Ahna and Kevin started their business in 1991. Ahna graduated from Randolph-Macon Women’s College with a four-year degree in Art History. After completing her degree, she studied English fine and decorative arts at Sotheby’s London and then went on to earn a degree at the Inchbald School of Interior Design. This led to a love of all things English, with a special emphasis on the fine and decorative arts. After finishing her studies, Ahna stayed in London and worked for several designers and antiques dealers.
After graduating from the University of Connecticut’s School of Journalism, Kevin worked as a newspaper reporter and editor. He soon began to write about the antique trade, becoming the assistant editor of the Antiques and the Arts Weekly (The Newtown Bee). He quickly decided it would be much more interesting to deal rather than write about others doing it.
After Ahna returned from London, she worked for several New York dealers and decorators before meeting Kevin, who was an active runner or “picker” supplying dealers with interesting items culled from auctions, estate sales and flea markets. He encouraged her to go out on her own, and the two started off their modest business. Within a month, they had returned the seed money Ahna had invested, and have been successful for 25 years and counting. “Ahna had this incredible knack for selling things, but only if she loved them,” said Kevin about their early days. Kevin’s skill was separating the genuine from the not so genuine and for finding the exotic and unique. “He would come to me and say, ‘look at this, it’s very rare and old’ and I would say, ‘maybe, but it is not beautiful or useful,’ reminds Ahna. “She would say, “Isn’t this lovely?’ and I might respond, ‘Yes, but it was made yesterday,’ says Kevin. Over their more than two decades dealing together, the two have learned from each other, and seek only the best, most beautiful and original items they can find. “We like things that show their age,” says Ahna. “In order to fit in with our collection, we look for beauty, patina, and craftsmanship, both in execution and design,” says Kevin. “If one area is slightly lacking, it has to have a great abundance of the other two.”
Over the years the two have refined and expanded their tastes. While they still look for quirky and the unusual, they have become known as stockists of fire tools, andirons firewood holders and other hearth items. They have an impressive collection of English country furniture and European folk art. Perhaps the most unusual aspect of Yew Tree House is being one of the few remaining stand alone antique shops in New York City. In fact, they have recently doubled the size of their showrooms. “Even though we do more and more of our business online, we want clients to be able to feel, handle and experience our things first hand,” says Ahna. “One of the things we most appreciate about this business is visiting small shops in Europe, especially England and up and down the East coast of this country. Searching for beautiful things involves stimulating all the senses and engaging with the people who found them. If we didn’t have a shop, we feel like our customers would lose out on an opportunity to experience something we have been very lucky to enjoy all these years.”
Of course, many of their customers have never set foot in their historic shop, either relying on the eyes of their designers or on the images of the items on line and the reputation of the gallery. “If you like the photograph, you will most likely love the piece,” Kevin suggests. “Although we have made improvements, our photos rarely do the items justice.”
The shop is open Monday through Friday 11-6 and other times by appointment. “No matter how pressing or rigid your schedule is, we will find a way to accommodate a serious customer,” says Ahna. “We had a client from London with only two hours to spend in New York, late one Saturday evening. Not only was he able to view and ultimately buy his goods, we also had dinner delivered for him.”
At Yew Tree House, customer service is a top priority. “It’s taken us a while, but we understand that antiques are a luxury business,” says Kevin. “What is essential is providing a unique and enjoyable experience. We have helped many clients build a collection, furnish their homes and find just the right item for the space or person in mind.”