Arguably, no one really needs an offbeat piece of taxidermy, or a vintage Coney Island banner touting the “World’s Strangest Girl—Half Animal, Half Human.” Yet browse around UnQuiet, an antiques and interiors store on Coxsackie’s River Street, and you’ll likely change your mind. The eclectic merchandise is compelling—even when you aren’t quite sure what you’re looking at.
UnQuiet’s owner, Sarah Gray Miller, falls under that mysterious category as well. She’s a hip shopkeeper, but unbeknownst to many she’s also a legend in the magazine world. Though one title she helmed, Modern Farmer, was based out of Hudson, others included Country Living and Saveur, both former stalwarts of the Manhattan publishing scene. Few people could probably have foreseen that Miller would turn into a small-town merchant.
The change isn’t as drastic as it may seem, however: While Miller, 51, has an apartment in Harlem which she currently sublets, she also owned a country home in Athens for a long time. “I’ve been an upstater, Greene County person for about 15 years,” she says. “I started off as a weekender, or as they call it up here, a ‘cidiot.’ I was here full time when I could be but would go back and forth.”
Then life, as often happens, flipped the script. Three years ago, Saveur ceased publication and went digital. “At the same time, suddenly my house was worth money,” shares Miller. She contemplated cashing in and starting a business somewhere nearby. Once the pandemic hit, she made the leap: “I just kind of radically blew up my entire life.”
On December 5, 2021, UnQuiet opened its doors. Miller couldn’t be happier with her new store—or Coxsackie. “It’s up and coming!” she says. “The historic downtown looks like a movie set. It’s adorable and beautifully preserved, and the town has an amazing riverfront park.” The other local businesses charm her, too, like Mansion + Reed, a general store and gourmet grocery; The Reed Street Bottle Shop, which features an excellent selection of wines; and Shipwrecked, a combination bookstore/café. “There’s everything you need and nothing more in walking distance,” she says.
Miller’s own shop is an outgrowth of her longtime attraction to auctions, as well as estate and yard sales. Before her days as a storeowner, her Athens home was crammed with her finds. “My mother, who’s an architectural historian, would visit and joke, ‘Good grief, Sarah Gray, you can’t even put a drink down in here!’” she remembers. As she prepared to sell the house, she gave her friends first dibs on items they’d admired. Much of the rest ended up in UnQuiet.
The store has also given her a reason to continue searching for treasures. “My favorite thing to do is hunt and arrange and decorate,” she says. Her passion is reflected in the store’s fascinating inventory. “I have a male mannequin—the torso only. I call it ‘The Battle of the Bulge,’” she laughs. “There’s a lot of ‘cabinet of curiosity.’ Skulls, a taxidermy rattlesnake, a seahorse skeleton.”
The store is situated in a former firehouse she leases; Miller’s home is on part of the second floor. She intends to turn the ground floor into a bar. “Ultimately, I see this as a lifestyle brand,” she shares.
Speaking of enhancing people’s lives, Miller holds a party in the shop most Saturday evenings, hosting pals—and their pals—from Coxsackie, Athens, Catskill (where she owns a fixer-upper), and beyond. “Some friends describe it as a weekly salon, but that sounds way too highfalutin,” she says. “It’s more like a Saturday-night BYOB community hang.”
Shoppers, too, will get a friendly reception at UnQuiet—along with an eyeful of goods ranging from haute to humorous. A chair is covered in elegant fabric but look closely and you’ll see the pattern consists of tiny cigarettes. “There’s always just a subtle middle finger up,” she slyly observes. If you want to experience that proverbial middle finger for yourself, pay a visit. You’ll be welcomed with open arms.
47 South River Street, Coxsackie