Planning a remodel or DIY project? Before you head to the requisite vintage shops around town to gather your supplies, we’ve got a “best-kept secret” of sorts to share with you; an antique wonderland just a quick drive away in Aurora, Oregon. Aurora Mills—a small family-owned business—is a one-stop shop for unique and historic finds. They scour the country for rare and reclaimed pieces and salvage local buildings for raw materials to be repurposed by businesses, homeowners, set designers and craft-enthusiasts alike. Whether you’re looking for an early 1900s leaded glass window or a vintage dentist’s chair, they have it all (and then some.) Though they’re making big strides toward expanding their online presence and increasing accessibility, we can’t urge you enough to go visit the actual property in Aurora. Between a showroom, middle warehouse, lower warehouse and the “potato hut” (a Quonset hut), you could spend all day on the sprawling premises. And trust us, you’ll need all day to rifle through their extensive collection of incredible antiques. We were lucky enough to get a tour and chat with Kamissa Mort, the Media Specialist for Aurora Mills. Read on for more details!
E+E: How did you get involved with Aurora Mills?
Kamissa Mort: Oh, man, I’m such a nerd. My background is in Art and Architectural History—I worked at the Smithsonian for years at the National Archives, that’s where I met my wife, who is a lawyer out here. I knew about this place before I came here, I’d read about it and heard they were hiring; it was for a store clerk position. When they hired me, it was not for the position I have now (laughs). I basically came here and was like, “What’s your inventory system like?” because I’m this nerd who builds database systems for old museums and they’re like, “We don’t really have one.” I built a database for them, and then from there, we built a website. I love old things, and history has always been really interesting to me, but I’d never been part of any business side of things so it’s been really fun.
E+E: How do you go about salvaging the materials?
KM: Each individual situation is unique. Oftentimes, we go in, and we’re able to pick up different things. Back East, we go into old factories that are shut down. Then, we bring it all back here in big filled containers on the backs of trains. We do a lot of local things too; a lot of the wood is local and over 100 years old. We have two guys salvaging old barns, all sustainably done. We’re not crazy about the mid-century trend; we’re more into the industrial look. Mostly, we look for utilitarian and industrial stuff, which sort of finds its home here because this is an old industrial mill.
E+E: What are your typical customers like?
KM: We have a couple different kinds of clients. One is the guy who comes in and says, “Oh, I’m looking for this old tool because I really like to use old tools” or “I bought this old house and I’m missing an old 5-pound door” And then we have DIY-ers, of course, people who come in for inspiration. Then, there are people from Hollywood—they treat us like a prop shop; Grimm is actually one of our biggest clients, they’re here on a weekly basis. We also have people doing upscale homes and people doing commercial and retail space coming in here a lot.
E+E: What are some of the online outlets that you sell to?
KM: Fab.com, that’s huge for us. We approached them originally and just finished our 5th one with them, then One King’s Lane approached us, and they’ve been huge for us as well. Yesterday, Vintage & Modern approved us—so we have the opportunity to sell to designers and architects through them. We have piles of stuff going out every day; we ship all over the country and the world.
E+E: What’s one of the craziest items you have here?
KM: We have some tubs that came from the old Oregon insane asylum. Who knows, they could have been in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest because it was filmed there!
E+E: What’s next for Aurora Mills?
KM: The biggest project we’re working on is our new website, which will be unveiled at the end of March. It’s going to be somewhat redesigned, but right now when you go to our website, you can only put items on reserve. Soon you’ll be able to buy it directly from the site. It’s going to be a whole new system, and I think it will change everything. We’re going to try to put as much as possible up there; we just want to increase the accessibility.
Aurora Mills Architectural Salvage
14971 First St NE
Aurora, OR 97002
Tuesday to Sunday, 10AM-5PM