For Dan McCallister, it all started with birdhouses. The retired Southampton Town police officer picked up the hobby more than a decade ago. He started small and his East Quogue garage became a makeshift workshop, where he gave new life to salvaged scrap wood.
McCallister and his wife, Sue, quickly developed a passion for finding and transforming discarded materials. The pastime grew from creating embellished birdhouses to crafting farmhouse tables and kitchen islands. Not surprisingly, it outgrew the garage in the process.
The couple soon opened In the Attic Too at its original location in Speonk, a former automotive garage where they continued to refurbish antique furnishings, collect salvaged wood and design custom pieces for clients. Good timing — and the need for more space — led them to the North Fork.
“I was driving home and I saw the people who owned the building in Laurel changing the locks,” said McCallister. “Whoever had it before gave it up. I pulled over and decided to open the store here.”
In 2009, the McCallisters opened In the Attic Too on Franklinville Road in Laurel. Six years later they expanded into a second location on Main Road in Jamesport, known as Red Salvage Barn, where the majority of the building and painting takes place.
“Every day is a treasure hunt,” McCallister said. “We get to look at cool old stuff and give it a new life. It’s exciting.”
The couple has no shortage of projects or places to find them. They source all the wood and furnishings locally, from clients who are cleaning out their houses, and they salvage wood when barns and garages are demolished. The McCallisters’ days are busy loading up trucks filled with material ranging from historic fireplace mantels to benches and wagon wheels.
“We don’t go to yard sales,” said McCallister, who now resides in Mattituck. “We used to. Now we don’t have to. We have a really good following and now these items are readily available.”
Specializing in “architectural salvage,” In the Attic Too continues to sell reclaimed and repurposed materials and vintage and custom furniture based on clients’ designs. It has also grown to include decor for the home as well as for weddings and other events. Decorative tin letters, hand-painted wooden signs, ornamental windowpanes and other odds and ends can also be discovered inside the stores. The couple has also recently introduced a line of homemade soy wax candles in vintage-style mason jars. The 100 percent cruelty-free vegan candles come in scents like honeysuckle-jasmine and burn for 100 hours.
“We’re a creative family,” said McCallister, whose daughter Heather operates the Laurel location and helps craft and restore the goods.
“Every day is a work day,” Heather said. “In the beginning, my job was to sand all the furniture. Now I sand it, gloss it, paint it, distress it, wax and buff it. I really enjoy transforming the pieces. These are quality materials and it translates into a better-built piece. There’s a story to all of them. ”
Even with a business that focuses on old finds, the McCallisters are a forward-thinking crew and don’t subscribe to any one label.
“We have never been able to capture the business in one word,” Heather said. “It takes a paragraph. It is hard to call it an antiques store, because it’s more like an everything old store.”
That means keeping an eye on trends in addition to tried-and-true craftsmanship.
“Some things will come in brown and sit here for six months, but if you paint it white it won’t last long. It will sell,” Dan said. “The trend has changed to painted furniture. Ten or 15 years ago, people were taking painted furniture and stripping it down to its original wood. In 10 years, it will change again.”