You lookin' at me?
Photo by Joshua Kristal
New Yorkers Zak and Gillette Wing were trying to take it easy down in Asheville, N.C. She worked as a bank teller. He cleaned brush off the side of a mountain.
They each gained 15 pounds. The sojourn lasted four months.
“We were bored out of our minds,” Zak said.
The call of the wild, the magnetic pull of Gotham, hollered at them.
The city dwellers came back to NYC in 2009 and launched Holler & Squall – a shop of antiques, furniture, art, curios, collectible toys, decorative skeletons and taxidermy, and stuff so awesome the couple was soon asked to outfit the Helmut Lang pop-up shop in Soho.
The couple met the old-fashioned way (or at least, how Michelle Obama and President Obama met)—Gillette hired Zak, in 2003, at Housing Works, a non-profit that provides housing to the homeless and people with AIDS/HIV. But the 9 to 5 work grind eventually got them down; thus the move to the relaxed Appalachian town in 2008.
When the Wings opened Holler & Squall, open Thursday to Sunday on Atlantic near Hicks, they hoped it would pave a road to contentment.
“We wanted something of our own,” Gillette said.
They chose Atlantic Avenue because they thought with other storefronts like DARR and Horseman Antiques, a recognizable street name would be a bonus. Inspired by Kill Devil Hill in Greenpoint, Holler & Squall provides both things apartment dwellers need as well as an outlet for the Wings’ artistic expression.
Most of the wares are more than 50 years old.
The mojo was right.
“We were fairly surprised that the store did pretty well that first year. We just wanted to break even,” said Gillette.
She laughed. “Maybe not the best attitude for a small business owner.”
Zak and Gillette Wing with baby Paul, 1
When describing their shop, the Wings shy away from the words “antique,” or “vintage.” As they describe it, Holler & Squall is a collection of the Wings’ favorite flea market finds, arranged handsomely. They love the Elephant’s Trunk flea market in Connecticut, and frequent auctions in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Once a week they decide they hate the layout of the shop and move everything around. The weekly goal: Everything must go.
“The store has morphed and changed a lot. It’s always just things we like, functional, utilitarian,” said Zak.
“Yes, but it has gotten more decorative,” added Gillette.
Meaning, there’s a significant supply of taxidermy.
I didn’t think the neighborhood would embrace so many stuffed, dead animals.
“We didn’t either, but people seem to love them. They bring their kids in and teach them all about the animals. It seems to be a way to talk about evolution and death,” said Zak.
When I visited, a stuffed peacock still arrogantly cocking his head had just sold for $1,400, and a husky brown bear sold for $1,000. The taxidermy ranges from $300 to $2,500.
Other decorations included leather miniature animals with real fur, such as a camel for $140, and a black mannequin with antique arms and real hair for $395.
While the eccentric curios provide a draw, functional, affordable home items bring in the money.
Antique rugs from Iran, China and Afghanistan were going for $400 a piece. “I like rugs to be really worn down and thin,” said Zak.
A pair of green leather chairs was selling for $800, and a couch for $2,800.
Furniture is about 80 percent of sales at Holler & Squall, Gillette said.
Your chance to purchase from the Wing’s collection might be limited. Holler & Squall’s lease it up at the end of 2012. Zak, a carpenter who makes custom shelving and tables, and Gilettte say they might like to delve into interior design at some point.
For now, though, Holler & Squall is keeping the couple happily occupied.
“Most of our lives are consumed by Paul and Holler & Squall. And that’s exactly what we wanted,” said Zak.
Holler & Squall
Atlantic Avenue at Clinton Street
Thu & Fri: noon to 6 p.m.
Sat & Sun: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.