and
Simon Sotelo did detailed etchings of winged creatures. We have the images available on our vanity cases, necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings and some money clips and cufflinks, too.

The best part of the story is we have teamed up with the non-profit organization, Born Free USA. We are donating a portion of the proceeds from each sale to them. Their mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity and rescue individual animals in need as well as protect wildlife in their natural habitats. Here is Oliver the monkey having some fun at the Born Free primate sanctuary.

As some of you may recall, “Born Free” was an award winning movie in 1966 about an orphaned lion cub names Elsa based on a true story. Elsa was raised by George and Joy Adamson and then released back into the wild. Real-life husband and wife Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna played George and Joy in the film. There is a great PBS documentary about the movie that you can watch here

They became wildlife activists in the process and began Born Free in the UK along with their son William. Among the many great things they did for animals, was house the famous Christian the Lion, prior to him being released back into the wild of Africa. This video is an amazing account about Christian the Lion. It brings me to tears every time Christian recognizes his caretakers after a year in the wild!

We are very happy to begin our collaboration with this wonderful organization. Here is the Born Free USA press release.

And just to make sure we covered our bases, we ran it by Bugsy, the Classic Hardware studio cat, He gave it the paw of approval. We hope you will, too!

Classic Hardware loves Anna Sui

September 10,2012

Last Thursday night I was watching Project Runway and was so excited to see Anna Sui as the guest judge! She is one of my favorite designers.  Her line is fun, modern and well made with a great retro flair (be it the 40s, 60s or Edwardian) and a laid back rock and roll romanticism. Her use of color and mix of patterns are always creative and unexpected. Plus, she stays true to her classic black and cream palette that is timeless.

I was even more excited when I realized she was wearing a Classic Hardware necklace on the show.  It was a double star necklace I had created for her a couple of years ago. She has told me that she wears Classic Hardware on a regular basis and has bought my necklaces for her runway models as gifts and also for her store. I feel very honored to have such an amazing designer, who I admire so much, enjoy my work as well. Anna Sui Rocks!!! Check out her work HERE.

I was fortunate enough to attend a couple of her runway shows. New York Fashion Week is this week. Her Spring 2013 show is this coming Wednesday. Check it out HERE.

Anna Sui going Classic


Anna on the judges panel


Me with Anna in her Soho store

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