Published: June 21, 2022
The decorative and fine arts gallery Newel is once again expanding, making it easier than ever for private collectors and designers to source great designs. For four generations, Newel has focused on developing and growing its roots in the arts community. Newel concurrently has a second brand, Newel Props, which is the leading prophouse in the tri-state area. Newel Props supplies sets for Billions, Gilded Age and Saturday Night Live. We sat down with Jake Baer, Newel’s chief executive officer and fourth-generation owner, to discuss what’s in its current collection and its new expansion with Newel.
What are the roots of your company?
Newel Art Galleries was founded in 1939 by my great-grandfather, Meyer Newman. He created a first-of-its-kind establishment for Broadway producers to rent furniture and props to use in their productions, such as My Fair Lady and The King and I. By the 1950s, Newel became the main prop source for television, as many productions during this time were programmed live and filmed in New York City. We continued growing with the times, and by 1998 and the dot-com boom, we entered the digital world, becoming the first antiques dealer to disclose descriptions, images, measurements and prices on the web.
Throughout four generations, Newel has helped supply the top set designers and interior designers with the most unique and eclectic inventory on a massive scale. From Broadway to TV and movies, notable credits range from The Godfather to Hitch, Succession, The Greatest Showman and many more. What started with my great-grandfather displaying 20 antiques in an empty store on 47th and Second Avenue, has grown into the largest decorative arts and antiques dealer in New York City.
When did you start working there and in what capacity?
My first role with Newel was working under our master carpenter. I was 18 years old and it was my summer job. While I had always been immersed in the world of antiques, it was during this experience that I learned about the restoration process, which is so important to our industry. My new knowledge of the restoration process of these timeless pieces grew into a deep passion and sincere appreciation for antiques, one that I carry to this day. At this point, I have worked nearly every role you can with Newel – from bookkeeping and wrapping items for rental to sales and photography. I became chief executive officer in 2018.
What are some of the works in the firm’s current collection?
What makes Newel special is our vast and eclectic collection. Our time periods range from Italian to Deco, rustic and contemporary. I really love all styles, and I appreciate how each style fits perfectly for the theme and tone of the movies and TV shows we work with. I am on the hunt for Victorian furniture because of the show Gilded Age, so sometimes the most undesirable items can be the best renters. Even though I do love Victorian for myself. One of my favorites is a French Art Nouveau oak grandfather clock. Another great piece is one that we designed, a customizable French midcentury sycamore console table. And a chandelier I love is a Barovier et Toso Venetian Murano Flaubert dark purple glass chandelier.
So tell me a little bit about Newel’s business model and how you are growing?
Newel is growing and expanding in so many ways. In four years we have grown from a 55,000-square-foot warehouse to a 130,000-square-foot warehouse. Newel is able to not only sell these products with Newel Art Galleries, but also rent out these same products to rental clients through Newel Props.
There is some inventory that only works for renting and some that only works for selling, and having two brands has allowed us to make things cleaner for our customers. What makes both sides of this business work is inventory acquisition, and that is our main priority. A great example of this is our acquisition/partnership with Dual Modern, one of the leading midcentury dealers. James Stolaroff’s collection boasts of 5,000 to 7,500 pieces that are the most iconic works of the midcentury genre. We are taking over his whole collection, and we know that his inventory will be great for both sides of Newel.
Newel is looking to expand by buying more collections and also attracting more businesses and estates to join Newel’s consignment program. With Newel’s consignment program, we will handle all challenges and work, including the warehousing, logistics, insurance of each piece, photography, and selling/renting of all the consigned pieces to our top clients. We have had our consignors tell us that they don’t even want us to sell certain pieces, because they love the rental income and its perpetuity.
We are also looking to build our own photography studio, as we know a lot of our photography clients would love to just come here and shoot, especially when all the products are already in the same location.
What is your leadership philosophy for running the business?
My leadership style is making communication a key priority. I know everyone working at Newel can approach me with any issue and it will be taken to heart. Their bright ideas will be heard. People need to feel that I am approachable, and I want to constantly learn from everyone around me. I am confident that strong communication is crucial to making all of this work.
One of my other secrets is that I get to work one or two hours before we open. There is something special about getting quality work done in the morning and I really achieve my best level of productivity.
What do you think the design world will look like in the next ten to 15 years?
I foresee that the popularity of antiques and their value will only continue to grow over the next ten to 15 years. What has been incredible to see is how antiques spark a connection with the younger generation due to environmental benefits. I also see that styles are changing, and a great example of that is all the fashion companies Newel has the pleasure of working with. Luxury brands including Balmain, Dolce & Gabbana, Ralph Lauren and Gucci are all using antiques in their advertisements. I feel that if individuals want to add a level of sophistication to their home, incorporating antiques is the best way to make that happen. I also see the design space becoming more and more digital. This is why Newel is in the process of 3-D imaging every single piece of inventory in the Newel collection.
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