Alan and Juliette had their two daughters, 21 year old Arianna and 18 year old Ava sweep through the store like tentacles of the same octopus. The single-mindedness here is palpable.
"It is impossible to think of this business without our children," says Just Alan of the couple's daughter's, who have been at the store stocking, bagging, wrapping and greeting guests at the door since they were barely past the toddler stage. "We have no secrets and everyone has a quarter share in what goes on here," he says. As a result Arianna and Ava say they have learned skills, including an ability to read people, that will serve them the rest of their lives.
Before there were Arianna and Ava, however, there was Alan, a card-carrying electrician from Local Three in New York City, and Juliette Sternau, a registered nurse. They came to Woodstock from the Bronx in 1972 just for a drive and stayed, sleeping in their car initially.
Their first store at 120 Tinker Street near the Tinker Street Cinema was filled with the items Just Alan and Juliette had collected in their travels around the world. They had met in Spain. Staying at very basic pensions, they both used the writing room at a nearby upscale hotel, an early indication of their mutual penchant for beautiful things.
Juliette wanted to use "Just Alan" in the store's name. Alan preferred just "Alan." A cousin printed business cards for them with the name "Just Alan" and the decision was made.
They quickly moved to a stall at the Elephant Emporium bazaar during the summer of 1972, cooking and serving breakfast at the Pinecrest Lodge before going to the store. "They were beautiful breakfasts I might add," says Alan. When a leather shop called "Whew" closed in the center of town, Alan and Juliette moved to their current location, buying the building a few years later. Theirs was one of the most upscale stores in the business district where dusty toilet bowls occupied the shop window of one establishment at the time.
"We sell nothing people need but things they want," says Alan, with a theatrical turn of the head and raised brows perfected in his burgeoning side-career as a magician. He spent several months in Las Vegas last winter, performing and planting the seeds for future endeavors. In 1997, he won first place in the stage competition of the prestigious Society of American Magicians, a group founded by Harry Houdini. The store's magic department, like its cafe, has developed a following of its own. He is also a practitioner of Kyudo, a zen meditative form of archery, and has studied with a 20th generation master.
There has been no real plan to the business. It developed "incrementally" and with a solid work ethic and considerable perseverance, according to Just Alan.
"The thing I love about this town," he says, "is nobody is who they seem to be. Everybody has a bag of tricks."
|Read the Just Alan story, as told by the Woodstock Times|
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