On a higher plain - Issue 128 - Magazine | Monocle

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The sky is grey over New Preston, Connecticut, making the light from the window of Plain Goods even more inviting than usual. Co-owner Andrew Fry opens the front door to the grand white-slatted shop, which once served as a community building. Inside, the bright white space – complete with old wooden floors and stone walls – overflows with understated furniture combined with textiles, ceramics and more.

Fry’s partner – in business and life – Michael DePerno sails through the back door holding fresh flowers clipped from a nearby farm, just as a female customer comes dashing down the stairs from the second level of the shop, squealing, “This store is so beautiful. I have to pick up the kids, otherwise I wouldn’t leave.” Something catches her eye so she lingers. Ten minutes later we hear, “OK, I’ll be back.”

Plain Goods, the home, clothing and vintage shop that first opened in a small space off New Preston’s main drag in 2015, recently moved to a two-storey building a few metres from its original home. “Who knew that this little business, that started in a 700 square foot cottage in Connecticut, would have become what it is?” says DePerno, who owned vintage and lifestyle shop Hope & Wilder in New York’s Soho in the 1990s. “It was when Soho was teeming with incredible retail,” he says.

Following the closure of Hope & Wilder, DePerno relocated to California before moving back to the East Coast to open Plain Goods with Fry, who has worked for brands including Tom Ford and Burberry. “We understood the audience before opening,” says Fry. “This village was already on the map: it has many high-end stores and receives many weekenders. Our main concern was: will they walk around the corner? And they did.”

It’s unsurprising that Plain Goods outgrew its original shop in a few years. It’s the kind of place that people will travel for not just because New Preston is idyllic but also because the shop stocks items that can be hard to find, even in New York; they include French canvas umbrellas, textiles from Lithuania and pottery from South Korea. “There’s this cross-blending of old and new,” says DePerno, pointing to a vintage throw. “These old finds provide texture and character to all the new products.”

In brief:

Who: Former New Yorkers Andrew Fry and Michael DePerno opened Plain Goods to offer customers truly unique items from a shop in a town that they now call home.

What: This is the kind of shop that you wish your home resembled. It stocks everything from vintage lights, throws and sofas to simple but well-made clothing and homemade preserves.

Where: A two-hour drive from New York, the laidback village of New Preston, Connecticut, is a much-loved weekend destination. It’s known for its great selection of shops and easy access to nature. The town is a low-key alternative to the Hamptons with a pristine lake.

Report card: It’s hard not to find something to love in Plain Goods, be it as small as a candle or as large as a sofa. The shop is stocked with a smart collection of homeware and clothing that’s both old and new. Plain Goods is expertly put together and easy to navigate.

To source these distinctive items, DePerno and Fry embark on numerous buying trips to places as far away as Italy, Denmark and France, where they pound through markets and meet various designers and vendors. It’s unequivocally a labour of love. “The goal of the store is to have mostly all Plain Goods products, because that gives us the creative freedom to do what we want across all channels,” says DePerno. They currently also stock the likes of Aesop and Norse Projects but the plan is to introduce more items under the Plain Goods brand. Already they have pieces including dog leads made in Amish Country, Pennsylvania, and waxed trench coats tailored in Italy that fall under their in-house label.

“With the new products we are constantly working with designers and vendors who appreciate our point of view,” says DePerno. It’s a point of view that’s easy to understand: one that aims to offer customers well-made things that are simple, honest and deeply distinctive in their origin. “We have a lot of return customers, which is great,” adds DePerno. “We really care about giving people something unique and special, having them walk through the door for a beautiful, tactile experience.”

What to buy:

Canvas umbrellas:
Handmade in France from maple and cotton, these are true classics.

Oversized basket totes:
Sisal bags that are ideal for the beach, the market or a weekend away.

Hand-dipped bees wax candles:
These candles, made in upstate New York, diffuse a soft, pleasant scent of honey.

Margaret Howell jumpers:
Men’s and women’s clothes by the UK designer can be hard to find in the US.

Leather dog leads:
These slick leads made in the Amish Country soften over time.

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