An unusual aspect of living or working in a town with dozens of antiques stores is that from time to time, one encounters remnants of an earlier life in someone’s shop.
The other day my travels took me to see a building which houses an upholstery business. Passing through their garage storage space, I stopped in my tracks: Hey—my old wingbacks!
I bought the two chairs above in 1998, and sold them at a yard sale in 2006. The peculiar brick-patterned fabric leaves no doubt these were in my old place at 32 Warren for that entire time... But I’d also recognize those cat-scratched corners anywhere. Plus, the tags safety-pinned by the upholsterer to each chair refreshed my memory of which antiquer bought them off my sidewalk.
The pair came out of an odd, long-gone store in the 600 block of Warren Street, now occupied by Red Chair. It’s then-owner Ken used three floors of the cavernous building for retail, and his business model was baffling at first glance. Unlike pretty much every other Hudson merchant’s store, this one seemed to have absolutely no point of view or ruling aesthetic... One might find a mint-condition George Nelson desk next to a stained Rent-A-Center overstuffed couch, in front of an Ikea screen, illuminated by a beat-up lava lamp, atop a chipped faux-Colonial sideboard. Everything was priced low, almost at random, and anything decent tended to sell fast—then reappear in another shop’s window at 5-10 times the price.
One had to check in frequently to catch a deal, and as a new homeowner with little furniture to populate a large house, I stopped by regularly and got to know Ken a bit. A white-haired guy probably in his late 50s or early 60s, but with a youthful countenance, his politics were vaguely libertarian. He liked to tell rambling stories, often with an undercurrent of skepticism of political authority. Most days he sat in a small booth on the 2nd floor overlooking the main space, surfing the then-nascent web at a snail’s pace via dialup on an older computer. A stooped assistant with a slight stutter handled much of the hauling of Ken’s wares in via the alley entrance, and out via the front door.
Eventually, Ken explained the seeming randomness of his ever-shifting inventory: he was buying the contents of abandoned storage lockers, usually sight-unseen, and reselling anything of value contained therein... an original Storage Wars guy, long before the A&E show. Most of what he sold was true junk; otherwise it wouldn’t have been abandoned. But now and then one could pick up something of real value, typically for well under $100. Sometime around the turn of the century, he sold the building to Angelika Westerhoff, whose store has also since evaporated. I was told that Ken had a similar but even larger warehouse store in Poughkeepsie for a while, but I never could find it.
Anyway, these wingbacks were purchased with the intention of getting them recovered... I liked the shape, not the upholstery. But I never got around to it, and by letting the cats attack the eventually-to-be-recovered fabric, it seemed to spare the rest of my stuff from their claws. Below are two of them (one who died last Winter) enjoying a nap together by the fireplace. Apparently I only needed to buy one of these chairs, not the pair.