The story of Joanne Chang-Myers’s favorite thing — a sculpture she bought for her husband — is as much the story of a piece of art as it is the story of their courtship.
Chang is a pastry chef and the co-owner, with her husband Christopher Myers, of Flour Bakery + Cafe, and of Myers + Chang in the South End.
She met Myers in 1995 when they worked together at Rialto in Cambridge. (He was one of the owners, and she was the pastry chef.) They became friends “right off the bat,” she said.
She opened the first Flour in the South End in 2000, shortly after he’d opened the restaurant Radius, located downtown.
“Sometimes I would visit him and bemoan my sad fate,” Chang said. “I was working long hours and overwhelmed. Things weren’t as perfect as I wanted. He was the supportive person you can call and cry when everything seems to be going wrong. That first year I called him 365 times.”
They hung out sometimes, and she began to wish he was more than just a friend. But the timing was off. He’d visit her at the bakery in the morning and get his breakfast and coffee, but then he’d work late at night. They each had other relationships, on and off.
Finally, one day in 2003 they sat on a bench outside Flour and she came clean.
“I said, ‘Christopher, I really like you!’ And he said, ‘Chang, I like you too.’ So, I said, ‘No, I like like you!’ It sounds really like third grade, but it’s pretty much how it happened.”
They started dating, but they were still too busy to get serious: Myers had opened Via Matta in Park Square and Great Bay in Kenmore Square. Finally, in 2005, she took the plunge and moved into his condo in Boston’s Leather District. It was beautifully appointed, she said.
“He has amazing taste,” she added. I literally brought my clothes and shoved them in a closet, and my toothbrush.”
Still, they were working so hard they rarely saw one another.
“I was at the bakery early, early, early and he was at Radius, Great Bay, and Via Matta late, late late. One of the reasons we ended up collaborating to open Myers + Chang [in 2007] was that we were trying to figure out how to actually spend time together.”
One day that year they were strolling around the neighborhood and stopped in a gallery. Both of them were struck by a tall metal sculpture that reminded Chang of the work of Alberto Giacometti. About 6 feet high, it’s the figure of a thin, elongated man made of hammered metal, with his arm outstretched. Balanced on his hand, like a tightrope walker, is the small figure of a woman with her own arms outstretched.
“She seems to be facing the world and saying, ‘Let’s do this’,” said Chang. “Or: ‘Here I am.’ It’s pretty special.
“Christopher was, like, ‘Wow, that’s fabulous,’ and I just thought, I want to get that for him. For our new life. I wanted to celebrate that we had made this commitment to be together.”
She wasn’t accustomed to purchasing art. To this day, she can’t remember the name of the gallery (it closed shortly afterward), let alone the name of the sculptor.
“I’m a kitchen person,” she said. “I’m not known for buying decorative things. That’s not my strength at all.”
But a couple of weeks later, she went back to the gallery and bought it for him. The owner helped her lug it a block and a half through the Leather District into the condo building and up the elevator, and it was waiting for Myers when he came home.
“He was floored,” she said.
They’ve moved it around a couple of times, and now it sits in their living room near the sofa.
“It’s a really nice reminder to both of us of how important it is for us to always be supporting each other,” Chang said. “It’s funny that my favorite thing isn’t even mine. It’s his. And now it’s ours.”Linda Matchan can be reached at email@example.com.