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Shopper’s Diary: A Poet-Collector Opens Pidgin in Upstate NY

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Shopper’s Diary: A Poet-Collector Opens Pidgin in Upstate NY

January 15, 2021

At a time when so many of us are starved for inspirational browsing, news of Kostas Anagnopoulos’s recently-opened upstate New York antiques shop, Pidgin, sent ripples of excitement throughout the design world. Kostas himself could relate: since his purchase of a pelican-shaped Art Deco bottle opener at the age of 14 , he’s been on the hunt. “I think all antique and vintage dealers who go into business do so in part because they’ve been accumulating for so long that it’s just time to practice detachment and share the finds,” he tells us. “That’s certainly true for me.”

Kostas is also a poet and a seasoned salesperson—he and his husband, Jesse James, founded the creative consultancy/design firm Aesthetic Movement, which we have been chronicling for years: see the couple’s city apartment here and the upstate tent resort they designed here. As anticipated, Kostas’s offerings are far-ranging and soulful: “I’m a very democratic collector. I like patina, and often gravitate towards the homespun and anonymous, how something feels in the hand. The thing has to have nice lines, like a drawing within a larger space.” Come see.

Photography by Victor Schrager, unless noted.

Pidgin—named for the shorthand form of communication—is set in the charmingly untouched hamlet of Oak Hill, which, like so much of upstate New York, has been swarming with city escapees since last spring. Kostas posts new offerings and shop hours on Instagram @thisispidgin.
Above: Pidgin—named for the shorthand form of communication—is set in the charmingly untouched hamlet of Oak Hill, which, like so much of upstate New York, has been swarming with city escapees since last spring. Kostas posts new offerings and shop hours on Instagram @thisispidgin.

Not all is vintage but everything has a story: the wood-handled knives in the glass case are by The Shin Blacksmith, a fifth-generation Korean family business. Writes Kostas on Instagram: “Master Shin hand makes each piece using the repurposed carbon steel of railroad track, which is rich in manganese and can be heated to a very high temperature. The handles are chestnut, slowly dried in sunlight for years, so it is lightweight, strong, and rot-resistant.”

The shop is set in a landmarked Italianate building, originally a general store and more recently a record shop. Its original beadboard remnants inspired Kostas to panel the entire space, ceiling and window stage included.
Above: The shop is set in a landmarked Italianate building, originally a general store and more recently a record shop. Its original beadboard remnants inspired Kostas to panel the entire space, ceiling and window stage included.

Shown here: a driftwood lamp—”the most monumental I’ve ever seen,” says Kostas—and, on the floor, an outsized ceramic fruit of mysterious origin.

A limited-edition elephant portrait by photographer Victor Schrager—Kostas and Jesse&#8
Above: A limited-edition elephant portrait by photographer Victor Schrager—Kostas and Jesse’s friend and upstate neighbor who also took the shop photos shown here—is displayed alongside a Napoleon III painted wood mirror. The abstract ceramic sculptures on the top shelf and in the window are by Jesse’s cousin Ashley James.
Mame Kennedy, another upstate neighbor, specializes in &#8
Above: Mame Kennedy, another upstate neighbor, specializes in “woodware” ceramics: her pieces are handmade stoneware, no two exactly the same.
To ready the space for the shop, Kostas divided it into front and back sections. The ladder came out of the library of an old house in Bondues, in northern France. The transom windows were found in the building&#8
Above: To ready the space for the shop, Kostas divided it into front and back sections. The ladder came out of the library of an old house in Bondues, in northern France. The transom windows were found in the building’s basement and “placed to mirror the the horizontal panes at the top of the front windows.”

Of the materials he gravitates to, Kostas explains: “Glass is always good to brighten an area and create reflection. Wood is extremely soulful and has a sense of life. Metal can be weighty and formidable or shiny and delicate.”

A 30s Ukrainian dress and a linen nightshirt by Area hang on pegs lining the back wall. The shop&#8
Above: A 1930s Ukrainian dress and a linen nightshirt by Area hang on pegs lining the back wall. The shop’s hemp dish clothes, towels, and other textiles are newly sewn from decades-old hand-spun yardage from Transylvania. Kostas notes that he’ll be offering more apparel come spring: “I have a soft spot for textiles. My mother was tailor.” Photograph by Jesse James.
Above L: Kostas is the son of Greek immigrants–he grew up on Chicago’s West Side speaking Greek before English. His Uncle Dionysus tends the family orchard on an island across from Puglia, Italy, and oversees its small-batch olive oil production. “The olives on the island are a bit spicy. Because the oil is always from the first cold press, it’s the most beautiful shade of green. I didn’t want to add a label; I wanted the olive oil to say it all, but my husband convinced me that some sort of simple label was necessary. We chose Didot for the font: the Didot family were among the first to set up printing presses in the newly independent Greece in the early 19th century. Above R: Pidgin’s honey is from photographer Victor Schrager’s nearby hives. Photographs by Jesse James.
Pidgin&#8
Above: Pidgin’s trivets are woven in New York State from Greek leather cording. Photograph by Jesse James.
A chalice and darning egg fall under one of Kostas&#8
Above: A chalice and darning egg fall under one of Kostas’s favorites antiques categories: treen, meaning small domestic wooden objects. “I think old things have more soul than new things, maybe because they have a history that is a mystery,” he says. “You can know them, be custodians of them for a time, but their existence precedes you and will likely outlast you. They are survivors.” Photograph by Jesse James.

Pidgin is at 7811 Route 81, in Oak Hill, New York, a two-and-a-half-hour drive north of NYC (and 30 minutes west of Hudson). Kostas will soon be selling shop offerings on his website. You can read some of his poetry here.

Peruse our Shopper’s Diary archive for more Remodelista favorites, including:

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