Inspired by their regular sightings of quality furnishings and household items discarded at curbsides on trash days, Hannah and Otto told me about their business plan.
About two years ago they located a prime space in Bushwick for their retail shop. They got a box truck, a garage, and a network of people who could be hired for some of the heavy lifting. I among them. After the first few months, studying the trash pick-up-day stats for the reliable neighborhoods, they were doing fabulously. Hannah rounded out the shop with clothing she’d pick up at Salvation Army and Goodwill stores.
They named it The Sator Box — sator being Latin for sower — implying a re-planting of these treasures. With the truck and crew being available for deliveries, their reputation grew and people from miles around came to check out the amazing, reasonably priced gems.
I was with them this one particular evening, looking over a lovely coffee table on 70th near Madison, when a woman wearing a flowery tunic walked out of the white townhouse towards us.
I was keeping an eye out for you, she said. My name is Alice. I’ve seen you for months now scavenging abandoned furniture on this street. I have an armoire that I would love to go to a good home. I’ve taken it out of my apartment and put it in the basement. It has mirrored doors and I thought if I just left it out here they’d get smashed. I can show it to you and if you’d like you can have it.
We thanked her profusely, let our truck driver know we’d be a minute, grabbed a furniture dolly, and began following her towards the stairway going down to the basement. The lights are a bit low down there so mind where you step, she warned.
She walked way ahead and down the long dark hallway we saw her turn right through a doorway. We reached the turn and entered the storage stall. There was the armoire. Elegant, with gently arched moldings; it had five drawers on the right side, and a large mirrored door on the left. Wow, we all said almost simultaneously. Then, suddenly, looking around the little space, and at each other with puzzled looks, we saw no sign of the woman. Hello?! Hello??
I backtracked to the street, calling her name, but no sign. The front door of the building was shut and all the lights were all out. When I came back Otto and Hannah had bungeed the armoire to the dolly and were ready to move it out. That was…