Small city, big dreams.
By Rebecca Hardiman
Photography by Matthew Sussman
I’m a transplant,” says Manhattan-born Connie Griffin, owner of griffin, a funky design, vintage fashion and home concept store in Great Barrington. But she doesn’t see her move as an escape from the big bad city. “Manhattan is my heart and this is my soul.”
More than a decade ago, Griffin was working in visual effects and animation in New York City when she found herself at something of a crossroads. She boldly tapped her entire 401K and gave way to three years of wanderlust. “I lived on a friend’s couch in Paris for a few months, stayed in Austin, traveled all over,” she says. En route, she met her now-husband and griffin co-owner Paul Giroux. The pair eventually settled in Great Barrington—“I used to visit a friend here all the time and found it beautiful”—and together set out to launch griffin.
Their eclectic store, turning 12 this November, stocks all manner of old and new fashion selections and home goods—from canvas jumpsuits and slouchy handbags to curious art and handcrafted quilts from India. Basically, as its proprietor puts it, “Whatever catches my eye. When people say the shop feels curated, that it’s not just a pat experience, that really makes me happy.” Griffin’s special affinity for vintage duds dates to her childhood. “I’ve loved second-hand shopping ever since my mother used to go, back in the ’60s,” she says. “What’s really nice about being in a small community is that I know a lot of the people whose items I’ve sold—there’s a back story—so I feel like I’m shepherding pieces.”
As word got out and the store evolved, griffin moved locations five times(!) to its current, primo spot on Railroad Street, abuzz with tourists, local souls and a steady stream of window-shoppers. Plus, Griffin jokes, it doesn’t hurt to be situated directly across from SoCo Creamery. Location is key, but she credits the bulk of griffin’s success to the community. “Even though it was originally a little bit out of the way, we have a great, loyal clientele—people who’ve been with us all the way through. And now we’re meeting new people, stunned they never knew about the store. We get both.”
Funny enough, what Griffin most loves about life in her adopted hometown is the exact inverse of what she most loves about big-city life. “In Manhattan, I’m energized just stepping out on the street. You open your door and you’re on, you’re in it,” she says. “In this part of the world, there’s a ton to do, of course, but you tap into a different energy. It’s rejuvenating, learning a part of yourself in the quietness and reflection. I’m not a maker of anything, but I so appreciate that mindset—all the local artists, farmers, chefs. There’s a wonderful creativity here, just expressed in a different tempo.”