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11.1.18

Shop Talk: Something Brooklyn This Way Comes

In a sliver of a shop on Main Street, Vineyard Haven, New York City transplants Eric Coles and Mark Chung are quietly bringing a bit of contemporary design, sleek urban style, and – wait for it – sophisticated menswear to an island not typically known for being on-trend (or even close behind it).

The shop, named for each of their grandfathers, Lennox and Harvey, grew out of a decades-old dream. For years Coles has worked staging fashion photography for brands like Ralph Lauren and Ann Taylor, while Chung managed retail shops for high-end home goods designers Alessi and Herman Miller. A desire to open a menswear shop in Manhattan (they even settled on their name and started a now-defunct fashion blog) gradually morphed into a home goods shop on the Island, after the couple, visitors here since the mid-nineties, purchased a residence in Oak Bluffs in 2015.

“Wait a minute,” Coles remembered thinking at the end of their first summer as homeowners. “We don’t have to pack up our rental at the end of the week. Why don’t we just stay?”

Thus began a years-long conversation about what the pair would do here, and how their dream of a retail shop might fit into this seasonal, beach-inspired community. After relocating to the Island full-time last year, the two set to work on finding the right spot, sprucing it up, and making decisions about what to carry that would appeal to summer visitors and year-rounders alike.

It was the seasonal part that stumped them first. “I don’t know how you make a business work only thinking about two months a year,” Coles said, referring to pressure to focus all of their inventory and energy on the boom months of July and August. They plan to keep the shop open from April to December and stock it accordingly. “That way we can actually change with the seasons. And we want to be here for the locals who need shampoo or a sweater.”

After the basics, what to stock was the next question they tackled. With backgrounds in design, music, art, and fashion, the couple clearly has an eye for what looks good. But looking good isn’t enough; a Lennox & Harvey offering also has to serve a purpose and make sense within the context of Island life. This means oyster-shucking knives with gleaming polished handles, Turkish towels that are actually absorbent, a stylish hanging citronella coil that does in fact repel mosquitoes.

Beyond form and function, the couple is clearly moved by the story of each piece that they carry. (“Piece” is more fitting than “item”; the store feels a bit like a museum, but one where you’re encouraged not to leave empty-handed.) Whether it’s the single-strike incense sticks they discovered on a trip to Japan last fall or the rubber Birkenstocks currently selling like hotcakes, Chung enjoys introducing customers to the stories behind what he’s selling. “It’s fun,” he said. “When you know the story behind something, it means more to have it in your home.”

After hearing from many of their male customers about a lack of menswear retailers on the Island, they are also eager to add more men’s clothing to their inventory starting this fall. Their top priority: “We don’t want you to see something here you’ll see two doors down,” Coles said.

Though their first winter on-Island was mostly spent traveling and readying their new space – they did much of the build-out themselves, down to painting and sanding the floors – Coles and Chung reported that life in the off-season so far has treated them well. They didn’t even have complaints about the weather, which many had warned would be their greatest challenge. “We moved here from Brooklyn,” Coles joked. “Not Bali.”

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