Photography by Jamie Beck
Words by Katie Stolowitz
Despite all the warnings Mom, Dad, and teachers gave me growing up, despite the fact that my mid-20s self should certainly know better, I’m not going to lie…I judged a book by its cover.
From my first step off the L-train, I knew that Williamsburg defined the epitome of cool. I readily admit this without hesitation or bias, as my California-born self could technically pledge allegiance to Caroll Gardens and/or Park Slope (but I have visited both, and FYI, not as cool). The charm and character of Bedford Avenue is blatantly obvious, and although it might be somewhat superficial to make assumptions based on wardrobe, the personal style of the neighborhood’s inhabitants clearly demonstrate It’s Okay My Dear Owner Ashley Cheek’s observation…Williamsburg’s “streets are filled with passionate people.”
In a nutshell, Bedford Avenue is the anti-Murray Hill.
Grand Street, however, gave me a different impression.
Although just a short walking distance away, Grand Street’s cover looks a bit different. The street is definitely quieter, and the line of boarded up buildings makes it less visually inviting than Williamsburg’s main thoroughfare. But my commitment to Working Class compelled me to Grand Street and in doing so, re-taught me the lesson learned in third grade with The Giver.
Stop 1: Perry Gargano and Front 242.
In the spirit of the relationship issue, if ever there was a man/store/talent that embraced the importance of personal connections and community relationships, it would be this guy. Whether it’s the bar-owners next store that look after the shop when Perry sneaks out for lunch, the wood delivery man who became a customer, or the local stylist who introduced him to his handbag designer, the effort to open and run 242 is a piecemeal one.
And while collaborative efforts can at times appear more patchwork and lack clear direction, the message behind the store and its inventory is anything but vague. With a workspace in the back where all inventory originates, the store is charmingly handsome. Gargano himself, whose background includes significant exhibit design and installation experience, is much more qualified to adequately describe the detail of the dark wood floors and ornate ceilings, but in my un-architectural terminology…its way cool.
His pieces make a similar statement. With his premiere venture into jewelry, Gargano creates make-the-outfit pieces hip enough for the coolest of editorial spreads. I imagine Lohan paring the skull and cross bone cuff with a little black dress… Please note I genuinely write that with the highest of esteem, as while I can’t say much about her sobriety, the girl can dress.
Stop 2: Ashley Cheeks and It’s Okay My Dear
If Perry is rock and roll, his neighbor, Ashley Cheeks, gives off the indie vibe. Her “appointment or by-chance” only studio is filled with one of kind novelty items that scream of originality. With tutus, vintage bikes, and luggage you wish your grandfather still owned filling her storefront, her own handmade pieces are the real standouts. Head ware is her specialty, and she clearly has an eye for it, as while not her own design, the headband she wore was the first thing the cute bartender commented on when we arrived at our dinner meeting.
Born and raised in Mississippi, her path to Grand Street too relied on the community that characterizes Brooklyn. One would never expect that the Southern girl knew only her sister when she relocated 3 years ago. Though through the power of networking and Twitter, she now fits effortlessly in. It does seem a bit unfair that Cheeks has such talent, a very cool studio, AND a rent controlled apartment, and under other circumstances, I might demand a certain power above to redistribute the wealth immediately. However before doing so, I will first invite ya’ll (word choice inspired by Cheeks) to purchase one of her headbands, dresses, or newly designed pair of shorts; while having some of her talents might be nice, a compliment from a cute bartender is not a bad alternative.
Stop 3: Jeremy Hollingworth at Severely Vintage
Although a writer not knowing a good analogy parallels peanut butter not knowing jelly, I am having a bit more difficulty continuing the storeowner-as-music theme when describing Jeremy Hollingworth. Part of me is compelled to show tunes (I attribute this to his past history on Broadway more than Jeremy as of late), part of me to 80’s rock (due to his propensity for color), part of me to pop (more Gwen Stefani and Sweet Escape, less Britney Spears).
But none of these genres adequately describe Hollingworth, as his showroom and pieces have much more of an unique feel. Born and raised in the Berkshires, Jeremy relocated to the city to attend NYU. After some time spent on Broadway and in a much-to-his-relief-now unreleased independent film, he found himself in the vintage goods collecting world. Although seemingly a complete change in career paths, Hollingworth the actor had prepared for the role during performances on the road, and his castmates would often find his dressing room filled with chairs, posters, and lamps newly acquired from local flea markets.
And practice has made perfect. Severely Vintage, which arose somewhat serendipitously with the help of friends, friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends, is filled with invaluable treasures. Some items are “loud,” some “brash,” some “tacky;” ALL are memorable. Hollingworth is the first to admit that with respect to his pieces; “museum quality they are not.” He values this point, as the imperfections work to make his pieces affordable. And in this day and age, when even the Duchess of York is looking to make a deal, perfection is definitely overrated.
Just like New York’s famous park, chaotic square, and very tall building, Bedford Avenue is definitely great to look at. And although I am by no means New York expert (which is quickly evident when I get off the subway and go the wrong direction… EVERY time, WITHOUT fail), I have learned that the city is about much more than what’s captured in guidebooks. New York isn’t simply defined by its landmarks, but rather by the talent and passionate New Yorkers, three of who walk on Grand.
To get more info on Perry Gargano click here.
To get more info on It’s Ok My Dear click here.
To get more info on Severely Vintage Click here.