In the 1960s, most people were giving their old things the heave-ho and replacing them with new-fangled metal and plastic chairs in mod colors and chrome-plated everything. At the time, Pawling resident Jack Meaney was a youngster and his dad was pulling the family car to the side of the road to go through piles of discarded stuff – even on one occasion when the whole family was dressed up and on their way to a funeral. Far from being embarrassed, Jack was in heaven: “Old toys, old radios, old magazines. One of the best things we found was some discarded flash powder used for cameras. We made lines of it, lit it, and blew stuff up.” Little Jack grew up to be a man with a similar obsession. He’s a chip off the old chifforobe, so to speak, and he doesn’t hesitate to pull the family car over, either.
“I’ve developed super peripheral vision,” he says. “I see everything. I basically have become my father.” Now Pawling is poised to reap the benefits of Jack’s vision in the form of “Purveyors of Antiques, Weird Stuff and Cool Junk,” a brand new shop on Broad Street.
Jack and his wife, Lynn, moved to Pawling in 1989. They were attracted by the area’s rural charm: “I grew up in Westchester when there were still farms everywhere,” he says. “Moving to Pawling was like going back to my childhood, in a way.” After outgrowing a small house in the village, the Meaneys bought a log cabin-style house Jack had noticed was for sale while he was out for a run on West Dover Road. It needed a lot of work, but Jack’s trained eye saw its potential right away: “The guy who was selling it was pointing out everything that was wrong with it, but my head was about to explode. We got a great deal.”
The Meaneys moved in with their two young daughters, and Jack proceeded to fill it with treasures he brought back from tag sales, the transfer station, and, of course, the side of the road. Jack has eclectic taste when it comes to what he collects – ephemera, paintings, old Hickory furniture, anything handmade that’s unusual, even if it’s not that old. Jack picks up things that have a personal nostalgic value. “Part of it is getting stuff you would have wanted when you were a kid,” he says. “You’d go to a fair and there would be a Beatles wig or something, and your parents would say, ‘you’re not getting that, it’s too much money!’” But a lifetime of foraging through junk has also honed Jack’s nose for quality. One recent $2 purchase, a Navajo bowl, turned out to be worth around $800.
The Thrill of the Hunt
“A lot of it is the thrill of the hunt,” says Jack. While he has trouble letting go of some things, he did sell a lot on Ebay, with Lynn’s help. She became an expert while in between jobs for a period of time. Now Lynn commutes to her job in Norwalk everyday. As she says, “Jack’s hobby got a little out of control. We needed more space in the house!” When the storefront formerly housing a computer repair shop across from O’Connor’s became available, they jumped at the chance to take it and turn it into a shop where they could sell some of the overflow.
The tiny shop is now pleasantly cluttered with stacks of old Beatles magazines, Halloween masks, framed photographs, and patterned throws amidst pieces of primitive furniture. When I stepped in I had the feeling I was in a Dickens novel, but in the early 1900s instead of early 1800s. I half expected a wizened old man in spectacles to peer out from behind the rustic, pottery-filled hutch. There’s an “old lodge” vibe (think Timberline Lodge, the hotel on the side of Oregon’s Mt. Hood made famous by appearing in The Shining). But many of the pieces would be equally at home in a country kitchen or a shabby chic family room.
Proud to Be Vintage
Purveyors of Antiques, Weird Stuff & Cool Junk is on 1 Broad Street in Pawling. Jack, who also works as a real estate appraiser, has an office upstairs and will be there most days. Stop by and take a look. If you’d like a sneak preview, check out their Facebook page and Instagram feed. For the time being, the shop will be officially open only on Saturdays between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., but if you see a burgundy Odyssey parked outside, knock loudly; Jack will come down and let you in to browse. (Although Jack is bespectacled, he is not wizened, even though by his own measure, he is old. “Anything from the 1970s and before is considered old,” he says.)