By James Maher
Name: Michael Duggan
Occupation: Antique Dealer, Archangel Antiques (334 East 9th).
Location: 4th Street Between 2nd and Bowery
Time: 7 pm on Saturday, July 13th
I’m from Allentown, Pennsylvania. I moved here because I was engaged at the time and the woman I was engaged to had gone to FIT and was a converter for Harvey Bernard, which was sort of a high-end woman’s line. She did all of the development for manufacturing and coincidentally that’s what my current partner does now.
I came straight to the East Village. This was the only place that made sense to me. Most of my friends lived on the Upper East Side at the time — that was where the younger middle class white people would move. It was the safe comfortable place, while this place was edgier. Our first apartment was on Rivington and Pitt Street.
I’ve lived in the neighborhood for 35 years now. When we moved here it was all empty lots. People had goats and chickens. People were camping in empty lots. It was a time when people didn’t want this real estate. I’ve lived above Raul’s Candy Store on Avenue B for 25 years now and we have such a great relationship with them.
This was also the area where you went out and everything crazy was going on. This was the place for people to come and misbehave. I was in fashion sales when I first moved here. I worked in fashion and furniture for the first 15 years I was here for Norma Kamali and then for Versace. I remember one night being out at Cave Canem, which later turned into Lucky Cheng’s, and I went in there and I’m dressed in a Zebra Versace suit since I was working for them. And someone said to me, “You know your friend is downstairs and you have to go and get her.” So I go downstairs and this woman is wearing the identical suit that I have on. They were like, “You have to take care of her, she’s a little toasted.” Here it turns out that it’s Princess Gloria. She was sort of the equivalent of Kim Kardashian of her time. Now she’s best friends with the Pope and her daughter is the editor at large for Vogue.
I work at the button shop on 9th street [Archangel Antiques]. The owners asked me to help them for a few days and I stayed for 20 years. We sell vintage buttons and antiques. We have 2.5 million vintage buttons from the 1830s through the 1950s. Gail, the woman I work for, had started buying maybe 30 years ago and now we predominantly sell our buttons for prototypes to design houses, like Ralph Lauren, J Crew, Anthropology, but also I sell to Boardwalk Empire and Mad Men since they need vintage buttons to go along with the vintage clothing. Everything is evocative of an era.
We’re going to be closing at some point next year. We actually have two storefronts and so there’s a lot of merchandise. The people I work with are in their 70s so it’s just, enough is enough.
Also, the generations have changed. Very few people are looking to buy for their homes anymore because no one has a substantial home life. Having been in and out of home furnishings, and also being a decorator, my house is filled to the brink. Everyone always asks me, “Do you live with your grandparents?” And I say, “No, I like living like this.” Cause for me, I’m kind of the person in the morning, I pull out my 19th-century silver tray and put out all my glassware and silver and have a normal breakfast and people don’t live like that anymore.
And I want to maintain my life. You want to take care of the things you have, those special things. But that also, I think, is a past lifestyle.
James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.