Millennial couple breathe new life into antiques and homewares


On one of their first dates, Ben Davidson took Pippa Biddle to see the warehouse where he kept his antiques – as we will, he jokes. It may not have been dinner and a movie, but Biddle loved it.

“We both grew up with antiques and a deep family history,” she says. “For us, it’s the most normal thing in the world.”

Their common interests – antiques, history and design – led to love, marriage and a stroller (their son, Crowe, is six months old), but it didn’t stop there. Davidson, 30, and Biddle, 29, are the owners of To leavean antique, homeware and lighting restoration company founded in Germantown in 2018. The original store featured inventory from Davidson’s storage unit, displayed in the front two rooms of their home.

Having a store in their home was romantic, Biddle says, “but then the pandemic hit and it stopped being so romantic.” They closed shop in October 2020 and reopened at their current location 2 miles from downtown on Rte. 9G in December 2021. During Quittner’s retail hiatus, Davidson continued restoration work while developing new products.

The new store occupies a former welding workshop which also housed a cabinet maker and a florist. Quittner features a curated selection of objects including artwork, lighting, furniture, and homewares made by Hudson Valley artisans, many with input from Biddle and Davidson.

“It’s all about partnership,” says Biddle. “We ask ourselves: how can we attract as many people as possible? »

For example, Quittner sells a bronze drawer pull in the shape of an upturned hand, which can be ordered left or right. Davidson and Biddle came up with the idea and had it made by Eznic Karakashian of Eznik Metal Arts in East Durham. Quittner also sells two other items made by Karakashian – brass drawer pulls in the shape of asparagus stalks, apparently bent by steam, and a small sculpture of two flat, dark brown bananas, beyond the tip of the bread. with bananas, cast in bronze.

The couple’s new space on Rte. 9G serves as a workspace for Davidson and a store for their curated items, including artwork, lighting, furniture, and homewares made by Hudson Valley artisans.

Emma McCannZauder

Quittner also sells table linen, which Biddle sewed herself. “I couldn’t keep up with the demand,” she says, so in the future they will be made by Made X Hudson. Blank letterpress greeting cards printed with a rocking chair were made by Lilah Friedland at Tivoli. The brightly colored vintage coat hooks were powder coated by K&S Powder Coating in Poughkeepsie. The list of collaborations is long.

Much of their antique lighting comes from the Hudson Valley, Albany and New England, sometimes from houses being demolished. Davidson restores them in a black building next to the shop. In some cases, the lights are modified to create an original object.

“We work with a lot of local designers who want something totally unique,” ​​says Biddle. “What we offer is not based on any particular trend. We are interested in a mix of old and new, sustainability and local production.

The Hudson Valley is teeming with new, affluent New York City weekenders, and Biddle and Davidson say they’re keen to make sure the local community continues to feel welcome. “A lot of people in the area feel alienated from new businesses,” she says. “I’d rather have stuff that a local can give as a gift to a friend for $25. The people we care about the most are those who are here every day of the week. »

Quittner was designed as a meeting place as well as a store. A coffee table surrounded by six wooden chairs sits in the center of the room, and there’s a hot water dispenser with Harney & Sons loose leaf teas for visitors who want a free cup of tea. The space is wheelchair accessible and child friendly. “I want to see kids hiding in a trunk,” Biddle says. When they leave the doors open, the chickens from their coop behind the store enter.

Hence the name ? Quittner is Davidson’s middle name and the maiden name of his great-great-grandmother. “We wanted one word,” Biddle says. “Just quit.”

From childhood sweethearts to business partners

Family history plays a role in their collective calling. Davidson’s grandmother, Joan K. Davidson, chaired the New York State Council of the Arts and served as commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation under the Governor Mario Cuomo. Davidson says she had a huge influence on her aesthetic. Biddle, who grew up in a house built in 1760, says she was imbued with a similar sensibility.

Biddle admits this is an anomaly in the antiques business, where dealers in their twenties are rare. “Vintage is a young business, antiques are not,” says Biddle. “But it’s an amazing experience to learn from those in the business. Many people are generous with their time. Their customers also tend to be young, between the ages of 30 and 50.

The pair sell a mix of antiques, custom and restored goods with a focus on keeping prices affordable for locals, like these $15 hooks.

The pair sell a mix of antiques, custom and restored goods with a focus on keeping prices affordable for locals, like these $15 hooks. “The people we care about the most are the people who are here every day of the week.”

Michael Falkenstein

Biddle and Davidson’s path to Quittner was anything but a straight line. They first met as children at Camp Treetops in Lake Placid. “It was seven weeks tending to animals, picking carrots and walking barefoot,” Biddle recalls. They were “boyfriend and girlfriend” when she was 10 and he was 11, but they lost contact for years.

In the period that followed, Biddle worked for English primatologist Jane Goodall and attended Lewis & Clark College and Barnard College before joining a startup. She returned to college and graduated from Columbia University with a degree in creative writing.

Davidson attended Bennington College, spent a year at Oxford University, and earned a degree in history and constitutional development. He spent 15 months as a home guard at Rose Valley Museum at Thunderbird Lodge in Pennsylvania, site of an ancient community of utopian artists, where he learned restoration from master craftsmen. He later moved to Philadelphia, where he traded restaurant work for free rent and farm-fresh vegetables.

Biddle, who worked as a journalist, and Davidson reconnected when he messaged her on Facebook after reading one of her articles. Today, the duo co-authored an original article for “The Magazine Antiques” titled “Object Lesson.” (In the March/April issue, they discuss bone and hair model ships that were created by French prisoners in Britain during the Napoleonic Wars.) Biddle and Davidson also contributed to “Wildsam Field Guides : Hudson Valley & Catskills” of 2021.

Biddle and Davidson are happy to be in the Hudson Valley. “It’s a really nice place to work,” says Davidson. Biddle loves how the area is so alive with the past. “A lot of our clients are people who want to explore the historical aspects of the area,” she says. “It’s such a joy for us. That’s why we got into this, storytelling.

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