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Haven Champions Community and Secondhand Home Goods in St. Johnsbury 

Published April 18, 2023 at 10:00 a.m.

click to enlarge The showroom at Haven in St. Johnsbury - STEVE LEGGE
  • Steve Legge
  • The showroom at Haven in St. Johnsbury

Saving up for a treasured object is a childhood rite of passage. Some kids stash cash to purchase snazzy bikes. Others dream of having the coolest pair of kicks at school. When Maggie Gray was in third grade, she pocketed her allowance money until she could bring home a deep-green steamer trunk — with cute, floral-patterned wallpaper lining the interior — from her favorite antique store.

Gray grew up in Rutland and, at a young age, began asking her mother to take her to the antiques store in Mendon so she could scan the furniture, dishes and knickknacks.

"I've been obsessively rearranging my bedroom and decorating since I was 8 or 9," she said. "It's always been a way to clear my mind and focus my hyperactivity."

Until just a few years ago, Gray viewed her interest as a hobby, not a career path. Now, she's the owner of Haven, a small, impeccably curated used furniture and home goods store in St. Johnsbury, which she opened in December 2021.

Her mission? "I want to show people that you can buy secondhand and it doesn't have to be dingy," Gray said.

With a strong Instagram presence and an ever-changing selection of funky and elegant furnishings and artwork, Haven has quickly become a cornerstone of St. Johnsbury's newly thriving downtown.

click to enlarge Maggie Gray - STEVE LEGGE
  • Steve Legge
  • Maggie Gray

Haven's products reflect Gray's affection for fashionable furnishings and her penchant for cleanliness. Glass-topped tables are polished to a sheen. Light streams in through windows that look out on Eastern Avenue, gleaming off dozens of pieces of glassware displayed on minimalist wall-mounted shelving. The room feels spacious and uncluttered, but there's a lot to see.

Recent treasures included a white ceramic-and-glass French press with matching mugs; a metal rack resembling a spiral staircase suspending six smoked wine glasses in midair around a decanter; petite crystal salt cellars; and a wooden-handled aluminum ice bucket with penguins in relief marching around the perimeter.

In other corners of the store, shoppers might find a mirror framed with live-edge log slices, a Gustav Klimt coffee-table book, a framed print of Edward Gorey's "Bacchanalia" or vintage hi-fi audio equipment. Gray used to sell LPs, too, but stopped when a record shop opened up nearby.

Emily Maclure, co-owner of the Genny general stores in Craftsbury and Albany, is a "huge fan of Haven," she said, and not just because it's where she found the hutch for her dishes, a table and chairs, and various art pieces. "Maggie sees the importance of community building," Maclure said. "Collaboration seems to be her superpower. She wants to see other businesses flourish."

In fall 2021, Gray was the first business owner to sign a lease in Haven's building, a new construction down the street from Catamount Arts that combines storefronts with affordable housing. The building is also home to Cosmic Cup Café, the Printshop by Jackie Fox, Art & Joy, and St. Johnsbury Academy's adult education program.

Starting this month, Gray is furthering Haven's community focus with the Final Friday artist series. The last weekend of each month, from April through August, an artist will exhibit work at her shop. First up: ceramics by Utah-based artist Alyce Carrier.

The art, and the maker, will be celebrated during St. Johnsbury's recurring Final Fridays events. Haven will host an open house with natural wines, nonalcoholic beverages and "antipasto-style snacks" catered by Alexis Hurley's cooking business, Agatha Italian.

click to enlarge The showroom at Haven in St. Johnsbury - STEVE LEGGE
  • Steve Legge
  • The showroom at Haven in St. Johnsbury

It took Gray some time to find her path and her community. After finishing high school in Rutland, she tried a stint as an English major at the University of Vermont, but it didn't stick. "Showing up to class was a real challenge," she recalled. "I dropped out, went back and dropped out again."

She tried out a different school, in Boston, but struggled with the high cost of living. So she headed west to Salt Lake City, which she'd heard was less expensive. There she managed the local American Apparel store and took classes at a community college. Later, Gray landed at Bastyr University's Seattle campus, pursuing a degree in nutrition with a minor in culinary skills. She graduated in 2019 at age 28.

Longing to return to Vermont, Gray lined up a job at Revolution Kitchen, a vegetarian restaurant in Burlington, starting in February 2020. We all know what happened then.

Getting by on COVID-19 unemployment money during lockdown, Gray floated from her parents' home to an apartment in Montpelier. When the pandemic funding dried up, she found an affordable spot in St. Johnsbury with plenty of garage storage.

That's when Gray truly "started hoarding antiques," as she put it. By March 2021, she had a large enough collection to start an online business. She registered with the secretary of state and created an Instagram account. Haven was born, and the storefront soon followed.

Thanks to many "supportive friends," she said, her following grew quickly. Because of the reach of social media, Gray was able to sell to buyers all around the state, provided they were willing to come to the Northeast Kingdom to pick up their purchases.

Nicole Bull, one of Haven's early customers, discovered the biz on Instagram. "I started following along before the brick-and-mortar existed," she said. When Bull and her husband bought their first home, in 2022, they didn't own enough furnishings to fill the space. Gray came to their house for an in-person consultation, took measurements and discussed the couple's style preferences.

"She would send us images of pieces as they became available, to see if they would fit the bill," Bull explained. "Maggie has been such a dream to work with."

click to enlarge The showroom at Haven in St. Johnsbury - STEVE LEGGE
  • Steve Legge
  • The showroom at Haven in St. Johnsbury

How does Gray find the items she sells? Some of the answer is a trade secret, but it's no mystery that her work involves a lot of driving and muscle. Gray attends auctions and estate sales throughout New England, acquiring items that fit the aesthetic of her store.

Currently, she said, many of her wares are midcentury modern and postmodern, but she's excited to offer "beautifully designed and eye-catching conversation pieces" from other eras. "I'm excited about weird medieval stuff," she added. Victorian? Not so much.

Because sourcing takes so much time, Haven's storefront is open Friday through Sunday and by appointment. Other days are filled with bidding, moving goods to Gray's Lyndonville home for cleaning and transporting newly sparkling furnishings to the shop — except for the pieces that Gray falls in love with and keeps for herself.

This combination of roving and nesting perfectly suits Gray's sometimes restless nature. The acquisition of decorative objects, and the opportunity to lovingly care for them before offering them to customers, holds her attention in a way that other work has not.

"It's the only thing I've ever been focused enough on to dedicate myself to making it tangible and real," she said.

It will take time before the business turns a comfortable profit, but Haven pays its bills, and Gray said she feels "furniture rich." She also has a wealth of supporters: her friends and customers, as well as the romantic partner with whom she shares a home.

"I'm not running the shop as a hobby, and there are times that it feels very hard," Gray said. "But I hope that it will build and grow and eventually be a more sustainable livelihood."

The original print version of this article was headlined "Finders Keepers | A home goods store in St. Johnsbury is a hub for community and secondhand style"

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About The Author

Suzanne Podhaizer

Suzanne Podhaizer

Former contributor Suzanne Podhaizer is an award-winning food writer (and the first Seven Days food editor) as well as a chef, farmer, and food-systems consultant. She has given talks at the Stone Barns Center for Agriculture's "Poultry School" and its flagship "Young Farmers' Conference." She can slaughter a goose, butcher a pig, make ramen from scratch, and cook a scallop perfectly.


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