Atlantic Avenue, downtown Brooklyn’s main drag, is dotted with countless lookalike boutiques and restaurants. But among the storefronts selling African shea butter, screen-printed tote bags and vegan cookies is a hole-in-the-wall shop that offers something entirely different. Barely bigger than most living rooms, Sharktooth is an aesthetic oasis—a blend of antique and modern design that you’ll want to spend hours exploring. There, owner Kellen Tucker sells vintage textiles (primarily floor coverings and quilts) to a clientele who appreciates the value of good construction that has stood the test of time.
Originally from Portland, Maine, Tucker moved to NYC in 2011, but her interest in well-worn fabric started much earlier. “It started about five years ago with quilts,” she explains. “I was living in Athens, Georgia, and I started seeking them out. It was like I had a revelation with an object. I really wanted to understand and learn how these quilts came to be: all of the hands, and time, and fabric that went into them.” Tucker started mending some of the more damaged quilts, and selling them online. Soon, she moved from Athens to Brooklyn, “sort of on a whim,” and took a job at an antiques shop. She honed her retail skills there, and after a year or so, a bail bonds office came up for rent a few blocks from where she was working— Tucker pounced. “It just all happened so quickly. It was such a good deal and it just seemed really well timed. Like a gift, in a way. So I rented it, took a month to renovate, and here I am.”
Now a year old, Sharktooth specializes primarily in antique rugs. In the shop, they sit in lush piles, a riot of warm colors that contrast with the whitewashed floors and walls. Tucker also offers some of the quilts she’s collected over the years, but with an ingenious twist. To eliminate the kitschy, country look of the quilts, she dyes them in dark, neutral tones. Though you can still see the individual fabric patterns on some of these dyed pieces, the color brings them into the 21st century. “I think a quilt that has the perfect palette, and the perfect pattern, and the perfect weight is an amazing thing, and I would never dye it. But so many of these are so ‘granny,’ with bright calico fabrics. I like modernizing something really old, and repurposing it.”
She sources her inventory at flea markets throughout the northeast, a process she relishes. “I really like to get up early, so that’s part of the appeal; you have a reason to get up at 4:30 a.m. to go to the flea markets. There’s a bizarre satisfaction I get out of that—having camaraderie with all these people who are 25 to 40 years older than me. It’s just a fun community to be a part of.”
Asked about the shop’s incongruous name, Tucker starts to laugh. “It’s purely sentimental. A friend of mine would say, ‘That’s sharktooth’ instead of ‘That’s cool.’ The name was a way to lighten all the pressure of having a store in New York; I didn’t want to overthink things.” But that’s not the moniker’s only benefit. “If I turn the music down in the store,” she says, “I can hear what everyone’s saying on the sidewalk. Every time someone outside notices the sign, they say it out loud, which is so fun. I’ll just hear, ‘Sharktooth! Sharktooth? Sharktooth,’ all day long. It’s so easy to take yourself too seriously, and it’s kind of a reminder to lighten up.”