Melet Mercantile is a place of dreams. Which explains why it’s been held with such high regard among creatives since its conception in 2003. Bob Melet has taken something so seemingly usual – that is, collecting and antiquing, and turned it into an ever-changing, perfectly curated world that is meant to inspire and ignite creativity. And that’s just skimming the surface.
We jumped at the opportunity to visit the Melet Mercantile Outpost in Montauk. Perfectly organized and precisely thought out, the ideal vintage store that has a way of making you feel like the ultimate version of yourself – or at least makes you want to be the ultimate version of yourself. Bob was kind enough to answer a few questions for us too, because we had to at least try to understand what goes on inside that brain of his.
Can you describe a little about what you do, specifically the curation of your mood boards and their success amongst the brands you work closely with?
I work with the fashion community, I work with superlatives, I work with interior decorators. I work on films, I work on theater, I work on music videos, editorials. All of those have the same basic principles of creativity. We speak a creative speak by using textiles, apparel, jewelry, accessories, photography, books, art, sculpture, objects. And we mix all those things together and create conceptual spaces that are three-dimensional.
Each season, we create sixteen different elaborate concepts that incorporate each and every one of those categories mixed together. And we present those for a three-month period, or one season. We see clients privately that are working in all those industries including fashion. In fashion we work with fast fashion, heritage brands, high fashion brands, all types of products from perfume design and packaging to denim to active leisure to luxury. All of those things we’re working on by the hour, by appointment, with people. So that when they walk in we start the process for them by creating these concepts so we feel that they’re relevant.
We’re putting together concepts twelve to fifteen months before those ideas would hit retail stores. And I have to go collect those concepts and put them together anywhere from a year and a half to two years ahead of time to be able to present mature, thoughtful collections that would represent any idea that I have… Those boards are just one component of a three dimensional actual space.
We’re constantly coming up with conceptual ideas that would affect not only the design of the product but also the store design, the packaging design, any visual aspect of the marketing, to photo shoots, we work closely with all a lot of those brands but we also work as for-hire creative service studio, do a lot of those things for people.
It’s a whole broad spectrum of creativity and it all starts from what we do in actuality every season and then from there it spins out to a lot of directions. We’re getting a first hand working relationship with really some of the most creative living people today.
Your New York business is by appointment only, but you now have the Montauk outpost which is open to the public – what was the thought behind making this shift?
I’m a part of the community and I live there. Eight years ago I saw what was happening in Montauk and thought that we should embrace the growth. And we have a lot of clients that go out there and they also thought it’d be nice to have a space to come to as a part of the canvas, and to have the opportunity to discover something cool.
How would you describe your tendencies when it comes to collecting?
I don’t know, I try to use good taste and thoughtful consideration. And I travel, I’m very selective, it’s a trained skill.
Is there anything not for sale?
In my office, I have an installation that’s like a permanent collection of very smalls items. A lot I’ve collected over my travels.
What’s the one item you regret parting with?
I live without regret.
As a connoisseur of all things vintage and antique, what are your modern vices?
I don’t embrace the modern culture of technology. Right now I’m talking to you on a flip-phone. I have no modern vices. My modern vice is all the other people that are not paying attention to what’s going on around them because they’re busy – or they think they’re busy – on their cellphones. I’ve never texted and I don’t use computers. But I see everything around me and I always have and I think people don’t, so I think that gives me a great advantage.
When did you realize you could create a career out of collecting?
When I was 14.
Did your upbringing in Michigan inspire or have an influence on your interest in collecting?
The Cranbrook School, and the mid-century modern masters – Charles and Ray Eames, Florence Knoll, all the mid-century modern masters were at Cranbrook, and my mother and father went there, and that had a heavy influence on what I originally collected which was mid-century modern furniture and art and design pieces. Being from that region of the country, I was heavily influenced by that.
It’s one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. And it was one of those schools that taught design, textiles, furniture, graphics and art and many many things. It had a big influence on what we considered mid-century modern design.
Is there one most obscure thing someone has come to you for, or is the obscure the norm?
Yes, in my world, yes. We deal in many cultures and sub-cultures and counter cultures so that brings in you into lots of interesting artifacts, antiquities. So not everything I deal with is vintage, I also deal in ancient to mid-century modern things. Vintage [things] are only 25 years old. We have things from around the world that date thousands of years so. Not one resonates. We deal in the obscure so I guess that’s kind of a hard thing to pin point.
How has Melet Mercantile evolved or stayed the same over the years?
Well we just changed from being a hidden second floor in SoHo for thirteen and a half years, and we just moved to Tribeca to 76 Franklin where we’re at street level and we have a window and it gives us exposure that we never had before. Rent has changed so much in New York that thirteen and a half years ago rent on a second floor was half as much as being on the first floor and now retail being as it is in New York there are so many retail spaces available, there are so many technology company moving to New York there is no office space, so I’ve found a beautiful, what would be considered “retail space”, but we’re still going to work privately and it’s nice to have the exposure on the street. And we’re looking to expand to Los Angeles. So that’s our future.
What is one thing you’re always keeping an eye out for?
The coolest shit in the world, I guess! I mean we’re always looking for the best stuff, it’s a daily pursuit, so you have to recognize there are a lot of vendors from around the world that deal in all these different things so my exposure to interesting things is massive everyday. So I get to be selective of what I want to choose.
Is there anything that you’ve had in mind to collect, or is there anything you’ve yet to find that you want or have in mind?
I don’t know, that’s a hard one. I’m into space, the technology of space and things that were in space or came from space I’m interested in. And meteorites, that are literally from out of this world….