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Audrey Gelman’s English Country Manor Era

Gelman, the owner of The Six Bells country store and former co-founder of The Wing, has been building a whimsical new world.

The Six Bells, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn
Illustration of The Six Bells' facade by Tim Le

Audrey Gelman’s tiny, plastic-wrapped steak has arrived in the mail. The size of her nail bed, the steak is the newest addition to the 1:12 scale dollhouse she’s building as a creative hobby.


“You can find a lot of really wild stuff on the internet,” Gelman, former co-founder of The Wing, said via Zoom from her Cobble Hill home.


She’s crafting the dollhouse in the style of an “English country manor,” she said. Recently, she used wood glue to apply wallpaper and bathroom tiles to some of the house’s rooms.

In addition to searching the internet for itty-bitty objects, Gelman frequents Tiny Doll House, the Upper East Side boutique where hobbyists can purchase hundreds of miniature dollhouse items such as a Georgian secretary cabinet and an accent table, both handmade, for $2,300 and $180, respectively.


“It's an expensive hobby, a fulfilling hobby creatively,” Gelman said.


Her carefully crafted dollhouse has a full-size, shoppable counterpart in The Six Bells, a self-described “country store,” according to its website. The Six Bells sells home goods you might otherwise find in a European countryside bed-and-breakfast. There are unpackaged soaps shaped like clusters of grapes; tote bags with tomatoes on them; lidded salt cellars; quilts; nightgowns; wool-cashmere crew socks; painted rolling pins; children’s needlepoint pillows; a peanut crayon set and more.

In October, The Six Bells entered private-label with a line of coffee. Image courtesy of The Six Bells

The Six Bells opened in April 2022 at 221 Court Street in Cobble Hill, where Marquet Patisserie used to be. Gelman bestowed on her shop an unusual, curious backstory: It’s set in the fictional village of Barrow’s Green, “a small civil parish with 640 residents, depending on who is dying and how many babies are being born,” the website reads.


“Within the town you will find a manor house, a high street with shops, a meadow where sheeps graze, beehive cottages with thatched roofs, a village green which hosts cricket and yearly fêtes,” the website continues, before introducing nine of Barrow’s Green’s key characters.


Barrow’s Green feels gamified, like HBO’s “Westworld,” edutainment software “The Oregon Trail” and the fictional video game created by Gabrielle Zevin in her novel, “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow.” The descriptions of the make-believe town carry an air of murder mystery, which Gelman says was inspired by Agatha Christie, the famous English novelist.


“I started with this very wide aperture of, ‘Imagine you’re in an Agatha Christie novel, but you can actually shop everything in the characters’ homes,’” Gelman said. “That’s a weird retail exercise to do.”


The Six Bells is a stone’s throw away from Salter House, the Atlantic Avenue store that sells clothing such as smocked dresses, corsets, bloomers and cult-favorite Plasticana Gardana clogs; as well as housewares, including table linens, serving dishes, blankets and stuffed toys. Salter House opened a second location in Manhattan’s East Village this summer.


Through their whimsical product assortments and nostalgia for a time long past, The Six Bells and Salter House tap into the New Yorkian urge to escape the city in favor of the European countryside – or at least, upstate New York.


Gelman has long been tapped into the zeitgeist and is particularly adept at world-building. A former political strategist, she co-founded women’s coworking space The Wing in 2016. Taking cues from the suffragist movement, The Wing became a brand many New York City women aspired to be a part of, even if its qualities were hard to pinpoint and often scrutinized. Fueled by venture funding, The Wing grew to 11 locations, though it was forced to close down in 2020 due to the pandemic. Gelman stepped down as CEO of the company in June 2020, amid controversy over the company’s work culture. Less than a year later, IWG, a Switzerland-based company that focuses on hybrid work environments, bought a majority stake in The Wing.


The Six Bells is hardly the feminist haven The Wing was once thought to be, though like The Wing, The Six Bells speaks to a specific, Millennial audience. Gelman described The Six Bells’ customer base as “a generation of people who used to spend lots of money on clothes and now care much more about what their homes look and feel like – and then, their moms, who never stopped loving this aesthetic.” The Six Bells’ e-commerce platform has amassed an audience in non-coastal states such as Texas, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee.


With the store, Gelman executes the vision of her 93-year-old grandfather, a lifelong antiquer who dreamed of having his own antique shop.


“I definitely grew up around this kind of aesthetic at yard sales, estate sales, antique malls with him,” Gelman said. “Having this very big company, The Wing, and then deciding what I wanted to do next, I loved the idea of doing something that was really small and contained and very straightforward in giving people joy.”


Gelman curated The Six Bells’ brand matrix in piecemeal fashion. She’d spend days on Instagram and Pinterest finding small brands without U.S. distribution.


“For many of the brands we work with, we’re their first and only U.S. distributor,” she said. “It was a big deal for us launching, and it was a big deal for them to have a presence in New York City.”

For the launch of its in-house dinnerware, The Six Bells partnered with a family-owned studio that has operated out of Grottaglie, the Ceramics capital of Puglia, Italy, since 1580. Image courtesy of The Six Bells

Gelman would also come across brands during her travels. While in Salzburg, Austria, she got caught in the rain and sought shelter in a store called Christmas in Salzburg.


“I looked up and there were 400,000 tiny, hand-blown eggs around me,” she said. The Six Bells partnered with Christmas in Salzburg to distribute an assortment of egg ornaments as part of its holiday shop.


In October, The Six Bells entered private-label with a line of coffee, followed by a five-piece collection of ceramic dinnerware made in collaboration with a family-owned studio that has operated out of Grottaglie, the Ceramics capital of Puglia, Italy, since 1580. The design process for the ceramics collaboration took place over Whatsapp, Gelman said.


“One of the most fun parts of product curation is meeting and building relationships and working with small, independent designers and brands from all over the world,” she said.


Gelman is planning to expand The Six Bells beyond its Cobble Hill roots, though “it's not going to look like the traditional growth trajectory of a homewares business with lots of stores,” she said.


Opening a brick-and-mortar store post-pandemic poses its own set of challenges, but having a physical presence was personally important to Gelman and fundamental to The Six Bells’ business.


“I don't believe in any business that doesn't have some sort of physical manifestation in the world,” Gelman said. “They exist and they work. For me, if you're going to create something with a spirit, that spirit can't just be through a series of tubes or whatever the joke is.”


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