Friday, June 14, 2024

George McCray at his Cambridge Greenhouse antiques store in North Cambridge. (Photo: Harrison Lanuza)

As a degenerative eye disease narrowed George McCray’s eyesight into tunnel vision over the past few years, the aisles of his Cambridge Greenhouse antique business narrowed as well, with furniture piled into a near-impassable maze. The recent death of a longtime assistant slowed sales too.

Now friends and neighbors are organizing a Sunday sidewalk sale to clear away some of the goods so McCray has a more manageable space, said Harrison Lanuza, a neighbor who said he’s turning over his final month in the area to help McCray and the Cambridge Greenhouse. Afterward, he plans to move cross-country.

“I want to get him in a good spot before I can’t help him anymore,” Lanuza said Friday. “My goal with this and hopefully with future little sales events is to get it back to where he has a store people can walk through to shop.”

McCray has run the Cambridge Greenhouse antique shop since 1980. Before that he worked in Boston government on assistance programs for the elderly and on running “little town halls” around the city, Lanuza said. McCray was active in Cambridge civics too, including serving on a North Cambridge Neighborhood Study Committee that reported in 1990 – and eventually becoming known as the “mayor of North Cambridge.”

“He’s a remarkable and involved man,” said Lanuza, a photographer and producer who runs Local Shindig, a business publicist, who said he and McCray became friends after meeting in Davis Square a little over a year ago. McCray has more detail, recalling that they passed on a wintry day and Lanuza turned around to come help McCray, who was weighed down by a backpack and having trouble navigating a snowbank. “He’s been helping me since as much as he can,” McCray said. “He’s a wonderful person.”

McCray said he’s been buying and selling furniture since college, and enjoys refinishing pieces as well. All of that has slowed as he readjusts to his growing blindness, he said, and now has a stockpile of 1,000 or more pieces between the shop and five storage units.

“Furniture has been piled high for years and years. There isn’t room to navigate the store at all,” Lanuza said of the Greenhouse.

In the time he’s been around to help McCray, though, he was struck by the number of neighbors who “have been passing by and all stopping to say hi.” The idea of a sidewalk sale came together with a family who lives nearby, the Kehoes, whose daughter plans to run the sale’s lemonade stand. It should be “a really sweet way for the community over in Cambridge and Somerville to come together and help revive a little business,” Lanuza said.

It’ll be mainly chairs they hope to clear away Sunday, for $25 to $50 each. Most are wood, or wood and wicker, in sets of two or three, Lanuza said.

“It’ll be great bargains on Sunday,” McCray said. “I’m trying to figure out how to adjust – emotionally, I’m involved in the store, but I have to downsize. [My eyesight] demands an adjustment, and I’m simply carrying too much stock.”

  • The sidewalk sale is planned to run from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday at Cambridge Greenhouse Antiques & Collectibles, 2301 Massachusetts Ave., North Cambridge.