Joe Christopher must have had a crystal ball and a keen sense of business. In 1969, Christopher became one of the first settlers on South Broadway’s .
Arriving in Nyack, Joe, a school teacher, opened Christopher’s Antiques in a somewhat still tumultuous area in the late 60s. But that was soon to change as Nyack became an arts, crafts and antiques mega-capital. Alan Rich wrote about Nyack for The New Yorker in 1975 (at the time living in Grand View himself):
“With almost a single impulse, several antique dealers who had been selling in Greenwich Village decided to move to a more congenial location, with extremely attractive rents. Like a small swarm of benign locusts, they settled into a depressed and nearly abandoned tenement block along Nyack’s South Broadway.”
Joe Christopher had this to say in the article: “I didn’t think the area was dangerous, it was just unkempt and disorderly. The reason it looked so bad was because the people who owned the buildings had no stake in the community. But this made the real estate cheap enough to buy so that we could start something.”
Howard Siegel, the present owner of this five-level building, has been a part of Christopher’s from its inception 42 years ago. “Howie,” as most people know him, grew up in Spring Valley.
“My mom was always antiquing and very much into plants, I used to go antiquing with her all the time,” Siegel recalls. “We used to come to Gas Light Antiques in Nyack.”
Siegel first opened a store called “Tummee Thyme” with a partner across the street from where Christopher’s is now.
“We sold candies, rustic antiques… it was very Pennsylvania Dutch,” he said. Christopher came to town and was working on the building across the street when the two men met and began a long relationship. Siegel and Christopher became partners and moved to one of the apartments upstairs from what is now Christopher's.
“We spent seven days and seven nights together for 23 years,” Siegel said, describing that period in his life. “It was such a bohemian lifestyle, we loved it. It was black and white, gay and straight, hippy and… hippy, poor or tons of money. Everyone inter-meshed.”
At first, Christopher and Siegel would go to Pennsylvania each week, buy the furniture, strip it, sell it and then delivered it. They also sold plants, which became a large part of the business of Christopher’s. A few years after they opened, the sub-cellar became the place where the furniture was stripped, opening two floors—instead of just the original one—for display. Several years later, the greenhouse was built in the back.
“We sold herbs and annuals in the yard in the back, I went around to all the local growers," Siegel explained.
When the second floor became empty it became “Christopher’s Marketplace.” Each room was a different store: a leather shop, a children’s clothing store, a small flower shop, an art and frame shop and a small antique store.
“Weekends were crazy back then,” Siegel recalls. “We were very busy—Nyack was a real destination because of all the antique stores.”
Two more stores
Then came Christopher’s Reproductions and Christopher’s Warehouse; the reproduction store was opened across the street, and the Warehouse was opened on Franklin Avenue. Siegel and Christopher started reproductions and upholstery at the reproduction store. The original store only had American furniture—once the warehouse was opened, European furniture became a big draw.
“We started with England, and then started buying from Denmark and Vienna,” Siegel explained. “We travelled a lot—it was a great time.”
The Upper Nyack home on Castle Heights
Siegel and Christopher had a deck garden on the top of their Nyack building, and renovated the very top apartment during their 23-year stay. But Christopher’s was not the only real estate this creative and hard working couple got their hands into. They purchased a home in Upper Nyack that, for years prior, they had passed by and admired. It was owned by the same family since 1800; realtors told them that this house would never come up for sale. But one day the house went on the market.
The story goes that the home was haunted: the shades were always lowered, and an elderly lady named Mrs. Havisham lived in this once Federal Style home alone for years. Legend had it poor Ms. Haveisham was in love with a man who her father highly disapproved of—and so she never married and stayed in the house all her life. Traditional Home featured the house in their February 1990 edition after Siegel's and Christopher's 11 year renovation was complete.
By 1992 the business was changing, and so was Siegel’s relationship with Christopher. Siegel went to Cape Cod and Key West thinking he could do business in those areas, but ultimately decided against it and returned to Nyack. He then met David Rituper, who started running Christopher’s on South Broadway while Siegel remained at the Warehouse.
Addie the standard poodle
If you know Christopher’s, you knew Addie. Addie was the black standard poodle that stood outside the store and functioned as a mascot and greeter for years until she passed away in 2008. Customers still walk into the store to this day and ask to see her.
Rituper and Addie were inseparable. Both were very much loved by Christopher’s clientele.
Joe Christopher moved to New Orleans about that time. In 1999, Howie did a huge renovation on the entire warehouse on Franklin.
“It was great, even though it cost a fortune to renovate and we continued strong for about seven years,” Siegel explained.
Rituper died very suddenly at age 49, in 2008, due to an undiagnosed enlarged heart.
Jump to current day: business is running as usual, and Siegel is looking forward to his May delivery of unique stone planters and stunning, luxurious hanging baskets. He is also accepting furniture, lighting and accessories on consignment. The building that Christopher's now inhabits is for sale through Lydecker Real Estate.
Siegel has also taken over Joe Christopher’s antique crystal ball, and looks into it to see his future and the future of Christopher’s. And hopefully, it reveals many bright days ahead where Christopher’s remains a treat to shoppers young and old. This 42-year-old one-of-a-kind shoppers' haven has many more stories to create and to share—just ask Howie Siegel.
Christopher’s Antiques: (845) 358-9574, 71 South Broadway Nyack