It seems counterintuitive, but Toll Gate Revival owner Seth Hunter hopes to increase business by being open less often.
When the vintage décor shop officially reopens June 1 at its new location on 43rd Street in Lawrenceville, Hunter’s clientele will need to make appointments to browse his collection of repurposed furniture and reclaimed artifacts and materials.
“I’m getting away from the retail store concept and retail hours,” Hunter says. “I’m probably going to have warehouse sales where I open it up one weekend a month, and I’ll still be available by appointment. That will give me a lot more freedom to get out on the road, which is the fun part.”
A knack for finding rarities has made the Washington County native an in-demand supplier for interior decorators and set designers. Hunter’s items can be found in many Lawrenceville restaurants including Pork & Beans, and were featured in the movie “American Pastoral” and the TV shows “Mindhunter” and “Banshee.”
The new shop, formerly a small warehouse, is approximately 3,500 square feet, tripling the size of his previous location on Butler Street. The goal is to “get a lot more stuff in here,” Hunter says with a laugh.
“The stuff I sell a lot of are bigger furniture pieces,” he says. “The long narrow boutique-style retail shop just wasn’t conducive to that. I needed something more wide open. It will allow me to get the bigger and heavier pieces I’m drawn to in here.”
A glance around the new shop reveals Hunter’s style, which he describes as “rustic industrial.” There are large lockers and an old-fashioned barber’s chair, military and Boy Scout paraphernalia, flags and banners and signs. But the items in his shop are far from predictable: Though he always tries to have a leather Chesterfield sofa available because of its in-demand status, Hunter otherwise ignores trends.
“Mid-century modern is really popular right now, but I never got into it because it wasn’t my particular style,” says Hunter. “I just buy what I like and present it to people in a way so they can see what it will look like in their own home.”
Hunter, who grew up on a farm, says old barns are his favorite place to find old furniture and other pieces. But the internet has made finding bargains harder than ever, and sellers tend to overvalue their goods. In order to stay competitive, Hunter needs to spend more time traveling the country roads and byways where bargains are still available.
“It’s definitely tougher to buy at flea markets and estate sales and auctions” these days, Hunter says. “All the prices are rising. My margins are shrinking, but that’s why you have to get out there and really hustle and beat people to it.”
The grand reopening for Toll Gate Revival takes place June 1-3. Hours: June 1, noon – 5 p.m. June 2-3, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Want more vintage shopping? Check out our guide to the best stores in Pittsburgh for salvaged and reclaimed goods.