“At 13 years old, I had a bug for collecting, and parlayed my bar mitzvah money into my first serious acquisition: mid-century modern furniture. By the time I was 21, I had my own antique shop in Washington D.C. that mixed furniture with primitive folk art, photography, jewelry, and textiles.
That’s how Melet Mercantile was born.
I never thought about dealing in one thing — I found that to be really boring. I mix antiques and vintage pieces to create seasonal vignettes with the common core value of authenticity. Now that marijuana is legal in 20 states, I think we can all relate to this collection on some level.
That would have never been the case five years ago.”
“The pieces in this collection were bought separately: some are from book stores, others from ephemera shows, and the rest from plain old hippie antique dealers.
Many are common, so I buy them whenever I find them. It’s constantly evolving.”
“The Bulldog is a famous cannabis coffee shop in Amsterdam. I bought the patch there in the summer of 1985, when I was 18 years old.
I’ve had it for 30 years and it will never leave my possession.”
“The tin Zig-Zag dispenser is where one would keep rolling papers. Certain pieces [like this] I don’t keep in my house —
I have a 12-year-old daughter so I use better judgement!”
“When I first moved to New York City, I’d go to record stores that would have head shops [next door]. I’d walk in knowing that it wasn’t right, but also that it wasn’t wrong. Back then, there was a certain romance to the shops because they were connected to vinyl culture.
Today, they’re a little dingy and dodgy.”
“The engraved belt buckle [on the left] is likely from a U.S. Air Force pilot who fought in the Korean War. There’d usually be a skull etched into the center of it, but the owner put the Zig-Zag [Zouave] logo there instead. The pot leaf belt buckles were sold in head shops in the ‘60s.”
“I put things together that are unexpected, but relatable and accessible. I’m constantly traveling the world gathering [these objects].
Parting with them has to hurt in order for me to know I’ve done the best job I can.”
“I bought the poster from a hippie dealer at the Brimfield Flea Market [in Massachusetts]. It’s originally from a head shop. The photos were taken in the ‘30s and ‘40s.
It’s so bad, it’s good enough to make you laugh.”
“These are original paperbacks from the ‘60s and ‘70s that discuss the virtues, harms, and theories of marijuana use. They’re propaganda meant to dispense fear.”
“This photo was taken during a drug bust in the ‘60s at Michigan State University which, ironically, is where I went to college.”
Photography byBramble Trionfo
As told to Michelle Rizzi
Bob Melet is the founder and proprietor of Melet Mercantile, a vintage showroom, retail shop, and creative studio in New York City.