If you’re from the area, you’ve most definitely heard of Hunter Bee in Millerton, NY. Couple Kent Hunter and Jonathan Bee, owners and—of course—the antique store’s namesakes, opened up the shop 15 years ago.
Before starting their business, and having spent time in the Berkshires, Kent and Jonathan quickly learned of a town called Millerton. While they initially didn’t know much about the village, what they did know is that it had a quiet, quirky charm. Now, it is clear this community has offered the perfect spot for them to showcase and sell their antiques. Throughout the years, Millerton has developed into quite the antiquing destination and Hunter Bee has truly thrived. In addition to antique pieces, including art and furniture, their shop offers a collection of gender non-specific vintage clothing as well, which reflects the couple’s desire to embrace diversity in a range of respects.
Jonathan describes that with a lot of impressive decorators and shops coming to Hunter Bee, antiquing businesses have become “a really great feather in the cap for Millerton.” The town has also become an increasingly inclusive environment over time. He points out that despite not having its own pride parade like neighboring towns, Millerton is special in that it embodies pride year-round. “We don’t need a designated day or month; we celebrate our differences. Everyone is very welcoming.”
To Jonathan, one of his most beloved aspects of the region is the sheer access to resources and cultural activities. While the area is undoubtedly full of countryside beauty, it also offers a rich community and artistic life. Jonathan and Kent find joy in welcoming newcomers in their store and helping them discover the region’s many valuable people, places, and services. “We’re very lucky because we have a shop. It’s like our social salon in a way because we meet people who are new to the area. We love to help them with resources (i.e., ‘I need a painter’).”
Considering the full scope of Millerton, Jonathan also appreciates the balance the town is able to strike: people gravitate here, but don’t try to turn it into another big city. “I don’t think Millerton is trying to be something. We are what we are. And what we are is pretty amazing.”
When he’s not busy curating the Hunter Bee collection with Kent or helping newcomers form connections, Jonathan flourishes as an artist. He has a deep involvement at the Wassaic Project and the Re Institute, in addition to Howl! Arts in New York City. Beyond this, though, Jonathan invests time and effort into outreach for the Gerald J. Friedman Transgender Program for Health & Wellness, which is at Northwell Health’s Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. This program primarily offers a range of key medical services for the trans community, and by helping trans people have access to other resources, like clothing, this initiative truly goes the extra mile.
It is just as important here, in rural New York, that these kinds of support services are available, and Jonathan says he also works with Project SAGE (previously Women’s Support Services), which is another key, local resource. This work, and spreading awareness about these programs, is significant now more than ever, with anti-trans legislation arising at alarming rates across the country. Jonathan underscores that to push back against this bigotry, it is imperative that people connect with trans individuals and the LGBTQ+ community at large to truly understand their experiences. “All of this is perpetuated on fear, and this fear is combated by being exposed to something that’s so joyous.”
Furthermore, Jonathan emphasizes that supporting trans people and embracing their identities lies at the core of pride’s meaning. “The trans community is being attacked in the most hostile way. And it doesn’t stop there. This is a time to really be visible, and that’s what I think pride is all about. Visibility and understanding.”
At Hunter Bee, they strive to create a dialogue with customers to enhance this understanding. Driving through the region, seeing streets adorned with rainbow flags, Jonathan has found the community’s response to the celebration of pride very moving, especially in light of the weaponization of LGBTQ+ rights taking place. Similar to the issue of reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ rights have become heavily politicized, misconstrued in the media, and suppressed.
Jonathan urges that people not only educate their peers about the LGBTQ+ experience and the struggles that come with it, but also speak out against those using racist, homophobic, or transphobic rhetoric. In the face of division, allyship and acceptance are undoubtedly needed. “Ultimately, we are all humans, and we all coexist. Diversity and inclusion are what generate all the beauty in the world. It would be a very sad world if we all were the same.”
21 Main Street
Millerton, NY 12546