Prairie Profiles, Karen O’Byrne: Upholstery is her specialty

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 8, 2006

By Ed Shannon, staff writer

I just love upholstery work,&8221; is the comment of Karen O’Byrne, who has been involved with this aspect of furniture renewing and repairing for 31 years.

However, this particular business is just one facet of her active life.

She’s the daughter of Mildred and the late Art Boyer, and she is a 1961 graduate of Albert Lea High School. And with photography as one of her hobbies, O’Byrne has combined this with a class reunion to be held on Aug. 11 and 12 at the Elks Club and American Legion.

&8220;I’ll be presenting a PowerPoint presentation on the old high school building,&8221; she said as her part of the program for the reunion where she’s also serving on the committee.

&8220;I went to the site every day and took a lot of photos as they were tearing the place down.

There are a lot memories for our class in that place,&8221; she added.

O’Byrne’s first job was at Land O’Lakes Creameries when the firm was located on West Clark Street. After graduation from high school she worked for Queen Products and Albert Lea Savings & Loan. As a sideline she made doll clothes under the brand name of &8220;Fashions by Kaylee&8221; and sold them through the local Pamida and Ben Franklin stores.

An adult education class on upholstery taught by Joe Renchin gave her the incentive to start her own business.

&8220;I needed to support my family,&8221; she explained.

This new business venture led to the creation of what’s now Mikkaren Enterprises Upholstery.

Her business specializes in chairs, couches, restaurant and bar booth seats and backs, camper cushions, and restoring antique furniture. Some of this involves the repair or replacement of springs.

&8220;Up to 15 years ago I also did show car interiors,&8221; she commented.

Materials used in her well-equipped shop include cloth, vinyl and Naugahyde.

&8220;I have a large selection of fabrics and materials and have three to four days delivery (from the suppliers),&8221; she said.

Another specialty for Mikkaren, she added, are seat covers and cushions for dining room and kitchen chairs.

O’Byrne’s spacious shop is in a separate building behind her home on South Broadway Avenue. As she explains to new customers, &8220;I live a mile straight south of Hardee’s on the right side and at the top of the second hill.&8221;

&8220;I don’t advertise. I depend on word of mouth, repeat customers, the Yellow Pages, and being a member of the chamber of commerce,&8221; O’Byrne explained. And during the past 31 years she’s done repeat work on some items.