As its name implies, it takes some effort to discover the new storefront of Lower East Side’s enigmatic purveyors with panache, The Hunt. Framed under an electronics store sign belonging to an old tenant, The Hunt’s cryptic entrance acts as a sort of portal into the world contained within – part store, part museum – where the line between old and new is a bit uncertain.
Having shared a space with a jewelry store on Orchard Street for the past three and a half years, best friends and co-owners Steven Ditchkus, Jake Lamagno and Dylan Rieder decided the time was right to make the move. Mostly, it came down to size. In the store’s new locale, around five times the size of their previous space, The Hunt gang finally have the freedom they desired to display their wondrous wares.
And, what of these wares?
“A lot of antiques and taxidermy but we’re also making an effort to bring in local designers and people who’ve build stuff by hand,” said Ditchkus, speaking with us in their new spot. Exemplifying this stands a coat-rack stocked with seemingly standard-issue vintage jackets. Upon closer inspection, though, the denim and leather appear emblazoned with colorful tongue-in-cheek aphorisms — the work of two artists who call themselves Sterile Boys. In the way much of The Hunt’s stock is reinvigorated items of yore; the shirts of Sterile Boys are made uniquely anew by a street artist who paints the phrases, while the other embroiders the details.
A couple vintage-looking rings further illustrate The Hunt’s particular brand of cool. Though they appear to be a work of a century-old silversmith, it turns out the rings belong to the hand of a contemporary Maine-based artist employing an ancient technique. Using the bones of a cuttlefish for the mould, the artist pours in molten silver that helps form a natural shape from the bone, after which he chips away the cuttlefish. Each ring is completely one of a kind, like almost all of The Hunt’s stock.
It’s not all witty repurposed shirts and cuttlefish rings, though. There’s also the head of a century-old turtle, a hand-made coffin from Ghana and some photos of Miley Cyrus holding a pig.
“Those are by Sue Kwon,” said Ditchkus, indicating the pig portraits taken by the New York photographer, well known within the music and fashion worlds of the late ’80s and early ’90s. “I like them because they’re sort of dark and weird, and you don’t notice its Miley Cyrus until you take a closer look.”
The words “dark and weird” reveal another critical thread running through The Hunt’s collection. Human skulls, apothecary jars and general turn-of-the-century medical ephemera (including a late 1800s German bone saw) litter cabinets. In accounting for the cranium collection, it could be said that The Hunt is merely responding to the needs of a growing market. “Prices of these sorts of objects have dramatically increased in recent years, which is interesting,” noted Ditchkus.
Like the hard-to-pin down nature of the store’s stock, so too do their prices vary, from anywhere between $20,000 for a stuffed bear to $10 for a stick of incense.
As longtime collectors, The Hunt’s owners overriding condition for what goes into the store is any object that uniquely captures their attention and imagination. “It sort of goes along with our logo,” said Ditchkus. “The All Seeing Eye.”
Click through our slideshow to see what’s for sale.