After 46 years in Stirling Square, Greenport’s specialty imported ceramics shop The Doofpot will close later this fall.
The shop, filled with colorful hand-painted European ceramics, hand-blown Venetian glass, jewelry and other unique handcrafted items and fixtures, was opened in 1973 by Mary Ann Zovko and Jaap Hilbrand.
The Greenport couple has decided to close as their lease for the space is up this year. They also recently sold their second ceramics store, Maryanna Suzanna in Palm Beach, Fla., after 26 years.
“It’s a good time,” Ms. Zovko said. “It’s a clean sweep, and we’re ready to travel without having to worry about being back.”
The two fell in love with collecting unique items in their travels working for Trans World Airlines for over 30 years. Ms. Zovko worked as a flight attendant for TWA until 2004, and Mr. Hilbrand was a flight-service manager there until around 2000.
Before opening the Doofpot, the couple operated stores in Southampton and Sayville, selling mostly candles and copperware they found in countries like England, Holland, Turkey and Greece.
They moved to East Marion in 1973 and opened the Doofpot in the Stirling Square location now occupied by 1943 Pizza. The shop relocated a year later to its current space at the corner of Main Street and Bay Avenue and went from selling mostly copper and brass to the intricate ceramics they carry now.
“Everything is handmade,” Ms. Zovko said. “Nothing stenciled, nothing fake. All real artisans.”
After ending their flying careers, the couple continued to travel and became fluent in French, Italian and Spanish. They handpick every piece and everything is ordered to their liking, Mr. Hilbrand said. They became especially interested in Italian ceramics after the 1980s and, in the store’s early days, would import items not only for their store but for several others in Westhampton and Westport and East Hartford, Conn.
“Our best years were the early years, because of all the artists,” he said.
The couple moved to Greenport in 1976 and agreed that they’ve seen the art and retail scene there change over the years.
“We loved it when we came here,” Ms. Zovko said. “Greenport was filled with artisans. We love the community. But I think I’ve seen less retail for sure.”
The Greenport couple once owned the entire Stirling Square complex with Phil and May Watson. They sold it in 2006 to Farouk Ahmad, who resold the historic property to Manhattan attorney Brent Pelton in 2014. Mr. Pelton opened American Beech Restaurant and Hotel and has made a number of changes to the square in the past year. Mr. Pelton plans to use The Doofpot’s space to expand the hotel, Mr. Hilbrand said.
“We really met some lovely people through the years,” Ms. Zovko said. “It’s been a lot of work, but a lot of enjoyment.”
For those still wondering: What exactly is a doofpot? It’s a Dutch word for an old-fashioned metal canister with a tight lid, in which coals and other fuel were put to die down.
“Doof means ‘extinguish’ in Dutch,” said Mr. Hilbrand, who was born in the Netherlands. “It’s one of the most expensive antique items you can find because there are only so many.”
Ms. Zovko said the Doofpot will remain open through the fall. Once it closes, she plans to continue traveling with her husband as well as selling jewelry at trunk shows and pop-ups.
“It’s been a really positive experience,” she said, “but it’s time to move on.”
Top Caption: Mary Ann Zovko inside the Greenport store on Monday. (Credit: Erika Peters)