10 Questions with Calliope store co-owner and creator Caroline Ventura
What’s in the name Calliope?
CV: She was a Greek muse of eloquence and poetry. Supposedly she was the muse Homer looked to when he wrote The Iliad. It’s also a weird ass looking pipe organ on wheels, so that’s fun.
What was the concept behind the space?
CV: We have a multi-use building in which both our studios (Michael’s design practice Sub Rosa, and Caroline’s gold smithing project BRVTVS) reside, as well as a gallery space next to Calliope, and also our home. We wanted to create a welcoming space where people could come and shop without the “seriousness” of other stores. We sell home goods, it shouldn’t be some stuffy place that you’re afraid to walk into and are scared to touch things.
How do you find your inventory?
CV: Our objects come from all over the world- from our own travels, from friends who make stuff, and from brands we’ve researched or come across in some vicarious way. Everything we sell, we love and have an appreciation of its origin- who made it, why they made it, what it means…
Most famous person to visit your store?
CV: Meg Ryan bought a quilt from us. Jonah Hill has come in a few times. Niles Barker brings his beautiful self in regularly. The first time I saw him I was literally in sweat pants about to take my dog for a walk and he came in all handsome and I looked like a crazy bum. This neighborhood has a lot of “behind the scenes” people. We get a lot of really talented photographers and writers and artists but we only squeal to ourselves after they leave.
Weirdest thing you sell?
CV: We have an antique wooden nutcracker that is a naked lady and you crack the nuts between her legs. And a vintage copy of the Kama Sutra. I guess we have some sexy stuff in here?
What is the one thing EVERYONE picks up?
Biggest challenge to running a store?
CV: Realizing just how crazy some people can be. Some customers ask the strangest questions. I’m also really surprised at how often people ask for discounts. Or discounts ON TOP of something that is already discounted.
Something so unique you couldn’t bring yourself to sell it?
CV: We have a pretty strict policy of not buying for ourselves when we shop for the store. We don’t let ourselves get attached to the things we sell. Having this mindset has made what we do own feels like ours, not just something that is also down in the store. It’s fun for us to see where some of our favorite objects end up, we always love finding out who is taking home that weird vintage glass gun or handwoven backpack.
Your other favorite place to shop in NYC?
CV: Since opening Calliope a year ago, our shopping sprees have gone way down- we buy for the store more than we buy for ourselves. My favorite place to spend time looking at beautiful clothes (because that’s the one thing we don’t sell) is Oroboro in Williamsburg. There’s also this African antique store on 25th street that tucked back behind a few other antique shops. It’s run by a beautiful woman from Kenya. It’s down the street from my therapist so I like to head in there either before or after and just chat with her for a bit 😉
When do we stop by to secure a #DarrylTheDog spotting?
CV: Darryl’s hours vary, he’s hard to pin down. Usually in the evenings after he’s had his walk he can be found snoozing on one of the sofas here.
You might remember Caroline from here, as she is one of my favorite women to photograph!