Ford Wheeler first went to Every Thing Goes in 1997. He was working as a production designer for James Gray’s first film, Little Odessa, and had heard from someone – he doesn’t remember who – that there was this vintage furniture store on Staten Island that had all and for cheap. It turned out to be true. “They had all kinds of things, not just furniture,” he says. “Things that anyone else would throw away. Curtains, sheets, dishes, old telephones. They would sell whatever they had on hand. But, you know, it was weird. This quirk manifested itself in various ways. Although the place was overflowing, it was unusually, unusually organized. “Each item was measured, placed in a plastic bag and labeled,” he says. “They also had a system to track customers – every time you went upstairs you would hear ‘the customer moving to the second floor’ through a walkie-talkie.” And the employees “had this policy of being truthful or frank. . So, you know, any other place you could trade. If you try to negotiate there, they get mad.
This all starts to make sense when you consider that Every Thing Goes is run by Ganas, New York’s oldest township, whose core values are truth revealing and recycling. The group of some 65 people live in eight houses on a hilly residential road on Staten Island’s north coast, obscured by sprawl and concrete walkways. They share expenses and meals – once a week, when one member returns from the grocery store, the others create a staggered chain from house to road to slowly pass the week of food in the pantry. Each morning, they meet for “feedback learning”, where they discuss each other’s behavior, thoughts and feelings with full and direct honesty. And then there’s the store, which has been open since 1983, Ganas’ second year of existence – and which is run by members who, in return, don’t have to pay the fees. $ 920 rent the others (and receive $ 200 per month treatment).
The store is actually made up of three stores: Every Thing Goes Furniture, Every Thing Goes Gallery, and Everything Goes Cafe. All are painted in bright green and yellow, and all three are on Victory Boulevard, a busy street in Brighton Heights, otherwise populated by Mexican restaurants, storefront churches, and delicatessens. The furniture store, according to store manager Brian Scully, who has worked there for 17 years, operates in much the same way it did when it first opened. “We have an ad in the yellow pages that says we’ll come and take things out of your house,” he says. “Which is a big plus – I mean, if you’ve got any trash you want to get rid of, you’re going to pay $ 400 to get a trash removal service to come and pick it up.” We’ll take it for free and we’ll keep it out of the landfill. They do pickups five days a week, typically on Staten Island (though they sometimes come to the other four boroughs, on request) – from tiny apartments to mega-houses on Howard Avenue. “We just loaded the truck,” says Scully. “Usually it’s about 40 to 60 items per trip – we go for the furniture, but we will also take household items, like pots and pans, knick-knacks and clothes.”
Once back at the store, an elaborate inventory process begins, during which every item – from an Eames chair to a golf club to a package of plastic plates – is measured, photographed, and then given a label with a description and many number that corresponds to its eventual placement. All of this information is stored in a database, so that every employee knows exactly where everything is at any given time. A 12 inch by 12 inch painting of Mickey Mouse? It’s 117 2C – on the second floor of the furniture store, in other words. (Whether things are organized so completely isn’t entirely obvious – the Mickey Mouse painting sits atop a coffee table with a breadbox, another smaller coffee table, and two lamp shades.)
Photo: Katy Schneider
Despite the sheer amount of merchandise and the hard work employees put into organizing it, stores “are almost breaking even,” says Scully. “We are providing jobs, we are paying construction taxes, we are in the dark.” Scully says that’s because the goal is to keep things cheap, to ensure a constant flow of supply (“We try to reduce waste by restoring and recycling whenever possible,” the page ” About us ”of the group reads in green), and to make it accessible to the neighborhood. “I’m not trying to get the most out of every song, but it’s a balancing act,” says Scully.
It’s a balancing act both because the store helps support the whole operation – those eight houses and 65 people, the Friday night dinners to welcome potential new members – and because Ganas doesn’t not only sell to the neighborhood. In recent years, the customer base has grown increasingly diverse and, in response, their prices, which Ford said were once “very cheap”, have skyrocketed. (Although proportionally: “When I get a vintage sofa that I know in Brooklyn or Los Angeles would sell for $ 3,000, I’ll sell it for $ 900,” Scully says.) Selling to film and TV producers has become a substantial part of their business – pieces of them have appeared in everything from Jessica jones at Madam Secretary. More recently, Brooklyn vintage merchants have found them. “They come and buy things and sell them,” he says. Another more recent part of their clientele: the influx of former Brooklynites who have moved to the North Shore in recent years, and who, accustomed to very neat and cramped shops, are generally delighted with the modest prices and the sprawl Staten Island locals recommended it new York Magazine, in fact, that we included the store in our “Best of New York” issue). “It’s a real hunt, but I have found special lamps on occasion,” says writer Molly Bruce Barton. Megan Joseph, a curator who has moved to Tomkinsville near Bed-Stuy, says she particularly likes the staff. “You know their name, they know yours. They circulate between the three stores. And if you go to any arts event on the island, you’ll see them there too, ”she says. “One of the women, the managers – you’ll see her at the cafe, then at the Staten Island Arts virtual events, then you’ll see her composting at the farmers market on Saturday. These people are simply rooted in the cultural community here.
While these newcomers are mostly all aware that the store is run by Ganas, and are aware that Ganas is a commune, they all say that – lately, at least – the store looks like… a store. Which has not always been the case. According to member Jorge Caneda, the whole point of opening the stores was to create – as he put it in a 2014 interview with artist Caroline Woolard – “a new step, a new gestalt to work on our relationships, on questions of hierarchy, questions of collaboration, on questions of learning to listen deeply to what we hear – not what which is said or heard: all our companies had this objective. Although the “About Us” page on the store’s site still emphasizes the importance of conflict resolution and communication (“We seek open and caring ways of relating with each other in which we let’s see problems as opportunities to work together. And we find that when we put our minds together to solve problems, we make better decisions, ”Scully says in recent years, it’s been more in the background. Because “the radical honesty that went on in the store made it difficult to run a store.”
And while the original, idealistic goal was never to make a profit – just to provide work and income for new members – they do find that they do need to earn money. Six years ago, Ganas ‘financial situation became so dire that they were forced to set up a GoFundMe for their workers’ year-end bonuses. “Ganas is in a very difficult situation in terms of cash flow,” said the fundraiser. “We cannot pay workers bonuses this year, and we cannot continue the unsustainable practice of borrowing to cover them.” So the price increase. And over the summer, Scully put together a Instagram Account. The images are low-fi (in some you can see the shadow of the photographer, looming in front of, for example, a satin sofa). Each only gets a handful of likes – 5 on a photo of a dog crate (caption: “dog crate”), 13 high on some Stacor flat back drawers. “It’s been pretty good,” Scully said. “I sold some things to dealers in Los Angeles, and even with the shipping they were still very happy with our prices. I know they sell our products for more. But that’s okay – I’m just as excited to find a dresser that I can sell for $ 40 to someone who needs it.