by Jesma Reynolds
Jennings Brody likes to keep shop. The owner of the successful café/market/gift store Parker & Otis in Durham has recently opened another venue, Chet Miller, just down the road. Named for her grandfather, a “scrappy” candy salesman from Indiana who had a penchant for antiques, Chet Miller is a “place to have fragile things and things that are more manly,” says Brody. With floor-to-ceiling windows, hardwood floors, and a pressed-tin ceiling ceiling, the new shop is “awesome,” she says. One could easily while away an afternoon perusing the variety of cool wares there.
With an emphasis on home and lifestyle, there are plenty of options, fragile and sturdy, that range from charming barware to nautical and travel-themed trinkets, from graphic paper goods to local art. Photographer M.J. Sharp’s large-scale magnified insect triptych occupies one wall; across the way giant colorful nature paintings by Brody’s husband Jonathan Kea reign. Her keen eye qualifies Brody as an authentic curator. It’s a term often overused to describe anyone with cultivated taste these days. Here, it’s legit.
Brody has been sharing her good taste with Durham residents for some time. After honing her culinary and retail skills at Williams Sonoma and Foster’s Market, she now fills her stores with things she loves. The community has long loved her back. It didn’t take long after Parker & Otis opened in 2007 for word to reach beyond local borders, and for write-ups in national publications like The New York Times and Bon Appétit to follow. P&O has been hopping ever since.
Chet Miller looks to be the next buzzworthy destination. Brody can be found there every Wednesday, and she’s already planning to expand it. The space next door will become a children’s shop to house clothing, gifts, and a baby registry. It’s slated for a late spring/early summer opening.
If there’s any doubt Brody doesn’t enjoy the retail side of keeping shop, consider a P&O Facebook post dubbed “Real Valentine Interventions” where she documents conversations with customers: “No, there is actually no way that your wife would like salted mixed nuts for Valentine’s Day. Just ask for help! I love to help!!”
Raleighites take note.
118 W. Parrish St., Durham; chetmillershop.com