Kensington Trading

  174 Queen Street, Kensington      +27 11 616 1295     30 Oct 2023
As you travel along Queen Street in Kensington, in Joburg's eastern suburbs, a myriad of shops line the road. But it's stalwart Kensington Trading's inviting wrought iron gate that is sure to catch your eye. Established by Colin Kaufmann in 1985, the store is an institution, offering a unique selection of antique and vintage furniture, clothing, vinyl and one-of-a-kind decorative pieces for sale. Kensington Trading also specialises in furniture restorations and rents items for use as props by film production companies.
Kensington Trading entrance. 

Enter the store by opening the stained glass door, and you'll be met with an array of watch and jewellery cases, handbags, dress mannequins bedecked in vintage clothing and a vast selection of gorgeous beaded dresses, among other items. It's built for browsing. You can expect a warm greeting from manager Abongile Mthethwa or owner Joel Kaufmann, who took over the business in 1993 when his elder brother passed away. 

In the front of the shop, boxes of silverware and eclectic cutlery and homeware such as vibrant plastic egg holders offer interesting décor. Down the corridor on the right, one can browse through the Music House and pick up vinyls from Fleetwood Mac and Louis Armstrong to Diana Ross and Sting while listening to music being played from the record player.
Some of the vinyls in Kensington Trading's Music House. 

The auditorium in the back of the store displays a set of five mid-20th-century Pedrali chairs, an Art Deco walnut drinks cabinet, and even a Harley Davidson motorbike telephone. Any furniture in need of restoration or repair, before it is put on sale, can be taken to the in-house carpenter and master craftsman Stoffel Mane, who specialises in leather repairs and French polishing. 

Born and raised near Orange Gove to Jewish German parents who left that country between 1936 and 1937, Joel Kaufmann was previously a commodity trader on the stock exchange when he took over his brother's business. He says he enjoyed the treasure hunt aspect, using his acute business interests and the prospect of being his own boss, “You have to love what you do,” he explains. 

Kensington Trading is the longest established store on Queen Street. Joel says that when they first opened their biggest concerns were economic changes and unsettling times. "I see life. I see people," says Joel as he explains that he sees many of the neighbourhood's homeless community who often sleep under the awning of the shop and sells the contents of the shop to the people who are on the opposite side of the spectrum of wealth.

He recalls a time when the shop's most famous local celebrity customers were Brenda Fassie and Johnny Clegg, and other emerging creatives including artists, fashion designers and film students who use the shop as a set. 
Kensington Trading has a collection of cameras and other technologies. 

He says the work the business does regarding sustainability is important for society. “[This is] a green business” and people are now more aware of how much better buying second-hand is.

Sustaining a business in the economic hub that is Joburg - with all its challenges including major power outages - can't be easy but he level-headedly explains that there will always be a demand for previously-owned pieces. “You have to be optimistic that there will be better times,” he adds. He advises that being an entrepreneur is an act of bravery, counting risks and facing the uncertainty of success but "The higher the risk, the higher the reward."

Having seen the change in customer needs and trends, which are currently a desire for mid-century and art deco pieces, he has noted the definition of antique has changed, recalling a quote of unknown origin, “The definition of an antique is something your grandparents had, what your parents threw away and what you want now.” He explains that he is constantly chasing the high of the treasure hunt for interesting pieces, doing the research and looking for the next best thing. 

These unique pieces are found at estate sales, pawn shops, private sales, and auctions and people contact him with the items they wish to part with but Joel says there is an oversupply of furniture at the minute due to many people migrating and selling in distress which has encouraged him to be more selective when sourcing to manage this. And to keep track of their beautiful collection of treasures, Joel keeps a physical stock book of every item with details of how much it was purchased and sold. 
Clothing sold at Kensington Trading. 

He explains that Queen Street is viewed as a busy street with a large variety of different restaurants, clothing and furniture stores and other small shops, however, the buzz of the street is due to the many motorists driving past which doesn't relate to foot traffic. Queen Street somehow still maintains a quaint and intimate feel that draws a community of loyal customers.  

When you visit Joel is friendly and always keen to chat more about a unique piece that has caught your eye or about their extensive collection of vinyl. He took on his brother's dream and made it completely his own, from his establishment of the Music House in the early to mid-2000s and his wife's running of the vintage clothing aspect of the shop to his deep interest in researching an item's origin and history. With his commitment to business education, Joel is an advocate for legal and ethical business practices which he believes has helped create a working environment of collaboration and close-knit speciality services. 

We love the place ... some of us have been shopping there since the 1990s. In a city where so much changes it's comforting to see a place like Kensington Trading continue to be a landmark. 



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Open . Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri 09:00-17:00 , Sat 09:00-16:00, Sun 10:30-15:00.


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