Widgets Magazine

Dan McAllister of In The Attic Too on 'Upcycling' Classic American Antiques and Original, Repurposed Builds

(Dan with his family; Dan at right)  

Q: How did you get to the North Fork?

A: My in-laws lived in Mattituck, so that’s what brought me here to start. I was visiting one day in 2009 and on my way home I saw the locks being changed on our Laurel building, because the last tenants had moved out. I was retired and needed something different to do, and I rented it that day.

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My wife and I had always been in antiques/repurposing and I’d been making birdhouses from repurposed materials as a hobby for years, selling them at craft fairs and on consignment. So the North Fork and the Laurel building seemed like the perfect opportunity to open a store.

In the Attic Too Laurel

Since we’ve opened on the North Fork I haven’t made a birdhouse—not in 7 years. Now it’s farm cabinets, farm tables, kitchen cabinets, bath vanities, whatever can be dreamed up.

We don't outsource any work, It's all done by us in the Laurel store or Jamesport Barn.

Q: What did you retire from? You said you’d always been in antiques.

A: I was a cop in Southampton town from 1986-2006. After I retired I worked for an electrical estimating company for a few years, but it was one stressful job to the next, and I was looking for something else which led us to the Laurel opportunity.

Q: Your business’s name is quirky—“In the Attic Too”—is there a story behind that?

In the early 2000s my wife, my sister and I opened a part-time antiques store in Speonk.

When we were opening the Speonk store, we really didn’t have any inventory, so we went to a tag sale. The guy offered to let us check out his attic; once we were up there, he told us to be quiet and he closed up the stairs. He said he wasn’t going to let anybody else go through it. We ended up getting four van loads out of there giving us enough inventory for our shop. So when we were trying to name the store, we decided to call it “In the Attic” after our excursion In the attic.

When we opened in Laurel, we didn’t want to use exactly the same name, and the store was right next to Cliff’s Elbow Room Too, which gave us the idea. We checked with Cliff to see if he’d mind us using “Too” the same way, and he didn’t, so the store became In the Attic Too.

Q: You sell both stuff you build, and stuff you save and fix up. Is there anything you like to build in particular? Do you have a favorite material?

A: My two favorites are kitchen islands and entertainment centers; they both involve a lot of creativity. I don’t have a favorite material—it’s more about finding the right pieces for the project. It’s more organic; after the basic design it develops as it goes.

Q: You recently expanded by opening the Red Barn in Jamesport. Are the stores fundamentally different, or do they have similar inventories?

A: They’re different.

Jameport Barn

The Laurel store is where all the painted furniture, antiques and pretty décor is. When the barn became available it became a great opportunity to have a workshop for our cabinet shop and to store the raw materials, so people can come here and see us build and also shop the raw materials for their custom projects.

Jamesport Barn interior 2The Laurel store was seven years ago; we opened the Barn in winter of 2015.

Jamesport Barn interiorQ: So how much of what you sell is stuff you build, versus stuff you fix up—I guess the current term is ‘upcycle’?

A: In Laurel, probably 95% is antiques, painted pieces and vintage home decor. There are no reproductions and we don't buy anything from catalogues. Instead of grandmas old furniture with a broken drawer going to the dump, we clean it, fix it and give it a beautiful paint job.

In the Attic Too Laurel 3

A lot of it was originally American made, very high quality, you can see the furniture maker’s stamp on it. We love giving those pieces new life. Most of it was made in the Northeast. The other 5% in Laurel is stuff I build for the store. But of our builds, 80% commissioned custom builds; those go direct to the client and never show up in Laurel.

In setting up the shops we didn’t want our place to be one of those antique places where nothing’s clean, nothing’s fixed, and the person working there won’t give you time of day. I’m not suggesting other stores around here are like that, but it used to be pretty common in general. We wanted to be more like Cheers, you know, a place where you were welcome, felt comfortable and not turned off by the atmosphere and merchandise.

In The Attic Too Laurel 2

Pricing is important too. We keep our prices reasonable; we’d rather sell a quantity of quality items rather than sit on it to get top dollar for each. It makes people happy, they keep coming back. You want everyone to be able to afford quality furniture and home decor, we want the customer to be happy. We have been chosen numerous times as Dans Papers North Forks Best of the Best Antique store.

Q: You mentioned that your wife and sister were involved with the original In The Attic; is this a family business too? If so, will there be a next generation?

A: Yes. My daughter Heather, my wife Sue and sister Donna are all involved in the business. My daughter is pretty much running the Laurel store. She’s so creative, she jumped right in both feet.

Dan & His Daughter

Will she take over the whole thing someday? It's possible, why not?

Q: Does being on the North Fork affect your business?

A: Yes. The North Fork has the organic reclaimed feel that works hand in hand with our business and we get most of our materials and inventory locally. And unlike years in the past the local industries provide a year round reason for people to visit.

The rustic wedding business which is thriving out here is also a source of clients. We rent farm tables, wine barrels, archways, galvanized buckets, mason jars—wedding décor.

Rustic Wedding Props

A lot of the places that host rustic weddings, like Hallockville, Martha Clara, they have the big barns but not necessarily the rustic themed props, most brides and grooms don't want to have to own the items used to make their wedding unique.

Also a decent amount of local stores are utilizing reclaimed/upcycle decor for their locations and come here to buy pieces from us for their businesses, and we’ve done donations for Chinese raffles and such. We have a lot of repeat business; we have customers who have over 30 of our pieces in their house.

Q: You said you get your inventory locally. How?

A: Probably 80% of our merchandise comes from the North Fork; we go to CT and MA once or twice a year and usually bring some things back.

I don’t go to estate sales or yard sales; I have people who bring their finds to us, we do house clean outs, we will salvage materials during a building demo., or if you have an old small garage, shed, deck, porch rails—cool stuff, good materials--we’ll take that down for you to salvage.

Q: You expanded recently; do you have plans to keep growing?

A: Well, you always like your business to get bigger, but we’re in a sweet spot right now. We have two stores—they’re only a mile and a half apart but they’re so different it’s great. While it would be great if we could have it all in one location, I don’t think that spot really exists on the North Fork, so I think we’re basically set up perfect now.

Get in touch with Dan:  Intheattictoo@optonline.net

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