I opened my first shop, at 413 Bleecker Street, in 1995. Within three years I had expanded to a second space, LEO Design Studio at 28 Jane Street. This allowed me much needed space to buy and sell more furniture and other big pieces (including the occasional container from London). It also provided storage and workspace for us to clean and prepare merchandise for sale in the original (and much smaller) shop. But, with two monthly rental payments, more employees, and duplicate insurance, telephone & utility bills, my "monthly nut" became much harder to crack.
One of my customers, a woman who lived just around the corner, happened to be an astrologist. She and I would talk about the name of my shop, LEO Design, and my pride in my Leonine starsign. Now I am not what you would call "a true believer." Though I do find it interesting that people born under a particular starsign do seem to exhibit basic common traits, propensities and personalities. This customer gave me her card and suggested I call her if I ever wanted my zodiac chart drawn-up. Now, with six years and two locations under my belt, I thought I'd see what she had to say about the year to come. She asked me for my birth date, location and time of birth. We set an appointment for the following week, 10 September 2001, two hours before shop opening time.
I showed-up on the assigned morning, tape recorder in-hand (as I had been instructed). She began to show me the chart and give me her impressions—none of which sounded correct to me. After a few minutes of this, I asked her to confirm the birth date, time and location she had used. It seems that she had used East Coast Time rather than Hawaii Time. Even this small, six hour, difference had a dramatic effect on the chart (especially as I am born on-the-cusp). Her miscalculation seemed to have pushed me into Cancer! (And I was not about to change the name of the shop!)
She apologized and asked me to come back after she had re-run the chart with the correct details. "But," she said, "we need to do it today. I leave for Paris tomorrow afternoon. I won't be back for a month. We have to do it today or wait for many weeks." We arranged for me to come-back that very evening, after I closed the shop.
I came back after 8:00 pm, and (by-and-large) thought that the revised chart made perfect sense. It seemed to accurately portray my character, values and motivations. But the big question was yet to come: "How successful will the business be in the coming months—and over the course of the next year?" She indicated that the company should perform strongly. That any stress of the previous year was surely behind me. "That's great," I said. "Thank you and have a wonderful month in Paris!" I need not remind you that all flights—worldwide, for several days—were cancelled the following morning, shortly after the horrifying attacks on the World Trade Center. I am certain she didn't get out as planned. Come to think of it, I don't recall ever seeing her again. (Hmmm.)
The bookends, shown above, were modeled after the Walking Lion by French animalier Antoine Louis Bayre (1795-1875). They were made in the Twenties of polished cast iron by the Bradley and Hubbard Company (Meriden, Connecticut). One interesting feature is that the pair exhibits "mirrored" bas relief sculptures. This required more work; two separate moulds would be required and the pair would have to be "managed" a bit more throughout the casting, finishing and packing process. But the mirrored effect allows both lions to face-outwards, once placed on the bookshelf. Very few pairs of production bookends were made as mirrored pairs. It was less expensive (and more common) to have two of the same, exact bookend. Click on the photo above to learn more about them.
Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well! Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).
We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only). 917-446-4248