Norine Pennacchia is the founder of touchGOODS, a fantastic home goods store on the North Fork of Long Island, and today I’m excited to share a peek into her world! touchGOODS offers a unique mix of modern and vintage decor, and Norine searches far and wide to source both vintage and contemporary items for her shop. She focuses particularly on mid-century modern pieces, which add a wonderful personality and character to any space and are very popular at the moment (yet totally classic). Norine worked in design in the Hamptons for over ten years before taking the plunge and opening her own shop on the North Fork. Read on to learn more from Norine about being a business owner, why she chose the North Fork for her shop, how she sources and restores vintage items, and more – including how Crossfit helps in her business life!
Q: Can you tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are?
A: I grew up in Malverne, Long Island. My Father and Grandfather owned a kitchen & bath design showroom in Hewlett. I was around blueprint designs and color samples and played “house” in the showroom vignettes from as far back as I can remember. My mother was very creative and was always working on some creative project or another.
I went on to FIT, but didn’t end up working in the field back then since my mother was very sick at the time, and I was a bit of a lost soul. Later in life I revived my creative juices by enrolling in art and interior design classes, and that led my to career in the Hamptons where I worked for over a decade designing, importing and selling custom furniture and lighting for an established Mom-and-Pop store. I was lucky to be exposed to high quality design and to work closely with top designers and architects in an area where the presence of so many artists is very powerful. That’s where I learned everything, and how I gained the knowledge and confidence to open my own store. I owe a lot to Mom and Pop.
Q: What made you decide to open your store on the North Fork of Long Island?
A: Because it’s the “Un-Hamptons”! It’s unpretentious, yet it attracts foodies, artists, and wine connoisseurs. There is a big focus on sustainability, preservation, and all things local – and I wanted to get in on that.
Also, real estate is hopping, and I wanted to help satisfy new homeowners looking for unique home furnishings.
We live on the North Fork, my husband owns a restaurant on the North Fork, I wanted more of a connection to the North Fork, plus I couldn’t sit in the Hamptons gridlock one…more…second. It was purely the right time.
Q: Where do you find the pieces that you sell in the store?
A: All over the place; thrift stores, estate sales, Grandma’s basement, the side of the road, and just from doing tons and tons of research finding artists who are creating really unique pieces… and sometimes people come to me with photos of items they want to sell. I also mix new with old – for example, I’ll buy vintage table legs or bases and have tops made for them.
Q: When out sourcing, what sorts of pieces are you looking for? Any specific attributes?
A: Other than the obvious attributes of mid-century design, clean, sculptural lines, and rich tones, I’m looking for anything that intrigues me, anything that catches my eye. Quality and craftsmanship are important things to look for, and that you can find by opening doors and drawers and turning things upside down.
I think there are stages to collecting: Interest – something catches your eye. Curiosity – you research and obsess over it, or it keeps you up at night. Purchase – sometimes you spend more than you want to, but if you’ve done your research, it’s worth the investment. I love the quote I keep seeing around Instagram: “Nothing haunts us like the vintage we didn’t buy.”
Q: What is the restoration process that you use for pieces that aren’t in the best shape?
A: I stay away from anything that needs to be stripped and refinished; it’s a dirty, toxic job, unless it’s a pedigree piece and/or really cheap. In that case it’s worth it to pay an expert. Otherwise it has to be something I can handle – dings, scratches, loose joints, minor refinishing, and in some cases I’ve done minor veneer repair. There is a product by Howard called Restor-A-Finish, and I swear by it.
Q: What has been your most exciting find (or finds) to date? It seems like a treasure hunt!
A: It IS a treasure hunt! I love the art of exploration and discovery. But my most exciting find wasn’t exactly a find, but rather an acquisition that sort of fell into my lap. Exciting, nonetheless. A boutique that opened a few doors down from where I used to work in Bridgehampton was relocating to NYC/LA. The owner is stylish, worldly and cool, and her shop was and artfully-curated mix of vintage European and mid-century modern pieces. She called me up one day to offer some of her inventory at good prices, and I was so excited to acquire such amazing, mid-century gems from a designer I looked up to, whose shop I marveled at daily.
Q: How do you decide what to sell and what to keep? It must be difficult to let go of some of your fabulous finds!
A: I don’t think I’m at the point yet where I’m in any place to keep anything. Yes, it’s hard to see certain things go -many things have a story behind them. But I’m in business now! It’s no longer just a hobby. Trying to stick to a one out/one in rule. I will say, though, it’s going to be REALLY hard to sell the real-deal Eames recliner and ottoman I recently obtained… Might be long before I come across something like that again, but, who knows.
Q: Can you tell us about your focus on mid-century pieces in the shop?
A: I’m trying to grow a collection that includes various price levels. At the low end, less significant vintage mass-produced pieces, and at the high end, genuine designer mid-century collectibles.
But it’s important to me to also offer collections I can stock and reorder, like the mid-century style rattan furniture from Sika Design (works really well alongside mid-century decor), and Il Fanale, a rustic-modern lighting collection I “grew up” with over the years working in the Hamptons, and now continue to rep. Collecting, picking, thrifting is hard and not always fruitful, and you need TIME!
Most importantly, even though I’m sure the shop will evolve, it’s very important that I stay true to my design values by offering fuss-free, less serious pieces that work well with other styles to create a relaxed, eclectic environment.
Q: You’ve been in the design industry for years. What made you decide to open a brick and mortar shop now?
A: I still had more in me.. I wasn’t done with retail or furniture design or schlepping. My family might be done helping me schlep furniture, but I’m not done (I do CrossFit, the heavier the better). My experience with website and marketing design, my interest in social media for business, the ideas I’ve been bookmarking for years — it all needed an outlet, a fresh new place to go.
Plus, all the furniture I’ve been hoarding in my basement…that needed a place to go, too. 🙂
Q: What has been the best or most exciting moment since opening, and what has been the biggest challenge?
A: I had an image in my head of what I wanted the store to look like. The best moment was when that vision came alive. The positive feedback from customers was very exciting too.
The biggest challenge? Time management. Creativity fights the boring back-end business stuff, and wins every time.
Thank you so much to Norine for sharing a behind the scenes peek into your wonderful business. If you guys find yourself out on the North Fork this Labor Day weekend or anytime after, be sure to pop in to touchGOODS and say hello – and you can follow along on Instagram to see all of Norine’s fabulous finds in real time!
53740 Main St.
Southold, Long Island
photography by Jacqueline Clair