Brian Davis is a natural born shopkeeper. He has an innate talent for understanding and excelling at all aspects of owning a menswear vintage shop, Wooden Sleepers. Growing up on the North Fork of Long Island he developed an interest in vintage clothing, shopping at hospital and church thrift stores. The personal style he favoured was that of the hip-hop, skateboard, grunge culture of the 90s rather than a more mainstream look. By the time Brian graduated high school he was ready to leave small town Cutchogue for the bright lights of New York City. As a student at Hunter College he perused the vintage shops of Soho and The Lower Eastside. He had an awakening at this time, encountering $800 Levi’s he was introduced to the collectable nature of the vintage business. After college Brian worked in the technology sector and spent weekends with his, then girlfriend, wife Allison Gray rummaging through thrift stores picking out gems. Allison recognized Brian’s passion and talent for vintage scouting and suggested he open a vintage men’s shop. When Brian had collected enough pieces he launched his first shop online with Etsy in 2010. Wooden Sleepers was the first of its kind on Etsy, and Brian’s timing was perfect. Menswear blogs such as A Continuous Lean, Mister Mort and Valet were gaining in popularity, and he was invited to participate at Pop Up Flea alongside such established brands as LL Bean and J Crew. He was able to network and tap into a strong community of small business owners and makers. People who have turned their passions into businesses, such as Billykirk, Goose Barnacle, Hickoree’s and Palmer Trading Company that he admires and who inspire him. Within a year Brian moved Wooden Sleepers out of his apartment and into a shared studio space in Greenpoint, open by appointment while he continued to work his day job. By 2013 he was ready to open a shop, fulfilling a dream he had had since he was eighteen. He found the ideal space in Red Hook in March 2014, and spent the following six months renovating. Brian undertook the process himself working nights and weekends, with help from Allison and his father in law, Tony. Brian knew the details and branding of Wooden Sleepers would set it apart from other vintage shops. He was delighted when Jon Contino, an internationally acclaimed art director agreed to create the branding and graphics for Wooden Sleepers; from the monogram, to the souvenir buttons, to the hangtags and business cards. Along with the specially made flag by Ebbets, this branding gave Wooden Sleepers authenticity. Brian is careful to ensure that merchandise is not overcrowded and within easy reach of customers, that the shop is carefully maintained and kept dust free. The North East Atlantic is integral to the aesthetics of the shop, and his merchandise pays homage to the fishermen, farmers, hunters and workmen of his native North Fork LI. His buying focuses on 1930’s collegiate, 1940’s military pieces and 1950’s and 1960’s outdoor garments. When he goes to flea markets and estate sales he is armed with a spreadsheet as he is always looking for multiples of a style, as he likes to offer a full size range to his customers. The shop is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday and the remainder of the week by appointment, reserved for people with particular requests. Brian extends an open invitation to archivists from any of his beloved heritage brands, such as LL Bean, Hanes, Champion or Brooks Brothers that would like to come and chat with him. Wooden Sleepers has not gone unnoticed, and less than a year since opening, has been named GQ’s Best New Vintage Store, been featured in The New York Times, New York Magazine and many specialist publications.
395 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn NY