Just when you thought the shopping mecca that is New Preston couldn’t get any better, Plain Goods has appeared on the scene. Take a few steps around the corner from Main Street and discover what Michael DePerno and Andrew Fry have created.
The two men opened the 900-square foot shop in November in time for the holidays, offering up a beautifully curated mix of cashmere scarves and hats, textiles, babies’ clothing, local spices, pantry goods and vintage and antique collectibles. The palette is primarily white and soft neutral shades. It is the kind of shop where one wants to spend some time shopping and savoring what is on display, perhaps even having a chance to sit and chat with the owners over a cup of tea.
“Because of size limitations, we have to be very selective about what we bring in,” said DePerno. “And we both need to feel passionate about whatever it is.”
DePerno grew up in Michigan and attended Wayne State University and was always interested in the arts. Fry is from Ohio and went to Butler University. They met two years ago and the concept for a shop has evolved over that time.
“I majored in art and design,” said DePerno, “but I did some modeling while I was in high school. In college, a photographer I knew took pictures of me and sent them to some agencies in New York. I was hired to work in the city, and then was shipped off to Europe for the shows. That changed everything for me.”
Like so many others before him, DePerno fell in love with New York and was eager to start a life and a career there. His first foray into the field of design came through a job at ABC Carpets.
“It was a time when ABC was engaging and at the height of its popularity,” he said. “It was a great stepping-stone for me. Two years later, I went on to open my own shop in SoHo called Hope and Wilder.”
In addition to managing the shop, DePerno also offered interior design services, which eventually led him to close the retail operation and further develop that aspect of the business.
“I began getting an itch to move,” DePerno explained. “After I had been in New York for 10 years, I went to Los Angeles to visit friends and decided to make that city my next home.”
It was the complete opposite of New York.
“Everything seemed easier,” he said. “During the six years I lived there, I had two different shops, both called Ren, and I started getting a lot of design work. People would buy these enormous houses and would need everything, from interiors to landscaping. I had the freedom to create a whole environment, from beginning to end.”
Eventually DePerno bought a house in northern California and began spending more time there. But then the East Coast came calling.
“I started getting commissions to design interiors back east and I had to confront my love/hate relationship with New York,” said DePerno. “I tried exploring areas outside the city whenever I could and spent some time in Connecticut. On one of those trips, I began to question what I was doing in California. I no longer felt creatively challenged or motivated and my friends were beckoning me to come home. So I sold my house on the West Coast and spent a good year and a half looking for a house in the east.”
DePerno had a vision of his ideal house – a clean, crisp colonial. But everything was either too big, too small or too something. Although there was one house he had looked at several times, it took a friend to convince him that it was the right one for him. Two years later, the house is almost fully renovated. In the meantime, the desire for another shop began to evolve.
“What I love about a shop,” DePerno explained, “is that it affords you the ability to create something very personal that reflects your own taste and that you can share with the public. Hopefully they will understand it and like it and want to participate in what you’ve created.”
DePerno and Fry spent several months negotiating on properties in Washington Depot that came to no avail. That’s when they decided to revisit a space they had seen in New Preston. While it was small and slightly off the beaten path, the two men saw its potential.
“We signed a lease and began renovating super quickly because we wanted to be open for the holiday season,” DePerno said. “The only inventory we had were the antiques and some vintage pieces. Now that we are recovering from the holiday madness, we have time to be more thoughtful about what our approach is and what we want to represent.”
DePerno and Fry, who are life partners as well as business partners, are both involved in the shop’s aesthetic offerings.
“We both have a lot of input,” DePerno said. “Our personal environment, both here and in the city, is a pared-down version of the store. We tend to like the same things and we both gravitate toward timeless and classic design. You won’t find any of the latest fads at Plain Goods.”
DePerno is at the shop much of the time handling the day-to-day activity, while Fry is still working in the city during the week. He is in fashion marketing and branding and has consulted with many firms, such as Ralph Lauren, Burberry and Tom Ford.
“He has a very keen business side to him and handles a lot of the behind-the-
scenes details,” said DePerno.
Both owners believe that a shop has to be able to beckon and engage a customer. Consequently, much of the merchandise has a tactile quality: the softness of cashmere, the patina of leather, a beautiful and simply designed piece of child’s clothing.
“We love the design of children’s clothes and if we had children, this is how we would dress them,” DePerno explained. “We don’t lean toward graphic or brightly colored clothes. It’s all about the marriage of fabric and design, whether it’s for the home, a man, woman, or child. We tend to be more organic and classic. We want an object or piece of clothing to be timeless so that it becomes a permanent part of the owner’s collection or wardrobe.”
DePerno and Fry have begun formulating plans for doing private label and establishing an online presence and continue to add to the mix of items in the shop. Recent additions include Rodin beauty care products, packaged in a simple yet elegant design; and Aesop skin care products.
“Our shop is filled with a lot of passion and a lot of thought,” DePerno said. “We hope that something is going to sell, but that’s not the driving force. We buy what we love. We want to entice people on a different level. We want customers to find something that they hadn’t thought about and want to take it home with them, have it become their favorite thing.”
Plain Goods is located at 1 New Preston Hill Road, New Preston. Hours are from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursdays through Sundays, or by appointment. For more details, call 860-868-0280.