In the fall of 2008 the only antiques entities in Millerton were Hunter Bee (next to the diner) and the Millerton Antique Center which now houses 30 dealers, and a used furniture store with shabby chic furniture called Johnsons. Now the town is attracting many more businesses featuring furnishings, antiques and collectibles. Decorators and dealers of note are flocking to these shops for finds that might cost far more in New York City or Hudson.
We decided to pay a visit to Jonathan Bee and Kent Hunter of Hunter Bee to discuss why Millerton has become such a ‘cool little town’ with hoards of tourists seeking it out. They told us their story and gave us their unique perspective on why they came to this quaint village.
After living on East 22nd Street in New York, they were ready to move upstate in 2007 with a basement full of Kent’s collectibles. At first they thought they would set up shop in Hudson and buy a building with an apartment over a store. But Jonathan as a young artist had had a residency in the studio of Norman Rockwell’s studio in Stockbridge, recognized the beauty of this area. After a friend told him that Millerton was a great location, he met Kent at the train and drove him up to Millerton where they immediately fell in love with the little town. They found the big space next to the diner and have been there ever since.
Jonathan told us: “At that time Harney had just opened their tasting room and shop, and Dan Shaw of Rural Intelligence who lives in Falls Village said ‘You should definitely open there and get involved with Trade Secrets.’ Then Millerton started to explode with great people, Paul Harney and John Panzer took over the diner, Irving Farms coffee shop had recently opened and the Moviehouse was going digital doing telecasts and lectures on everything from opera to climate change.”
We now have several new shops including 22 Main’s Finds & Designs with eclectic vintage decoratives; North Elm in the red barn with furnishings, rugs, bedding and throws; Jennings & Rohn Montage sharing the space next to the Antique Center with Mix on Main’s, Loco Leo next to the the Moviehouse, Charlotte Taylor gifts, Christopher Todd Antiques. There is also Meta 44 an architectural firm and design shop, and of course Gilmore Glass.
Kent chimed in saying, “So now that we are a destination, people can come to town, get lunch in any one of five or six places, stroll down the Rail Trail and park across from it visit the Schoolhouse museum, and have a wonderful eclectic shopping experience with a florist, an herbalist, clothing, antiques and what have you.”
“People are coming all the way up from Bedford, Katonah and over from Hudson on the weekends. It’s one stop shopping, they can find a chair, get it re-upholstered by Leslie Flood, get a matching table and rug and come away with a newly re-decorated room.
“Millerton is a decorator’s secret source. A lot of decorators have second homes up here. Matthew Patrick Smyth, Heidi Hendricks, and John Willey all have houses here. Also Robin Bell a decorator whose daughter is the actress Lake Bell. All great tastemakers and trendsetters, many of whom have been featured in Architectural Digest, Vogue and Town and Country. Even renowened antique dealers such as Frederico de Vera who has a boutique in New York and of course the fabulous John Roselli and Bunny Williams are well know local shoppers as well.
Something we’ve started here at Hunter Bee are book signings, since we’ve become friends with some of the wonderful authors in the area. Frank Langella of Dracula fame, signed his book, “Dropped Names” here. He lives in Millerton on weekends. Langella is known for his wry wit and sometimes scathing humor.” Other authors include former editor of Food and Wine, Dana Cowin, who wrote “Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen.” Florence de Dampierre, the CT. writer of the book French Chic Living). Then there is Mary Randolph Carter, an executive at Polo Ralph Lauren, author of the Junk Style book series and longtime local. Her newest book, “Never Stop to Think, Do I have a Place for This?” was not only appropriate for Hunter Bee, but features a chapter on Kent and Jonathan’s collections.
There are a lot of other dealers in Millerton who have amusing objects, including Hunter Bee, who are known for arousing a sense of fun. Bob Murphy and Jack Lindsay who have a booth at the Millerton Antique Center own Doodletown have Nez Perce beaded bags and the smallest known engraved portrait of George Washington.
What people love about Millerton is that they can be themselves. It is a working class town with a great history. It used to be a rough little town. Bath Ruth loved it and took the train up to Millerton and went to the theatre.. Ralph Fidele has photos from the WPA of the town in the Schoolhouse that are also in the Metropolitan Museum online. Fodor’s voted us #1 of the top ten best small towns.
“There is a depth, culture and richness of community on so many levels here. That is why we love it,” said Kent.
Christine Bates, Millerton Village Trustee had this to say about Hunter Bee:
“Hunter Bee is the place you can always find the unexpected and original object that you didn’t know you needed - a mid-century modern chandelier, a glass-fronted cabinet, an illuminated wire Eiffel Tower. Kent and Jonathan are creative connoisseurs of the objects they sell. And the prices are very reasonable. Our out of town guests always want to see all antique and design shops on Main Street.”