A husband-and-wife duo have started a miniature vintage goods district in Reno+
Let’s get the name thing out of the way first.
Aaron Hapgood and his wife, Aaryn Walker, “used to be named Bob and Sue,” Hapgood jokes, looking a little weary of the subject, “but that was too boring.”
Their work lives mirror each other, too, but don’t be fooled. Each Aaryn/Aaron runs a Lakeside boutique packed with vintage furniture, home goods, art and a bit of clothing on the side. We’re talking about two different stores, though—a his-and-hers arrangement that speaks to closeness and space, boy and girl, and careful minimalism versus cozy clutter. Only a parking lot stands between them.
Red Chair, Walker’s place on Lakeside Drive, has been around since 2003. Hapgood’s Gentlemen’s Mercantile opened just last year on Lakeside Court, under her ownership and his operation—a venture spurred by Hapgood’s growing interest in the flair and swagger of the ’50s and ’60s.
Her store is “more ’starter’ Mid-Century,” as Walker puts it, with newer wares mixed in, affordable clothes and accessories, and a price range of around $150 to $800 for a piece of furniture. Hapgood’s is for the more devout collector, with curated designer furniture that can run as high as $5,000 (though some items can be yours for less than $100).
From time to time, he’s asked to combine the stores. She won’t budge.
“He would love that,” Walker says with a chuckle. “I’d be doing the housework”—which is to say cleaning and restoring furniture—“and he’d be spending the paycheck” on new inventory. “When we go hunting, I’m cleaning the kill, and have to prepare it.”
The hunt is apt to take them on the road, into the homes and lives of other collectors who are willing to sell and trade.
“You want to stay married? Well, we need two stores,” Walker says. “We live together. We are in the exact same industry. We travel to buy goods, and spend eight hours in the car getting to where we’re going, then a whole week together in a hotel room.”Different scenes
Walker’s cash register faces the door at Red Chair, but you can’t see her when you first walk in, because so many goods are in the way.
If you’re lucky, so’s a button-cute 4-year-old named Brooklyn, who’ll zoom right at you when she’s feeling bold. The little girl is often right at her mother’s side—charming customers, puttering around and delicately inspecting fabrics and baubles. There are plenty.
“Hiii-iii,” each visitor trills as she walks in. Most are female, and talk with Walker as if she’s an old friend. One woman scoots around a shelving unit full of colorful throw pillows, then stops in front of some abstract paintings that Walker made herself. Another shopper is here to find decorative signage.
Meanwhile, across a sea of asphalt from his ladylove, Hapgood is flicking on an old-school stereo. Stereos, especially ones with vacuum-tube amps, are his latest obsession. Space-age furniture, too.
“Listen to that bass,” he says, nodding a bit as a 1970s Pioneer amplifier lets loose a deep, warm thunk. “It’s so clean.”
The furniture and lighting he carries is mostly Mid-Century modern—think Mad Men—and either in mint condition or lovingly restored to look as fresh as it did in Don Draper’s era. Hapgood’s is obviously marketed to men—what with the whole “gentlemen’s mercantile” bit, and the hats and dopp kits also sold here—but women shouldn’t be deterred.
Hapgood has lamented the gendered name, actually, but Walker thinks it’s a good fit.
“Women will walk in and not even bat an eye,” she says, “but men won’t walk into a place that says ’eclectic home décor.’ They’re more likely to walk into a place that truly invites them.”
Bold light fixtures in the store draw the eye upward, offsetting European and American furniture with sleek lines, slim legs and low-slung backs. If a La-Z-Boy recliner were a hippo, in other words, a Milo Baughman chair would be a gazelle.
The Postwar era “was a very fashionable time,” Hapgood says, especially in trendsetting places like New York and Palm Springs. “Men wore tuxedos for no apparent reason and drank scotch at 3 in the afternoon because they felt like it.”
And because quality furniture was such a given in those days, “we’re more concerned about the types of wood—the walnut, the teak, the rosewood—than what’s on it,” he says. “If something comes in and it’s not perfect, we will refinish it or reupholster it.”
A sofa or chair “will get new foam,” Walker says.
“Or new fabric,” says Hapgood.
They’re finishing each other’s sentences.
“So it’s essentially a new couch—.”
“—except for the frame.”Mid-Century nerds
Hapgood crunched numbers in his past life, and every last thing he sells is cataloged neatly in his accountant brain—a formidable index of names, countries of origin, difficult foreign consonant sounds, materials, dates of manufacture, historical context and so on.
Walker isn’t like this.
Where his store is crisp and streamlined, hers is packed and artsy and circuitous. Their minds work accordingly, she explains later. But their objective is the same: sell unusual stuff to those who’re offbeat enough to want it.
“I tell them straight-up, ’I’m not looking for 95 percent of the population or community,’” she says. ’“I’m looking for the 5 percent who want something unique.’ … When people walk in, they always have some type of big reaction, whether it’s really good or really bad.”
“Nekkid baby!” Brooklyn interjects in a little voice. Her mother is dressing her.
“People don’t know what to expect when they come to our stores,” Walker says, adjusting a tiny 1950s-era jacket as she talks. You get the sense Brooklyn has a bunch of these.
Walker and Hapgood were still kids when they met, by the way; their friendship spans decades, and they first crossed paths at Vaughn Middle School.
Customers often ask if they’re each other’s competition in the vintage-furniture biz. Maybe so—but so what?
“There is a huge advantage,” Walker says, “to being next to your biggest competitor and your best ally.”
Walker chose Lakeside Drive because it’s set apart from Midtown, in an area she describes as both neighborly and commercial.
“When this center was new, it was the shopping center,” she says. “It was the place to go on Friday night or Saturday night, or for shopping or whatever. Everything has a cycle, and I felt like if I moved and brought the energy I had to bring, more good energy could follow, and this could be the center again.” Before long, a handful of vacancies in the area disappeared.
At Red Chair, “you can find unique pieces that you can’t find anywhere else in Reno,” says customer Chris Galli, who calls his own style “a little bit modern, a little bit bougie … a little bit ornate, and not too cluttered.”
Tammy Riggs, another devotee, found an old console elsewhere, and had Walker and Hapgood refurbish it to great success. They’ve also outfitted her home and law office.
“When you’re working with older furniture, you can run the risk of making your home look like a museum, which nobody really wants,” Riggs says. Walker “has the taste to help you make things eclectic.”
Among other things, Hapgood has sold Riggs a pair of club chairs by Heywood-Wakefield, a staple brand for Mid-Century nerds everywhere. The chairs came from a local home, which means everything to their new owner.
“Reno is such a transient town,” Riggs says, “To have things from this community that fit into that style frame—really, to me its special.”