As a teenager, Joseph Pierson had an unusual hobby for boys his age: antiquing. But almost five decades later, he’s turned that pastime into Columbia Art & Antiques- —a business based inside a lovingly restored barn in Stockport. The barn, the business, its location, and its contents all tell the story of Pierson’s dedication to antiques, restoration, and life-long family friends.
The story begins in 1969, when 12-year-old Pierson began visiting Columbia County. He spent weekdays in Manhattan with his mother, and weekends in Stockport with his father, who owned a rural property there. Nearby were two barns, one of which housed an antiques business run by its German owner, Johanna Philips. It was a jumble of oddities, and a haven for young Pierson.
Over the next 50 years, Pierson’s antiques collection grew, and his weekends in Stockport continued, now with a family of his own. He also founded a New York-based production company, Cypress Films, joined Stockport Volunteer Fire Company No. 1, and restored aging properties in the area, including a 19th-century parish schoolhouse.
Those same five decades were not so kind to the two Stockport antiques barns; they had changed hands, were used as storage, and had fallen into disrepair. But in 2016, Pierson purchased and painstakingly restored them, eager to save a part of Stockport’s history. Two years later, he put them on the market, but their fate took an unexpected turn thanks to friend and fellow antiquarian, Ann Parker.
Parker, 87, is a published writer, photographer, collector, and curator. She and her husband, Avon Neal, spent many years exploring and documenting countries and cultures. The itinerant pair were close friends of Pierson’s parents, and as a teen he spent a “life-changing summer” living with Parker and Neal in their Massachusetts home, soaking up their eclectic knowledge of art and antiques. He also realized the extent of their collection. “Their house was a beautifully curated marvel,” says Pierson. “At every turn, there was folk art and incredible treasures from around the globe.”
In 2018, Parker told Pierson she was ready to sell most of her and Neal’s vast collection, but she had no interest in being a merchant. Pierson’s wife made a suggestion: Instead of selling the restored Stockport barns, Pierson could revive them as an antiques store.
That idea took shape, and Columbia Art & Antiques opened for business in January. Pierson has patiently curated a wealth of pieces from Parker and Neal’s collection, and from his own. The walls boast eye-catching art and original gravestone rubbings, and the shelves, corners, and floor space are filled with all things unique, mysterious, and unusual. There’s even a cozy reading nook for visitors to peruse Pierson’s quirky collection of books. “It feels great to bring a historic part of Stockport back to life,” says Pierson. “I hope others will share my enthusiasm for this extraordinary collection.”