A few Saturdays ago, I gave my car a much-needed spin outside Brooklyn. Destination: West Stockbridge, Massachusetts, a small town in the Berkshires that’s home to two very special antique stores: Equator and McGrory’s Oriental Rugs, owned, respectively, by Robin Greeson and her husband, Donald McGrory.
Riding shotgun on this jaunt up Route 22 was my friend, the photographer Mikael Kennedy (whose rug side project I wrote about a few weeks ago). For several months, Mikael had been been raving to me about Robin’s stash of vintage ethnic clothing, jewelry (so much turquoise!), and textiles, which she estimates represent over fifty countries and cultures, from the American Southwest to India to Peru, and so many areas in between. I didn’t need much convincing to make the trip.
Mikael has been visiting West Stockbridge for several years now, quizzing Don about the history of fine floor coverings (Don’s been in the business since he abandoned the music business in the late seventies) and buying a few rugs here and there. Whenever Mikael’s wife, Melaena, comes along, she always leaves with something cool to wear from Robin’s insanely great stash of exotic vintage wearables. (The night I met Melaena, at a party in Nashville last April, she was wearing a dress from Equator, an elegant patchwork number Robin made for herself, in the sixties, using kimono scraps.)
Robin has been amassing her globe- and era-spanning stash since she was in junior high back in Michigan. Like a lot of passionate collectors, she eventually opened a store. The original Equator opened on Wooster Street in NYC’s Soho, in 1976; three years later, it moved a few blocks over, to Broome. Robin closed that shop in the eighties, when rents got too crazy.
For the past few years, McGrory’s and Equator have operated side by side on West Stockbridge’s Main Street. My first trip to Equator began on a high note, when I spotted a pair of bright orange men’s pants from Rajasthan, with rainbow-colored fabric inserts and metallic stitching, hanging outside. Sadly, they didn’t fit; a sienna-colored Victorian chiffon shell with a dark blue silk velvet burnout motif did, though. So did an indigo ikat print peasant top and a blue cotton floral Holly Hobbie-style dress featuring very visible (and very beautiful) area-of-sun bleaching. Robin shops whenever she travels throughout the U.S. But most of her treasures were, and are, uncovered in the Northeast; my sun-kissed dress, for instance, was probably made and worn by a woman from one of the nearby Mennonite communities.
Equator and McGrory’s Oriental Rugs. 22 Main Street, West Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
Photos: Mikael Kennedy