by Lou Mancinelli
Last April, when two new young residents moved to Mt. Airy after living for 10 years in a South Philly row home, they realized they had a lot more space to fill.
Since then, Miranda and Jon Barthmus opened Lujon, a modern vintage furniture and housewares shop. The couple is one example of a new generation of young Mt. Airy couples interested in devoting their free time to community development.
The name Lujon comes from a song by composer Henry Mancini in the 1960s. (It was included in the soundtracks for the films “The Big Lebowski,” “Sexy Beast” and “Two Lovers.” Its name comes from the percussion instrument played by Shelly Manne, which was named “lujon” as a pun on “John Lewis” of the Modern Jazz Quartet, who commissioned its construction.)
The store grew out of an online business Miranda and Jon had selling vintage housewares. Lujon opened in September at 7174 Germantown Ave., near Mt. Airy Avenue.
“Mt. Airy feels like such a cohesive community, we wanted to be a part of it,” Miranda said.
Think products like a 1930s’ Smith & Corona typewriter or a complete Adrian Pearsall living room set, and you have the type of products offered at Lujon.
“I really didn’t want the name of the store to be anything too retro or too suggestive of what we sell,” Jon said. “It sounds vague, exotic.”
If you’ve ever been a collector of stamps, records, lamps, etc., or watched your eBay bid crawl to a close, then you can relate to the rush Barthmus described about going to auctions and finding interesting items.
Right now the new store is only open on weekends and by appointment because both of the Barthmus’ work full-time during the week.
But the local response has surprised them. They’ve met many people who actually recognize some of the obscure designers whose works they sell. They’ve had such a strong start that they are hopeful about being able to open more often. They’d even like to be able to design their own furniture.
The couple’s affinity for the vintage is rooted in both hobby and profession. The two, both from New Jersey, met as undergrads at Drexel University. Miranda studied economics and Jon, graphic design.
After school, Jon, 33, who is also in the band Sun Airway, which received national attention during its tour last year, worked for two magazines, including the now-defunct Modernism, which focused on architecture and furniture.
Miranda, 31 earned an MBA online from Texas A&M University. She worked in non-profits like Philabundance and is now director of development for the Bethesda Project, which operates shelters in Philadelphia for homeless men and women.
The two liked to go to flea markets and see what they could find. Later they turned their fun into a side job selling vintage housewares for the online store, One Kings Lane.
“It gave us a reason to go to a flea market and just buy a bunch of weird stuff,” said Miranda.
When they moved to Mt. Airy, the enterprising couple saw a neighborhood in which they might be able to get deeply involved.
Miranda and Jon are not alone. Last spring, Jyoti, an Indian restaurant, opened nearby at 7220 Germantown Ave. One of its owners, Anuj Gupta, 39, is another young professional contributing to the community with a new small business. Gupta is also executive director of Mt. Airy USA, a group dedicated to strengthening commercial vitality in Mt. Airy. His wife, Prema, is director of planning and economic development at University City District, a major community builder in University City.
“I love the economics of a community business,” said Miranda. “For example, we now work with Lu-Retts, an upholsterer in Germantown. I love that we’re able to help him sustain his business while sustaining our own.”
For more information visit lujon.myshopify.com.