Where New York’s Wealthiest Go for the Oddest Finds
(Bloomberg) -- The wares at Creel & Gow, a little boutique on a quiet Manhattan street, are one-of-a-kind peculiarities obtained from the ends of the Earth. And they don’t come cheap.
Chinese headdresses used in early 20th century operas line a wall above $20,000 French fossils dating back millions of years. There are ceramics from Luxor, Egypt, artisan-made placemats from Colombia and a menagerie of exotic animals—all dead. The Upper East Side store’s taxidermy includes a Eurasian Eagle Owl and a $6,000 zebra head from South Africa. A deconstructed lobster mounted in a wooden case will run you $12,000.
The shop isn’t far from the bustling rows of Fifth and Madison avenues, but it’s a world away when one considers what it sells—and where it’s located. The store is nestled beneath Hayward House, a lavish boutique run by John Goldstone and Marin Hopper—she’s the daughter of Hollywood bad boy Dennis Hopper. The townhouse once belonged to Grosvenor Atterbury, Gilded Age architect to industrialists such as John D. Rockefeller and Henry Havemeyer.
Home listings on this block of urban palaces include a $61 million mansion once occupied by fashion designer Reed Krakoff and a $21 million redoubt built by banking heir Paul Mellon.
Jamie Creel, who opened the store in 2012, is no interloper. He’s the scion of the Gardiner family, lords of their very own 3,300-acre island in the Hamptons since the 1600s. He sold his interest to his aunt years ago, and now spends much of his time traveling. Parties he hosts at a Paris apartment are glamorous enough for magazines to notice.
“I’m not really following any traditional business model,” he says of his store. “I’m trying to do something that nobody else has done before.”
When he was a teenager, Creel’s parents sent him to Kenya, where he would trade blue jeans for baskets and swords. Now he places bigger orders, finding eccentric items while wandering in such places as Tanzania, Mozambique and Morocco, where he’s headed next. Creel is also trying to get some weaponry, including hunting daggers known as “pig sticks” known to be on an island in the Indonesian archipelago.
Since he’s in one of the richest neighborhoods on the planet, his target clientele is close aboard. Passersby are drawn by the oddities in his front window while customers call with requests, hoping Creel can find something in particular. It’s also a paradise for interior designers, who can order one-of-a-kind pieces for extremely wealthy clients. Peacocks are particularly popular, says Creel.
His enterprise has been a lucrative one, with expansion plans potentially including a second store in Paris.
“We make money,” he says. “Yeah, weirdly.”
Shoppers need to be quite careful when walking through the shop lest a tote bag (or a well-coiffed pooch) knock over a century-old vase, or someone lose a finger in a vintage cigar cutter that looks like a guillotine. Once, a woman banged into a stuffed penguin, sending it tumbling onto the floor, snapping off its beak. Creel says he had to send it back to the taxidermist for repair. Most fragile, however, are his glass pieces. One, a glass hammer made by a glassblower in Oregon, comes with glass nails.
“Totally useless,” says Creel. “But it looks good.”
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