Hunter Bee Brings A Flea Market Aesthetic to Millerton

From the Rural Intelligence:

For many years, Kent Hunter and Jonathan Bee spent weekends visiting flea markets and antiques fairs, buying furniture and funky decorative objects that they had no room for in their apartment in New York. They stored their finds in Bee’s parents house in Great Barrington. “When the basement filled up, we knew it was time to open a shop,” says Hunter.

This Friday, the couple unveils HunterBee in a prime storefront in Millerton (which was previously home to Millerton Market and before that the much missed Pasta at Large.) Hunter Bee has a mix of country antiques, folk art, found objects, and industrial design. “From low to high, there is a beauty in everything here,” says Hunter who’s a graphic designer by day and is drawn to furniture and objects with bold lines and audacious shapes: vintage valises, factory furniture, old advertising signs, a Pop Art-inspired baby bottle. “I like things with history and a patina.”  He also likes things that are quirky and one-of-a-kind such as a pair of formal French-style chairs made from bicycle tires. “They’re in the style of Louis XIV or maybe Louis XV, and they are incredibly comfortable,” he says with glee, bouncing on the seat. “And the matching table is genius—pure Wiener Werkstätte!”

The couple, who’ve been life partners for 15 years, are dividing the labor to make sure the vicissitudes of their professional collaboration does not affect their personal life. “Kent is going to pick all the merchandise and I am going to be in charge of sales,” says Bee, an artist whose various New York careers included fashion sales and social work in the AIDS community. “Now I’m a cliché—a middle aged antiques dealer,” he says cheerfully.  But Bee hasn’t lost his social conscience and he is selling handmade jewelry by people with disabilities from Community Access to the Arts, the Great Barrington organization that organizes workshops in the visual and performing arts for people with disabilities.

The men say they have been welcomed with open arms by the merchants of Millerton.  Despite the economic climate, they think it is a good time to be opening an antiques store. “It’s the green way to decorate your house.” says Hunter. “Antiques are the ultimate in recycling.”