This is the second of five interviews with small business owners at their boutique shops on Bergen Street, Brooklyn.
Wares: Modern and vintage women’s clothing, antiques, artwork.
Location: 466 Bergen Street
Andrea Miller, when did you open Eponymy? In late September of 2008.
What hatched the idea? I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I knew what I didn’t want to do, and so I took a crapshoot and opened the store. My grandparents were in antiques so I developed an eye growing up. I can pick out things easily, and I started humble, so I thought it would be cool. . .this idea of being able to buy anything in a shop and have it be well curated and designed. My grandparents retired years ago, and all of our antique fixtures were in a horrible condition. I hauled them up from their old antique shop and I refinished and repainted all of them to give them a more modern feel.
Do you know what your oldest antique is? Umm… yeah, but I don’t want to say.
It’s not from the Titanic is it? (laughing) No, but it doesn’t necessarily pop out at you so it’s the kind of thing I wouldn’t necessarily want anyone in the public to know. I know that sounds sketchy. I’ll tell you off the record.
Fair enough. Maybe I’ll buy it. What was the biggest challenge opening the store? Oh God. Wow, there were so many. I think the biggest challenge, and also the biggest thing I had going for me, was my naiveté. The fact that I never worked at a store before meant I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, which was good in a way because if I had known more I’d have thought, “No, that’s nuts. That’s crazy.” So I’m glad that I took the plunge and did it, but just the licensing, and the bureaus, and the dates, paperwork, all that crap was just unbearable. Permits. Anything that has to do with bureaucracy is just a nightmare.
Has the turn in the economy had an effect on the business, or your plans for it? The tricky thing is in order to buy new stuff for the fall you have to buy it in the spring. So I had to buy this entire inventory before I even knew that I was going to get the shop. So you have to make a leap of faith.
And be able to forecast. Exactly. I was already planning and buying stuff way before I opened shop and I think my store opened either the day before, or the day of, or the day after the stock market crashed. I was like, “Woo-Hoo! Yeah! Awesome timing.” I haven’t really known anything other than this environment, although I wasn’t necessarily predicting this environment a year ago. So it’s hard to say because I don’t know what it was like before. I imagine it ain’t easy. On the other hand, I’m learning way, way, way more than I would in a gentle environment. So hopefully when things start to get better it will make things that much more seamless. I guess. Hopefully?
Do you use any local designers? I do. I’m going heavy on that in the fall. I’m using a local designer named Arati Rao, and her line is called “A Line.” She’s right in this neighborhood; Rao has really amazing, elegant, creative stuff. I use a bunch of local jewelry designers. Most of the artists are local, and then I do, obviously, a mix of vintage and newer lines. A lot of them are Korean, and some are from California. I do Vivienne Westwood— the Anglomania line.
Was her wedding dress in the Sex and The City movie? Probably. I actually didn’t see that movie. I should Netflix it.
The shop isn’t just clothes. You also sell artwork, and have it on display in your showroom. Do you ever host art shows? In general, most of these pieces have been here since I opened. Some pieces are new, and I keep adding in. I do monthly events at the store. We just had a tattoo event. We gave out tattoos for between $20-50 dollars. I had a top shelf tattoo artist set up a booth in the window, and we did 20 tattoos or something, and then they get a discount at the store. So I think this month I’m going to rotate the art in the store and we’re going to do an artist’s reception, sell limited edition prints, as well as give some kind of discount on clothing. Every month I do an event.
New York magazine named you one of their tastemakers. Do you think good taste translates? How do you mean?
Like if you dress well, or maybe you appreciate fine art, are you less likely to, say, go see a Saw movie? I’m sure it all comes hand in hand, but I bet there are some brilliant musicians out there who don’t give a crap about what they’re wearing. On the flip side, there can be someone who is extremely well-dressed and has a lot of cash to spend, and throw around, who doesn’t really have a good sense of culture, or the arts, or music, or anything at all. I do think that having a sense of aestheticism is similar to having the raw talent of being a really good musician or having it in you to act or mimic. You can develop those crafts, but it’s an inherent thing.
Do you have any guilty pleasures? Something that a “tastemaker” might not be expected to like? Probably.
We know it’s not the Sex and The City movie. You know, I got rid of my cable so it’s hard to say now. I don’t feel really guilty about things because if I do them I usually think they’re funny, but for a while I was obsessed with the Discovery Health channel shows. They had one on face transplants; they had one on a girl who was born without a face—all this crazy stuff. That was my TV thing, but I don’t eat chocolate in the closet or anything like that.
Eat chocolate in the closet? Is that an expression? I don’t know.
It is now. Is there a trend that women should be looking out for this summer? Anything that catches your eye? Our Melissa recycled plastic sustainable shoes have been doing really well. They are super-comfortable. They’re pretty affordable for shoes, and they are recycled. So that’s cool. And they smell good. They smell like My Little Pony. The joke is that they’re actually recycled Pony, like all those Ponies in the 80’s became these shoes. That might just be my joke.
Is there a fashion trend you particularly hate? There is this look that’s a lot of flair. It’s people with stuff all over their bodies.
Like Applebee’s? Almost like Applebee’s except it’s the scarf, with the earring, with the hat. Bag, with the other bag on it, with the pins, and it’s just, you know, too much. Lets take off half of those pieces of flair and then we’ll talk from there. I don’t think we really get a lot of that in this neighborhood. It’s mostly Williamsburg, not that I’m hating on Williamsburg. There’s a lot of too-muchness going on. I think that if you take it way over the top and you’re just totally too much then that’s awesome, but if you’re only “kind of too much” you’ve got to streamline a little bit.
Do you think the stores on this block all feed off one another, customer wise? I certainly hope so, and I think that this strip has been well developed. It’s a certain type of development. It’s more of a cultural development than a huge mass, like an Atlantic Yards development. So I do think that it’s good, and every business that opens up in this area, on this block, we all help each other. The way I see it, the more good businesses the better it is for me. No matter how good a store is if it’s in the middle of a desert no one’s going to go. It makes this area more of a destination for people to come see interesting shops, eat interesting food, walk around, have fun. It’s fun to do that in life.
How to get there: Use the Hopstop link below for specific directions. (Eponymy, 466 Bergen Street, between Flatbush and 5th, Brooklyn, 718.789.0301, shopeponymy.com)