A Mercantile Matriarchy on a Main Street: The Women of Hudson’s 400 Block
By Jamie Larson
Zoom in on Hudson New York, with its eclectic diversity and history. Zoom in closer on Warren Street and its stylish economy of art, antiques, design, fashion, and culture. Now, get closer still. Focus on the 400 block and an interesting anomaly; the large majority of the businesses (more than two thirds) are owned and operated by gifted female entrepreneurs at the top of their game.
“What’s nice is that everyone on the block has become really tight,” says Tessy Keller, owner of TK Home and Garden, a shop with a large but refined selection of everything from furniture and table settings, to hip children’s toys and quality bath products. (Above, Keller works the TK counter.)
“[In this industry] I think women are fast growing, more adventurous and a lot more eager these days,” she says. “And here [the 400 block] we’re all relatively new. Three or four years ago this block was sort of dead.”
It’s certainly not dead anymore and the diversity in the types of women-owned businesses just on this one block is quite astounding. 403 Warren alone is home to the offices of Modern Farmer Magazine edited by CEO Ann Marie Gardner, Pilates Hudson, owned by Nicole Meadors, and Sadhana Yoga, which Sondra Loring directs.
Iconic Hudson brands call the 400 block home, as well. The international makeup company Face Stockholm run by mother-daughter team Gun Nowak and Martina Arfwidson occupiess the space at 401 Warren and the ever-popular bookstore/pub The Spotty Dog, owned by Kelley Drahushuk, resides in the historic old Evans firehouse at 440.
Of course, like all of Warren Street, the 400 block also is home to art, antiques and fashion boutiques offering items of the highest quality, from Danusia Jarecka’s Skalar Antiques, with its collection of museum-quality Mid-century modern European and American furniture and lighting, to Alex Dewez’s Harvy’s Counter, which displays Dewez’s curatorial eye for balance in its elegance, whimsy, and edge. (Above right; Jarecka in her shop.)
In this day and age, a coincidental concentration of women-owned storefronts on a single block of a small-business-rich municipality shouldn’t shock anyone but, upon closer inspection, these shops really stand out. There’s a reason these successful women chose Hudson and it’s closely linked to the reason their stores have earned our respect and patronage. It’s all about quality.
“I’m attracted to excellence in quality, originality, and materials,” says Culture+Commerce Project owner Sherry Jo Williams, who may have inadvertently started the discussion about the women of the 400 block with the opening of her gallery’s current collection, “Women. Wood. Work.,” which features pieces created exclusively by female woodworkers of the Hudson Valley.
“It doesn’t jump out at you when you walk in that these [pieces] are feminine. The work is just a little different. The scale is different.”
A week before the show, Williams noticed something about the furniture being delivered by the artists and had a passing moment of concern. “I had a show full of benches,” she says, exaggerating a bit, as there are plenty of amazing non-bench items in the showroom.
Then she spoke with a friend, who was not surprised at all by the wealth of benches. She told Williams to contemplate the relationship women have with crafting communally. “Benches are a place to sit down together. Your knees touch. The designs are not conspicuously feminine or masculine but there’s a subtext predating the chair, if you will, about sitting together in community.” (Above, Williams at Culture+Commerce Project.)
Williams says she feels that same sense of community with the other women along the workbench that is the 400 block of Warren Street.
“There is opportunity here and we’re right in the middle of the city,” Williams says. “I felt promise and eclectic-ness and diversity. I think there’s a sense of hope here. The women on this block all have a sense of themselves. There are some really dynamic personalities.”
One of the block’s newest personalities is Laleh Khorramian, proprietor of Laloon, a stunning salon showcasing her sensual, one-of-a-kind garments, each an art piece in its own right. On the topic of the novelty of having so many women on one block, Khorramian echoes another sentiment shared by Williams and many others: it’s interesting but had no bearing on why she came to Hudson. “Landing here was incidental,” she says. “The space inspired me and Hudson was in line with my life’s direction.”
Again and again, store after store, the women owners say the same thing: Hudson just feels like the right place to be. (Above, Laleh Khorramian takes an important business call at Laloon.)
Jarecka of Skalar has been at 438½ for eight years. She’s been contemplating organizing a regular dinner of the Women of the 400 block and says that for professional women working in the art world (most of them successful New York City transplants), Hudson has a lot of allure. “Hudson and Columbia County have become a Mecca for the creative elite. That brings people here who want to be a part of it. I think Brooklyn is interesting, but Manhattan is no longer creative to me.”
She says the motivation for her upstate expatriation was all about quality of life, that the draw of Hudson for female, and male, professionals is that you can have the sophistication of an urban center but still be close to nature. “I can swim in a pond for a half hour in the morning before I open the store.”
Jarecka and Williams both agree that while business came first in the decision to open up shop in Hudson, there’s something about the way Hudson does business that appeals to them as women. “Here, when someone walks into the store, you spend time with each other,” Jarecka says. “We talk. There’s a chance we become friends. Even if they don’t buy anything, they become sponsors for your store and tell someone else. It’s a really nice situation in which to meet people. There is an aspect of embracing and hosting people, of building a community that is, you could say, feminine.”
Owners Gun Nowak and Martina Arfwidson
401 Warren Street
Owner Nicole Meadors
403 Warren Street
Director Sondra Loring
403 Warren Street
CEO and Editor-in-Chief Ann Marie Gardner
403 Warren Street, Second Floor
Kea on the Hudson
Owners Susan Gomersall and Azy Schecter
409 Warren Street
Owner Dena Moran
421 Warren Street
Louisa Ellis Clothing
Owner Melissa Bigarel
426 Warren Street
Owner Sherry Jo Williams
428 Warren Street
Owner Dawn Vennekohl
433 Warren Street
Owner Lorissa Lill
438 Warren Street
Owner Danusia Jarecka
438½ Warren Street
Spotty Dog Books and Ale
Owner Kelley Drahushuk
440 Warren Street
TK Antiques, Home and Garden
Owner Tessy Keller
441 Warren Street
Owner Alex Dewez
443 Warren Street
Owner Cora Hales
443½ Warren Street
Owner Mary Bergtold Mulcany
444 Warren Street
Owner Laleh Khorramian
445 Warren Street