A blend of art and books: Grapefruit offers eclectic mix at Northampton store, mirrors style of its owners

  • Artists Ashley and Justin Brown Durand, owners of Grapefruit, talk about opening the retail shop on Market Street in Northampton. Photographed on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A display near the entrance to Grapefruit, a retail shop on Market Street in Northampton operated by artists Ashley and Justin Brown Durand. Photographed on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Books for sale at Grapefruit, a retail shop on Market Street in Northampton operated by artists Ashley and Justin Brown Durand. Photographed on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Earrings for sale at Grapefruit, a retail shop on Market Street in Northampton operated by artists Ashley and Justin Brown Durand. Photographed on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Brown Durand collaborated on this flowered figure, center. They say it’s too fragile to sell — the flowers have dried — but it decorates one wall of Grapefruit. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Textile artist Ashley Brown Durand creates banners in the workspace of her retail shop, Grapefruit, that she and her husband, Justin Brown Durand, have opened on Market Street in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Textile artist Ashley Brown Durand creates banners in the workspace of her retail shop, Grapefruit, that she and her husband, Justin Brown Durand, have opened on Market Street in Northampton. Photographed on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Artists Ashley and Justin Brown Durand are the owners of Grapefruit, a retail shop on Market Street in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Artists Ashley and Justin Brown Durand have opened a retail shop, Grapefruit, on Market Street in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

For the Gazette
Published: 10/20/2019 10:25:03 PM

NORTHAMPTON — In many ways, Grapefruit is a shop that mirrors its owners: It’s an eclectic collage of wall art, vintage novels, screen-printed T-shirts and handmade goods, from soaps to earrings.

Owners and couple Ashley and Justin Brown Durand couldn’t quite define the theme of the store, which opened late last year on Market Street and recently went through a renovation. To them, it’s just as difficult to describe Grapefruit as it is to write an abstract for their artwork, which they feel limits how someone can interpret the work.

“There’s a lot of indie published things like zines and books,” Ashley said.

The store’s sign, installed last week, declares their particular interest in art and literature. Written works for sale range from classic novels — including an entire shelf for books by Stephen King — to the booming zine culture. A zine is an independently or self-published book. Local authors and artists have come to Grapefruit with copies of their homemade magazines, which the Brown Durands curate.

“It’s the kind of store we’d want to come to,” Justin said. “We sell what we would want to buy.”

The two acknowledged Yoko Ono’s conceptual art book “Grapefruit” as an influence on the name of their store. They settled on this title after tossing around other fruity ideas including “plum.”

The Brown Durans met 15 years ago during their time at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly. After Ashley graduated, the two moved to Northampton, where they lived blocks away from their current storefront next to The Roost cafe.

The Brown Durands jumped at the chance to lease the location last summer after a 30-year-old antiques shop closed.

“Sometimes you just need to take the jump,” Justin said. “Someone asked if we had a trust fund and we were like ‘no, we’re just crazy.’”

The pair rushed to open late last year for the impending holiday shoppers, leaving the T-shirts on small shanty shelves. This summer, they temporarily shut down for renovations, including display racks that they built themselves.

Grapefruit is as much a do-it-yourself project as the products they sell. The location serves as both a shop and a studio. Here, the two work on their own artistic projects, especially producing popular banners. Although they’ve been swamped with entrepreneurial work and preparing for upcoming art exhibitions, it seems Grapefruit has a bright and busy future.

“We’ve had people come in and ask about things like creative workshops and classes,” Justin said.

The shop is also the exhibition grounds for artists near and far, whether they’re acquaintances of the Brown Durands or local illustrators. It’s also a second outlet for Justin’s sculptures and artwork, as well as Ashley’s homemade fiber art.

In fact, it’s hard to keep up with the online demand for Ashley’s flags. It all started almost a decade ago when she produced one for herself. Since then, she’s made over 7,000 flags as the Secret Holiday Co., with a little help from her husband.

The shop’s streetside window also gives Grapefruit a chance to show off some of its owners’ creativity, as well as work by local artists. Currently, the window exhibits an enormous three-dimensional art piece by Easthampton artist Angela Zammarelli. Fibers dangle from the ceiling in wide, braided ropes that pile onto the floor below. Twenty-two electric candles turn on every night, lighting up the long tree of fabric. On the window is a human silhouette riddled with polka dots.

“We don’t really know what we’ll do with the window next,” Ashley said.




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