Reconnecting with rareCo.
This September we are welcoming back rareCo to Moon+Arrow to celebrate our Tenth Anniversary. Join us September 24th - September 26th as we invite our community to the shop for a special weekend pop-up filled with vintage finds, local makers, and refreshments. We sat down with Jeremy of rareCo. to learn more about where rareCo began and where they're headed. See them on Friday + Saturday with a bunch of their goodies outside of M+A!
Q: HI! We miss you. How have you been?
I miss you all so much. You know, my time at Moon + Arrow was a huge push for my creative development, as it’s been for so many artists and makers here. I’d say Chelsea is one of my greatest finds, except I think she found me first. Getting to work with the M+A team everyday--alongside Mo and Adrianne and Jess and Rosalie and Elise, and Justin, Eric and Jeannie, who has become my Oracle, Bridget and Emily over at Little Moon, and LUCY, who was already running the show by then, not to mention Anaïs and Laura and Lynzee and Terrance and Nia Renyolds, on our side––all motivated me to be better at what I do, whatever that is.
The memories of Fourth Fridays—the neighbors who came by each month, even that guy who walked out with an entire pizza—have been sustaining as I try to figure out what the fuck is next.
I’ve been good, but life has been challenging since rareCo closed in June 2019. As anybody who knows me can attest, having a home renovation to pour myself into helped occupy my time. Of course they will also tell you that they’re sick of hearing me kvetch about it.
And then last year my sister Erin was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She fought like hell, bestowing upon us a lifetime of wisdom and humility and humor. I’m honored that she filled her otherwise beautifully appointed home with rareCo junk (which is now slowly making its way back to my house). I can still hear her saying, “stop bringing my kids toys that you find on the street.”
It was such a great community that we tied into, both through Moon + Arrow and Queen Village. Having a storefront put me in touch with Philadelphia in a new way, intimately connecting me to people who actually give a damn about what things look and feel like. It was hard to leave that behind, but not a day goes by, some 2 years later, that I don’t have an interaction with someone who I met through rareCo or Moon + Arrow.
At the end of the day I’d say I’m doing ok, but now that the house is nearly finished we are itching for another project to throw ourselves into.
Q: Can you tell us about your background? How did rareCo start?
There’s a number of ways to tell it. The story my dad tells is that he cobbled together “RARECO” from a HARDWARE sign that he’d either found on the street or removed from the side of a building. “When you open your store, you can use this as your sign”, he’d say, trying to manifest his own desires on his seven-year-old son.
The other story is that I stopped by M+A to say hi to Chelsea, and she told me that the space (that rareCo ended up occupying) was available. “Come on, just call it a pop shop”, she said, knowing well my commitment issues. So we always kind of called it a pop shop. Which, in retrospect, is what it felt like.
Q: Tell us about your experience selling and finding gorgeous vintage pieces here in Philadelphia and abroad!
My parents were antiquers and I started selling baseball cards alongside them at flea markets when I was pretty young. They purchased a big old Victorian fixer upper, which meant traveling to farm auctions as a family. As soon as my brother and sister and I would finish our requisite hot dogs, we got to roam around, unattended. One day we started jumping on the old basement Bilco doors of a farmhouse, seeing who could smash through first. Since I was the heaviest I won the contest. My mom says she saw me jumping one minute, then disappearing into the earth the next. I came up covered in blood. Just like a horror film”, was how she described it. The four of us went straight to the emergency room, while my dad stayed back to bid on our dining room table.
My grandparents also collected folk art and had a house full of wonders. Many years later, when I started selling at the Philly flea, I realized those early years endowed me with a kind of 6th sense where the smell of cat piss in an abandoned house signaled an opportunity to find something great. Unfortunately, lots of people around here have this same superpower, which is why it’s so competitive to get the really valuable old things. People from all over the world visit Philadelphia to plunder our vintage treasure. I remember being excited to hit the night market in Bangkok. I had heard that there were these great antique shops there. Turns out all the stuff I wanted came from this area.
So, yeah, I guess nothing happens in a vacuum. We like to take credit for things when in reality I was born (in just the right place) and bred (by parents who fetishized old things) to be a world class hoarder. That said, hunting abroad is fun because you do see lots of cool things unique to a particular region that might not make it to an actual antique store, like that old dugout canoe in Burma, or the incredible “mid century” metal chairs that litter the streets of Havana, or the hand-painted airplane railings atop the old buses in Haiti.
Good luck shipping that stuff back to Philly (I’ve tried).
Q: What is next for rareCo? Since the retail space on 4th & Fitzwater closed, how is rareCo evolving?
rareCo is currently selling vintage art and objects here and there online @rarecovintage as well as the occasional flea market. I also do home restoration/renovation and house painting on the side, and Anaïs manages HOT•BED gallery, where they explore the intersection of horticulture, art, and decor.
We’re also currently renovating a historic home in South Beach, Miami for a client. The house is a beautiful Spanish colonial that we’ve completely gutted. It’s been really fun and challenging to modernize it with a Mediterranean twist, while remaining true to the spirit of the house.
Photo By Bretton Long
We are also raising capital to open a boutique hotel that will feature a world-class collection of folk art and mid-century decor, in addition to a cafe/bar in the lobby stocked with great magazines and skateboards for our guests to ride. There will be an old jukebox under the ping pong tent, and catacombs in the basement where all of our pets will be buried. Did I mention the stair treads will be salvaged from old bowling alley lanes? And that the toilets will be fashioned from pinball machines? And that inside the minifridge is a secret sliding board that circles down to the pool? …I digress.
For fun, Anaïs and I have been decorating our home in Sharswood (or “Darell Clarke’s Garden District,” as we like to call it, ) where we will live for a while and probably Airbnb to design-obsessed tourists. Our place is an ever-changing showroom for anyone who feels like dropping by. Left, right, or center, we can all agree that there’s not enough dropping by these days.
How have we evolved: Well I think our style has evolved to include more subtlety–maybe less is more now. Anaïs would laugh if she heard me say that, considering I haven’t stopped collecting for a single second since the store closed, but working in someone else’s home requires restraint. It’s actually helped us hone in on what we do well, which is to provide personality to a room through signature pieces. Most of our design work post-rareCo (the store) has been residential, because this layering process is a very natural thing in the home, but we’re looking forward to working on commercial projects as well.
All this is to simply state rareCo’s evolving aesthetic, which again owes a lot to our umbilical connection with M + A, and great talks with Chelsea about merchandising and branding. She’s created a signature entity that really uplifts people––and it takes a lot more consideration than most people realize. You’d think I would have put some of her genius into practice at rareCo, but we revelled in a kind of Yin and Yang that worked for people. And as long as she kept buying a piece of ours now and then, we knew we were doing ok. As far as our evolution in the store, we quickly fell into the habit of collecting for our best customers-- trying to locate beautiful things through the eyes of others--and this helped to diversify our collection.