The Hidden Treasures at Black Cat Antiques

You never know what you’ll discover at this unique shop in the Westfort Village.

Antique shops are places that visitors seek out to find the hidden gems of a community that present not only a monetary value but also a historical or cultural significance.

A visit to Black Cat Antiques, a family run business located in the Westfort Village, (one of Thunder Bay’s historic business districts) does just that, offering an eclectic collection of items from the traditional to the wild and wooly and even the weird and wacky.

Where antique shops in bigger cities will often specialize in selling certain kinds of antiques, “that doesn’t work here,” states Paul Kimberly, who owns and the runs the unique, second-hand shop with his wife Lee Searles. They call themselves “generalists,” a term applied to many collectors.

The tightly packed shop is an eclectic organized mix of thousands of fascinating objects from the past. “We specialize in clutter,” jokes Lee.  Yet nearly every item has been scrutinized and priced accordingly to a market value that can change dramatically with a generational turn of interest.


Paul is fascinated by the upswing in sales due to Millennials' sudden interest in collecting, which is knowledgeable and precise. “They are interested in a completely different set of collectables than the previous generation and they’re still developing their taste. They’re very specific with what they want. They’ll wait to buy the right piece at the best piece, but they’ll buy only one.”

Past generations would collect dozens of one item, from the well worn to the rare unpackaged first edition. Today the focus is on the homemade and handmade, so different kinds of objects are selling like hotcakes, such as anvils. “They’re blacksmithing. They’re making things and restoring things for themselves,” says Paul.

Artisans will refabricate tarnished silver spoons and forks into steampunk-like jewelry and costume adornments. Called “altered art,” the crafters rely on NOS (New Old Stock) MIB (Mint in Box), OAK (One of A Kind) or any number of acronyms applied to the variety of objects found in the shop.

To list what Black Cat sells would be exhausting, as they have everything from cheap toys to high-end diamond rings and an Etruscan jug from 500 B.C. Paul jokes that his shop is like a TARDIS, which is Dr. Who’s time machine, bigger on the inside than on the outside. The joke leads to a discussion about the shop’s biggest fans; children. Many are Whovians (Dr. Who fans). “Kids are often repeat customers or gazers,” says Paul. “Children love antique shops.”

Lee and Paul get much of their business from downsizing in the United States, clearing a house of certain objects or doing a “broomclean,” where they find ways to sell or dispose of everything, “from the crown jewels to the half-used box of Tide,” says Paul. And they do about 70% of their shop sales online.

If you’re planning on visiting the shop on a visit to Thunder Bay, Paul suggests, “Come in with some time on your hands. And if you’re looking for something, ask.” No doubt, like the kids who fall in love with the place, you will go in curious and come out educated.

About Duncan Weller

A writer and visual artist, Duncan Weller is a Governor General's Award winner who lives in Thunder Bay. You can visit his website at His latest two books are a novel, Flight of the Silk, and an expanded edition of the award-winning children's picture book, The Boy from the Sun.

Recommended Articles

Lac Des Milles Lacs and Black Bay

Ice Fishing Hot Spots near Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay Winter Fun Guide 2023

The complete A to Z list.

A Pancake is Just a Pancake... Or Is It?

The Top 10 Places to get Finn Pancakes in Thunder Bay

Green Mantle and Nanabijou's Wife

Discover the Legends of Thunder Bay's Natural Wonders

Trails at Shuniah Mines

Come Ride in Thunder Bay

12 Places to Go Walleye Fishing In and Around Thunder Bay

Catch your limit and experience the province's best angling near this Northwest Ontario city.

An Epic Road Trip to Thunder Bay

Two weeks, five stopovers, and one incredible adventure in Northern Ontario

Been There, Done That, Got the T-Shirt

Local artists make the best souvenir tees

“It was instant panic. Why am I doing this?”

Keeping cool with cold plunges and cryotherapy.

The Remembrance Poppy and its Thunder Bay Roots

How an iconic downtown hotel helped launch this time-honoured tradition.

The Niagara of the North

Kabakeba Falls Lives Up to Its Billing

A City of Sisu

Finnish Culture in Thunder Bay

Dog Sledding with Boreal Journeys, just outside Thunder Bay

Pull of the Wild

Fly Fishin' The Nipigon River

On the Headwaters of Lake Superior

Circle of Friends Quilt Shoppe in Thunder Bay

A Cornerstone of Community

Sweet Escape Cake Cafe

Dessert Anyone?

Ungalli Clothing – Thunder Bay's one stop shop for Unique, Local and Environmentally Friendly Gifts!

Conquer a Giant

This iconic Northwest Ontario landmark rises 1000 ft above the surface of Lake Superior.

Time to change your clocks—but why?

The Thunder Bay and Northwest Ontario Connection to Daylight Savings Time.

The NEW Fort William

Thunder Bay's Downtown South Core welcomes new businesses