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Inside High Valley Books, the fashion bookstore in a Brooklyn apartment

Inside High Valley Books, the fashion bookstore in a Brooklyn apartment
Inside High Valley Books, the fashion bookstore in a Brooklyn apartment

 


On a recent Sunday, a few moments passed without Bill Hall answering his house buzzer. He led a succession of fashionable Brooklynites through his entryway and into his sunny living room, lined with vintage fashion magazines, photo books by Guy Bourdin and Ron Jude, and obscure German design quarterlies.

Three large bookcases have just arrived with 300 copies of The World of Interiors from the 1990s and 2000s, which are rather hard to find, Mr. Hall, a 60-year-old man in a rumpled shirt with clear-rimmed glasses balanced on his nose , said to a posh couple, pointing to the magazines on a nearby Eames shelf.

Mr. Hall's home, located in a three-story building in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, also serves as High Valley Books, a store offering more than 50,000 volumes of books and magazines, as well as ephemera, including a collection of paper-thin wood veneer samples and matchboxes. size of Lilliput dictionaries. The store has become a source of inspiration and archival research for fashion designers, photographers and stylists who browse the shelves that take up much of Mr. Hall's living room and basement. (He lives upstairs with his wife and two daughters.)

Visits, by appointment only, can only be made via the store's landline or via DM on Instagram. Newcomers are given a tour of the store, and from there Mr. Hall guides them through the departments based on their tastes. He also has Take some pictures consenting customers with their findings and publishes them on social networks.

I like to know who's here, he says during a rare lull. I like knowing their names, meeting them at the door and I like introducing people to each other.

Rowan Thompson, a brand strategist at a design firm, stopped by with her friend Wesley Chau, an industrial designer.

I've tried to come, but I end up here every time Bills is busy or the store is closed, Ms. Thompson said. I got lucky and called to ask if I could come in now as I was outside. The collection here is unprecedented.

She left with a copy of Lift, an out-of-print history of plastic surgery written by the journalist Joan Kron, on the recommendation of Mr. Hall, who regaled Ms. Thompson with excerpts from Ms. Kron's biography.

Other regular customers also flocked to browse the new arrivals. Bon Duke, a photographer and filmmaker, has been coming to the store since 2020. From the start, Bill knew exactly what I was looking for, Mr. Duke said, while picking out a few photo books of magazine portraits from the 1980s. I'm still able to leave with something. It feels strange to leave without a book.

The Greenpoint space is High Valley Books' second location. Mr. Hall opened the store in 1999 and operated it in a south Williamsburg brownstone during its early years. He named the store after his grandmother's farm in western Massachusetts and credits his family for his love of books.

My mother and father were both avid readers, he said. There were always books and magazines everywhere.

In 1991, after earning undergraduate degrees at McGill and the University of Massachusetts, Mr. Hall was set to begin his master's degree in fine arts at Pratt. But a few weeks before the semester started, he decided against it and took a job in the art department at The Strand bookstore.

A few years later, Richard Lilly, longtime director of the art department at The Strands and a family friend, introduced Mr. Hall to Shaun Gunson, a rare book dealer on the Upper East Side. Mr. Gunson's health was rapidly deteriorating because of complications from AIDS, and Mr. Hall began doing odd jobs for him, researching books and keeping an eye out for particular titles.

As Mr. Gunson's health deteriorated, he offered to hire Mr. Hall full time and teach him how to search for rare books on fashion and design. It was a quick and vital education, Mr. Hall recalls.

There was a rapid transfer of knowledge during the AIDS crisis, he said. I had to do everything for him right away.

Mr. Gunson died in 1993 and Mr. Hall helped manage the remaining collection before it was sold to another bookseller and private library curator, Kinsey Marable. After working with Mr. Marable for several years, Mr. Hall, newly married, decided to open up in Williamsburg. He and his wife moved into the living room of a brownstone around the corner from the Peter Lugers Steakhouse, and Mr. Hall operated High Valley Books out of the dining room.

The stores' influence has continued to grow over the years. The designers of Balenciaga were known for ordering books from High Valley for their home libraries, and Thakoon Panichgul of HommeGirls visited the store several times. The social media influencer Addison Rae has arrived a few weeks ago to pick up a vintage copy of Vanity Fair.

Patience Adobea and Theresa Meriam, who together run the online marketplace Adobea Adjeïhave been coming to High Valley for a few years, and that Sunday, the duo was roaming the basement aisles.

I found a graphic design book that struck me because the cover was familiar from the photos of African hair salons, said Ms. Abodea, who is also an archivist, holding up a vintage copy of the German design magazine Novum Gebrauchsgraphik .

Like many dealers, Mr. Hall does not reveal exactly where he buys his books. He said he still enjoys going to bookstores when he travels and buys large and small collections, often from longtime customers. With a mischievous smile, he refused to give further details.

He's not so circumspect with his customers, offering a stream of comments about the provenance of almost every book he's selling. By counting the bills, he made sure each person was comfortable with the price of their finds, prices are not listed on High Valley volumes, so Mr. Hall consults a database digital.

Buying a book at High Valley is often almost like buying something from Mr. Hall's personal collection, a sensation that always brings him a sense of joy.

It's so improbable, all of this, how it's so popular and all the young people love it, Mr Hall said. When it works well, it's like a small living room where people can meet. That's wonderful.

Sources

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2/ https://www.nytimes.com/2024/06/12/style/high-valley-books-bill-hall.html

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