There aren’t a lot of trends from the twentieth century that manage to keep from fading in and out of the haze of passing years. But hidden in plain sight among the refuse of the psychedelic late-sixties and the come-down of the seventies—the bell-bottoms, lava lamps, and shag carpeting—one can find hand-crafted, timeless pieces of furniture, sign posts of bygone days as surrealistic as a pillow, if one is willing to look. Luckily, Jon Estelita of MOXY Modern Mercantile has made it his mission to find them and bring them to you, showcasing them in funky-fresh displays that are oh so fine.
Since coming to Little Rock from San Francisco six years ago, Jon and his wife Laura have been operating MOXY in the SoMa neighborhood. The shop specializes in vintage home décor, furniture, and vintage-inspired accessories, all while catering to customers with an eye for quality.
“Probably within the last four or five years, vintage shopping has gotten a lot more popular,” Estelita said. “And I think that it’s because a lot of newer merchandise that you can get [is] well-priced but it’s not really high quality. It’s what we call ‘disposable furniture.’”
Anyone that’s tried to decipher a wordless Ikea instruction manual only to be disappointed when the resulting piece of furniture is rickety and smells like freshly pulped wood-product knows exactly what he’s talking about. “I can tell you that a vintage piece of furniture, whether it be a couch, chair, desk or table is much higher quality. And that’s why it’s still here. Because it was made well,” Estelita said. “[And] there’s an added value in buying vintage [because] you’re recycling, too – it’s not going to end up in a landfill.”
MOXY isn’t cluttered, like some vintage shops. Instead, Estelita walks the line between grandma’s-living-room-kitsch and Haight-Ashbury-savoir-faire with great poise and more than enough comicality.
Inside, you’ll find an assortment of off-kilter items, like vibrantly colored packs of gum with snappy catchphrases painted on the box, or a pillow shaped like a red Converse All-Star shoe. There are even manikins spread throughout the store in various states of being: one wearing a red graphic tee with a constable’s hat to complete the ensemble; and another is just a pair of legs, sticking out of a vintage wheelbarrow precariously placed on the tippy-top of a display bookcase.
“There’s usually always a theme in my displays of whimsy,” Estelita explained. “A lot of people come in here and walk around and I can hear them laughing and I can see them smiling when they check out [and] it makes me really happy. I think that it’s important to laugh in life, and what a display does is tells you a story – about how to take care of your body, about looking good, [or] about being comfortable in your home. So whatever the story is for you, if you’re able to laugh a little bit at it, I think it makes it even better.”
Estelita’s story begins when he was only five years old in his hometown of Moraga, Calif. His mother would return home after work to find all of his bedroom furniture in the hallway, because he was busy rearranging his room.
He attended St. Mary’s College of California where he studied interpersonal communication and fine art, all the while working in a wine importing store called Grape Expectations. Upon graduating he landed a job with Macy’s in San Francisco, first as manager and later as a member of the buying department, an aspect of retail whose mundane nature didn’t exactly sit well with the young Estelita.
Eventually, though, budget cuts were made and he was laid off. Always the resourceful one, Estelita landed a job with Z Gallerie, a boutique on Haight Street, where he was quickly promoted from store manager to visual personnel, responsible for making eye-catching window displays in stores across the country, which is when things started to really take off.
“What really changed for me is when the vice president promoted me to visual merchandiser. When that happened, they give you a test, similar to the show ‘Chopped.’ Within thirty minutes I built a display with an aqua and white theme and they loved it.”
Luckily for Rock City, Estelita happened to like the city after visiting his brother on a whim. The price of living here was a huge pull for him, plus, he found the city to have good vibes. “[My brother] lives in Hillcrest. It kind of reminded me a little bit of Berkeley, Calif. It’s funky and Birkenstock-y with a lot of dogs and little cafes. So I felt like I was back home again in some way,” he said.
Estelita is thrilled to be a part of the SoMa neighborhood. His hopes are to keep bringing joy, laughter, design, and vintage pieces to MOXY’s loyal customers and beyond. He says it best – “Every time I do a display … it’s kind of like the way a chef cooks. He goes to the market and whatever is fresh that day is what he puts on the menu.”
Catch the fresh window displays at MOXY if you haven’t been out yet. Spend time chatting and laughing with Estelita at the store on Tuesday – Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.