No More Mall Madness: Basilica Hudson Beats Black Friday With Farm & Flea
By Robert Burke Warren
Everyone complains about Black Friday. You want to get holiday shopping done on the long Thanksgiving weekend, but the impersonal malls are packed, people are rude, the food is toxic, and increasingly, you realize money spent at big box stores draws support away from local economies, i.e. your neighbors. But you gotta shop. What to do?
Rather than accept the Black Friday dilemma as a necessary evil, Melissa Auf der Maur, erstwhile bassist for Smashing Pumpkins and Hole, now proprietess of multi-purpose space Basilica Hudson, is presenting the first annual Farm & Flea at the Basilica. Starting with the Black Friday Soiree at 5 p.m. on the day after Thanksgiving – Friday, November 29 – the sprawling, majestic 19th century factory space becomes a bustling marketplace filled with handcrafted furniture and clothing, local farm goods, vintage items, and locally sourced herbal products. All makers will be on hand, and nothing, but nothing, will be stamped “Made In China/Indonesia/Malaysia”… etc. The 2½ day event, sponsored by Green Mountain Energy, the world’s longest-serving renewable energy retailer, and magazines BUST and the brand new Modern Farmer, continues through the weekend.
“It’s an alternative to Black Friday,” Auf der Maur says from her Hudson home. “We’re encouraging people to buy local, buy handmade or vintage for Holiday shopping. The malls are horrible and disgusting.” Farm & Flea offers a wide array of gift possibilities. Among the many offerings are pottery from Tivoli Tile Works’ famed ceramicist Caroline Wallner (left and right), artisan jewelry from Christine Domanic (below left), and meats and poultry from Claverack, NY’s Diamond Hills Farm (above right).
The seed for Farm & Flea was planted when Auf der Maur and her husband, filmmaker Tony Stone, moved to Hudson in 2007. They joined nearby CSA (community supported agriculture) Germantown Community Farm, co-founded by broadcaster, farmer, educator, activist, and carpenter Kaya Weidman. Weidman, a co-organizer of Farm & Flea, is the archetypal multi-tasking rural maker, knee-deep in the soil, carving out a hardscrabble but rewarding lifestyle, while also connecting to surrounding urban areas. Helping with the craft end of Farm & Flea is Elise McMahon, acclaimed furniture maker and member of Hudson’s Greenhorns, who, Auf der Maur says, “help farmers figure out how to survive.” As with all Basilica endeavors, Auf der Maur provides a broader platform for margin-dwellers like Weidman, McMahon, and their peers, while also drawing the general public to valuable consumer alternatives.
Of Weidman, Auf der Maur says, “Kaya is the highest level of community leader. She’s part of this wave of remarkable Hudson-area women, an amazing group of girls who cook, farm, make furniture, herbal remedies, lamps, bags. And Elise is an amazing artist and organizer. In the last couple of years, a lot more hardworking makers and organizers, mostly women, have moved to Hudson, so the time was right for our first Farm & Flea. I put feelers out last spring. A really strong group of girls responded.”
Herbalist Lauren Giambroni enthusiastically jumped on board. Her Germantown-based Good Fight Herb Company is enjoying its third successful year. Of her business, she says, “I grow and wildcraft medicinal herbs, and I make tinctures, teas, salves, syrups, body care products, and self-care seasonal support tonics to help with allergies or immune building. I handcraft everything, from growing to product making. My mission is to create an empowering alternative to our current healthcare system. We need other options. That’s my good fight.”
Giambroni and farmer Tess Diamond – of Cornwallville NY’s Old Field Farm – are organizing the farm stand section at Farm & Flea. “This area is so agriculturally dense,” Giambroni says. “There are lots of great farm markets and CSAs, and we’ve reached out and involved them. At the farm stand section of Farm & Flea, you can take away pasture-raised beef from my friend from Pine Plains, or an organic potted plant from Farmhand Flowers, or you could bring home a medicinal herb potion, a sleep aide or a stress buster. The combining of grocery and gift gives the farmers a dual chance to display their awesomeness, and shows people what local farms provide besides meat and cheese – farmers will be bringing honey, beeswax, and maple syrup, too.”
Giambroni is excited about Auf der Maur’s astute choice to include NYC-based BUST magazine. BUST’s Craftaculars have grown from a one-off event in 2005 to a regular, international phenomenon at which shoppers opt to buy quality one-of-a-kind items directly from a growing breed of makers or vintage mavens. “It’s great Melissa brought in the Craftacular,” Giambroni says. “It’s a good way to get people from Manhattan. I’m excited both for my own extended community and out-of-towners. And I already can’t wait for Farm & Flea 2014!”
Auf der Maur also sees Farm & Flea as an annual event. The recent success of Basilica Soundscape, which drew raves from The New York Times and The New Yorker, offered vindication, and further emboldened her already flinty determination.
“We’ve achieved our concept,” she says. “We’ve got annual music festivals like Soundscape, featuring international acts and guest curators, and then there’s our film screenings, Ramp Fest, and now Farm & Flea, all more locally-curated ventures which highlight regional things that are also attractive to New Yorkers. We’ve accomplished one chapter, and we’re eager to start another one.”
Farm & Flea
Black Friday Soiree: November 29, 5-9 p.m.
Saturday, November 30 & Sunday, December 1, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
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Shopping: LOCAL, A Find A Bit Out of Town
By Marilyn Bethany
“We are doing very well,” says Michele O’Hana, via a crackling Skype connection from her childhood home in West Cork, Ireland, where she was spending time with her family.
“Repeat that please,” I shout. In these improved but still tough economic times for small, independent retailers, one has come to expect tales of woe.
“WE ARE DOING VERY WELL,” she shouts into the phone.
O’Hana, a potter who lives in Spencertown with her husband, the photographer John Dolan, and their three children, opened in December 2010 in the Lenox Commons shopping center on Route 7 “on a whim.” For the four years previous, she had maintained a second-floor studio in Lenox, where she mixed her own porcelain, then shaped and fired her refined though unabashedly hand-wrought, pure white dinnerware, piece by piece. “It was not a retail space, so I did most of my selling at shows and sales,” she says, adding that the nomadic life, “was not fun.” So when her lease was due to expire, she went looking for a storefront where she could maintain a studio in back, while receiving customers out front.
Priced out of Lenox, O’Hana settled for a shop in Lenox Commons, where she quickly concluded that her porcelain looked lonely on its own. So she designed and had fabricated some additional products to act as foils. She also invited select fellow-artists and artisans with ties to the region to let her represent their wares. “Before I knew it, I had a full-fledged shop,” she says.
Indeed she does. LOCAL is a find—a charming space filled with a smartly edited collection of sophisticated, well-priced things; some jewelry, clothing, and children’s toys, but mostly objects for the home, nearly all made by hand by some of the region’s most gifted artisans.
And how do customers, particularly tourists, find LOCAL, buried as it is deep within a shopping complex way out on the highway? “I’m right across from Chocolate Springs,” O’Hana says of the popular cafe/chocolatier. “Everybody seems to figure out how to find Chocolate Springs.”
“I already had the antlers,” says O’Hana of the smashing deer-antler-based household objects—trays, candlesticks—she designs under the LOCAL label. “I have the sterling silver bits fabricated by a jeweler, the wood by a furnituremaker, then I assemble the pieces myself in the studio.”
“It’s like cashmere,” says O’Hana of the high-fired porcelain she uses to make her pottery. “It’s a finer material; ethereal-looking, yet more durable than stoneware.” Cups $20 - $28; Saucers, $18; Pitcher, $35.
One-of-a-kind jewelry by Maja DuBrul (earrings shown); bark and moss planters are handmade at LOCAL.
55 Pittsfield Road (Route 7)
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Lou Blass and Don Friday of Ad Lib Antiques Take Off Into The Future
By Jamie Larson
Browsing the high-end antique haven of Hudson NY can make shoppers feel as though they are lost in time. What’s old is new again and beautiful art objects pulled from a thousand different moments in history exist together alongside designs right at the cutting edge.
At Ad Lib Antiques, 522 Warren Street, owners Lou Blass and Don Friday (pictured left and right) are a case study of this town’s stylistic “theory” of relativity. The shop is mostly filled with their refined taste in classical design, but scattered throughout the collection of antiques are explosions of truly unique new forms, objects that seem like they could exist in a multitude of moments, past and future. These are chandeliers, lamps, sconces, tables, and sculptures that are all originals, created by Blass over just the past two years, that range in influences from Mid-century Sputnik ($3,400) and 70’s metallic flamboyance (at bottom, $6,800) to, more recently, futuristic pieces, chaotic and skillfully organized sections of metal piping mixed with elements like glass orbs, flowing copper sheets, and unique bulbs. Light loves them yet is always being tricked, not knowing where it’s off to next. (An example below right, $10,000). The material is hard but the angles and light refraction created by a chandelier can feel very natural, in the way a supernova or the construction of a molecule is natural.
“It’s all space related,” Blass says of his current line of pieces, the first of which he made as a Thanksgiving table hanging centerpiece two years ago. “The initial idea was a stylistic throwback, but I quickly adopted a lot of modern design features.”
It’s undoubtedly this complex interplay that made these works wildly popular almost immediately. Blass and Friday, with the help of two vital assistants, have been building one-of-a-kind pieces for clients across the country and around the world, selling pieces to private and corporate customers in Europe, Hong Kong, and Dubai.
“On the website 1stdibs.com, we’re global now,” Friday says, remarking at how much faster the art and antiques industry moves in the internet age. “Before, we had to rely upon the trade marts; now we’re filling an order for nine chandeliers for hotels in Manhattan, and they won’t even tell us which ones until they’re installed.” There’s currently a four-week-long waiting list for one of Blass’s creations. Conceptualizing, building, and welding each piece, then handling orders, clients, and installation is a lot of work—especially for newlyweds.
The inseparable couple has been together since they got out of the armed services 52 years ago. But it wasn’t until three weeks ago (with the help of that little change in state law) that they were finally married in a small ceremony at city hall, right next door to their shop. Having been together so long, they were interested in a financially pragmatic affair, as well as an unconventional honeymoon. Instead of taking a vacation, they’re remodeling their kitchen. “We’re always the ‘old couple’ in the pride parade,” Friday says with a little smile, “now we’re official.”
Their long history together has imbued them with a lot of wisdom when it comes to balancing work and life. In the 60s they both went to work for a firm in Dallas where they designed fountains. Their lives became nothing but work as orders piled up and they found themselves four years behind. “We decided to quit,” Blass recalled. “I told Don to call the showroom and tell everyone I died. We were supposed to do a two-story fountain for Mall of America. We just left it on the table and took a year off.”
They went to France for a year and worked exporting antiques but missed America too much and soon returned, setting up shop in Atlanta. Eventually, friends in Hudson convinced them to relocate to the little city and 15 years ago they made the move. They’ve been an ever-present piece of the Hudson antiques community ever since.
Blass says he doesn’t expect to find himself overwhelmed by their new boom in business the way he and Friday did back in the day. Being their own bosses has the perk of deciding how much work they feel like doing. But, currently there’s no sign of a decrease in orders or production.
The work coming out of Ad Lib today is unique and surprising. It’s never certain when something is going to connect with the market, but in a little shop beside city hall, the time is right for Lou Blass and Don Friday.
Ad Lib Antiques
522 Warren Street
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The Little Bookstore(s) That Could: Oblong Thrives in a Shifting Marketplace
By Robert Burke Warren
“Rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated.”—Mark Twain
Although the bean-counting experts predicted otherwise, Millerton and Rhinebeck, NY’s family-run Oblong Books & Music stores are not only surviving, but thriving. (Illustration of the Millerton branch by Illu Brozyna.) To most, the rise of online shopping (Amazon, et al.) was the death knell for brick-and-mortar booksellers, with the advent of e-readers delivering the coup de grace. While this has proved true for many bookstores, large and small, Oblong, through a combo of 21st century business savvy and old-school outreach, has actually grown. In 2010, in fact, they expanded their Rhinebeck location. According to owner Dick Hermans, revenue is up.
“I’m more optimistic right now than I’ve been in several years,” Hermans says. “People are realizing the money they spend locally means a helluva lot more than the money they spend online that goes to some distant place and never comes back. More people are saying, ‘I’ll shop local, and my money will circulate in the community.’” When he began Oblong as a books-and-records business in Millerton in 1975 – the Rhinebeck location opened in 2001 – Hermans learned on the job, and he’s become renowned as a canny businessman. “Indie bookselling is survival of the fittest,” he says. “You really need to pay attention and watch your inventory. And we pride ourselves on having a really good selection of books. We keep track of all the publishers we can find, and make sure we have them.”
Crucial to the success of Oblong is Hermans’ daughter, Suzanna. (Both picture above right outside the new remodeled Oblong Jr. in Millerton). Fresh out of college, Suzanna, who’d learned to work the cash register at age 8, took over the Rhinebeck store at the beginning of the economic downturn. Undaunted, she oversaw the successful Rhinebeck expansion, and spearheaded many revenue-and-morale raising community events at the store. The book world noticed, and Suzanna Hermans was recently elected head of the New England Independent Booksellers Association. She also serves on the American Booksellers Foundation For Free Expression.
“As a dad, I couldn’t be happier,” Hermans says, beaming down the line. “I mean, pinch me. I am the envy of most booksellers my age. I’ve talked to several at conventions and everybody says, ‘aren’t you happy?’ I say, damn right I’m happy. Suzanna brings a lot to the table. She’s a big reader, and she gets what it’s all about. She wants to advance not only our stores, but the whole industry. That’s pretty cool.”
As ever, the upcoming Oblong events calendar is chock-full of impressively curated readings at both locations, as well as Oblong-sponsored author appearances at Salisbury, CT’s Scoville Library, such as Simon Winchester, who will will speak about his new book, The Men Who United The States, on November 3 at 2 p.m. Hermans is also particularly enthused about nonfiction author Guy Lawson reading from and discussing his NY Times bestselling real-life thriller Octopus at Scoville on Saturday, November 16 at 2 p.m. “Guy is a local treasure,” says Hermans. “Quite an accomplished writer, with a great career, who’s still young. And Octopus is some story.”
Bestselling memoirist-novelist Dani Shapiro, an Oblong fan and Connecticut resident, is excited about her first Oblong gig on Sunday, November 17 at 4 p.m., “a rare Millerton store reading,” according to Hermans. She’ll be reading from her newly published Still Writing, which she says is “part memoir, part meditation on the creative process, part love letter to everyone who spends time alone in a room, trying to make something out of nothing.”
“I have spent quite a bit of time lurking in the stacks at the Oblong in Millerton,” she says. “It’s a real book lover’s bookstore. It’s designed in a way that makes browsing really comfortable. Browsing and happening upon books is becoming rarer and rarer – instead, we’re told by computer models what we ‘might like’ – and a bookstore like Oblong restores that sense of just stumbling upon a book that suddenly you need to read. And I love reading at independent bookstores. There’s an intimacy, a sense of all of us being in this together – readers, writers, booksellers – that is really special.”
Photographer Juliet Harrison, who launches her new book, Track Life: Images & Words, at the Rhinebeck location on November 16 at 7 p.m., worked at both Oblong locations for years, her favorite job ever. “Oblong encourages relationships with the customers,” she says. “We were readers helping readers find books they would love. What is better than that?” Harrison’s Track Life is a collection of her photographs of racehorses alongside track-related essays, poems, and remembrances by assorted writers. Hudson Valley scribes Mikhail Horowitz, Carol Goodman, and Nina Shengold will read their contributions. For Shengold and Goodman, it’s a return engagement.
“They get a great crowd,” Shengold says. “They’ve enlarged their children’s/teen section and created a thriving program of author events, including the very successful Hudson Valley YA Society series, which does that rare thing of attracting actual young adults – teen readers – as well as people who want to write YA. The staff knows and loves books, and they have a great music selection to boot.”
Clearly, Dick Hermans’ new hopefulness is catchy. Dani Shapiro echoes him almost word-for-word: “As an author,” she says, “I feel more optimistic than I have in a few years, because it seems booksellers have begun to think outside the box – to find new ways to attract dedicated readers. And I think that, as a culture, precisely because we spend so much time staring at screens, we’re hungry for community and experience. Independent bookstores are able to offer this. I predict, over the next decade, that these experiences – not straight-up readings, but a different kind of event that involves engagement, community, shared experience – will proliferate.”
Oblong Books & Music
26 Main Street, Millerton, NY
Montgomery Row, Rhinebeck, NY
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Stooping High: Horse Leap Equestrian Tack Shop
By Don Rosendale
When it comes to riding hounds—a.k.a. foxhunting—there are more rules about the proper outfit than psalms in the Bible, and they are strictly enforced. An NFL player who doesn’t have his jersey tucked in may get hit with a fine, but showing up at the hunt meet wearing the wrong jacket or a garish helmet will result in the Master of Foxhounds sending a shamefaced-rider home. There are rules about the color of the cuff on a riding boot, the contents of a sandwich in a lady’s lunch box that’s clipped to her saddle, how many buttons on a coat. And in recent years, it’s become all the more challenging because Knoud’s, the famous shop on Madison Avenue in New York City that could be relied on to make sure you had the correct kit, has closed its doors.
And that is where Barbara Wadsworth and her tiny shop, Horse Leap, in Amenia come in. Ever wonder where designers for Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger get some of their inspiration for tweedy country clothes? Just hang around Wadsworth’s shop on a weekend and you’ll get a clue. “You’d be surprised how concerned people are that they are properly turned out for the ‘meet,’” Wadsworth discloses. To do so, they come to Horse Leap knowing that they’ll get the right color garters for their boots (white) and the proper rain gloves, fingers forward (and also white) tucked under the saddle. She’s not selling just clothes, but self-assurance, and runs the only shop in the Northeast selling authentic equestrian gear, either new or “slightly broken in.” (Note to animal lovers: Nowadays, fox-hunting is not so much about chasing the wily fox—on the occasion one can be found—but rather in exhibiting horsemanship galloping cross country, over stone walls and fallen logs. When the fox “goes to ground”—that is, he is in some culvert or cub hole where the hounds can’t get him—he’s “won” and the pursuers set him free.)
Many well-to-do equestrians in horsey country eventually get too creaky to clamber up on a horse, and they didn’t get to be rich by throwing things away. Riding britches, tweed jackets with suede patches on the sleeves, top hats, jodhpurs, slightly tattered Barbour jackets, dinner plates with hounds chasing foxes…. they all wind up on consignment with Wadsworth. After all, little Suzie in her jodhpurs eventually outgrows that $750 Melton jacket, and daddy’s $1,500 Saville Row-sewn scarlet jacket (called “pink”) is of no more use. It’s simply not the kind of stuff you put in a lawn sale, so at that point Wadsworth steps in, discretely buying the used but still perfectly wearable hunting clothes. And if it’s slightly worn, that’s no problem. “I’ve had people ask me to ‘rough up’ garments so they don’t look shiny new.”
On a Saturday morning, she shows us around the shop. There are five sets of men’s “pink” hunt clothes and a little girl’s handmade black Melton coat at least a decade old but still worth the $365 price tag and sold within minutes of landing on the rack. “People who love riding hounds are also crazy about plates, ashtrays, and glasses with fox-hunting scenes,” Wadsworth says, picking up a paperweight showing horse and rider ($50). Another special item is a pair of hand-painted horse bookends, signed and dated 1937 ($350). One of her favorite pastimes, she admits, is collecting decorated Hazel Atlas glassware, painted with scenes of mounted horsemen chasing foxhounds chasing the fox. “It’s hard to find a full set,” she says, “so I just buy a few pieces at a time until I can assemble a full set. Another popular item in Wadsworth’s “consignment” section are Hermes scarves, made by the Italian saddle maker and typically showing saddles, bit, or horses. On Madison Avenue, these are $450. In Horse Leap, $150 to $250.
Of course, there is not only a strict dress code for when mounted but also for the white tie “hunt ball” (of which there are several in the Hudson Valley). Wadsworth also has the correct kit for that, as well as the Ralph Lauren-look for the “hunt breakfast” that follows the ride.
A 1984 graduate of the equestrian program at Mount Holyoke College, Wadsworth came to Amenia to train horses and teach riding. But she eventually tired of that because “it’s awfully cold standing around a riding ring in filthy weather.” She opened Horse Leap six years ago, and says she chose a name “that would stand out on the Internet.” While most of Wadsworth’s customers may be from the Millbrook, Golden’s Bridge, and Old Chatham fox hunts, stop in on a Saturday morning and you’ll likely find the design staffs of the aforementioned Seventh Avenue designers. Now you know how they turn out those authentic tweed hacking jackets.
Two hundred bucks, slightly worn, at Horse Leap today. $750 at Saks Fifth Avenue next year.
Horse Leap, LLC.
3314 Route 343
Amenia, New York 12501
Tuesday - Closed
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Kitchen Supplies Pepper The Region
By Dale Stewart
As the season turns chilly, our thoughts turn from summer salads to hearty stews. Want to do early prep for holiday cooking? Or make an early fall butternut squash soup? There’s a gadget for that. Rural Intelligence has rounded up a handful of some of the finest kitchen superstores that sharpen up our region, all stocked with the latest and greatest in foodie tools.
Warren Kitchen & Cutlery
Don’t let Warren Kitchen & Cutlery’s unassuming location fool you; this is the region’s preeminent one-stop culinary-prep destination. Aisles are chock-full of choices, including Rosle angled perforated spatulas ($32.00), thermometers, oven gloves, and a dozen tools to peel an apple or press garlic. If you’re looking for a French cast-iron skillet, Warren stocks classic colors from Le Creuset, Emile Henry, and Staub. They also appear to have every type of microplaner imaginable, from classic graters to ribbon graters and zesters ($12.95 & up), plus a robust collection of over 1,500 different knives from Germany’s Zwilling J.A. Henckels, Wüsthof, and Japan’s Shun, and they offer in-store sharpening ($10 & up) and engraving services. Shelves are deep with stainless steel, nonstick, and eco-friendly pots and pans ($19.95 & up). Apple pie on your mind? There are rows of baking and pastry supplies, pie cutters, tart pans, several versions of mandolins like the Benriner Mandolin Slicer ($35,) and a mind-boggling array of gadgetry to cover every egg-boiling possibility or slicer-dicer option you can imagine. They also offer a wide selection of local food items, including honey, a large selection of chocolate, and teas (plus strainers and teapots). And for those starting out or starting over, Warren offers a Gift Registry.
6934 Route 9
New Preston Kitchen Goods
In what is proving to be a high-watt block, kitchen-supply shop New Preston Kitchen Goods is an oasis, with everything from fine white truffle oil to a striking selection of Simon Pearce tableware. It all comes vetted by owner Marty Rook, a trained Culinary Institute of America chef who’s worked in some top-notch outfits, like The Moors and Chester on Cape Cod, to Picholine and La Grenouille in New York City. Rook’s hands-on knowledge of what it takes cook the perfect meal goes from start to finish. The store highlights dozens of must-have cookbooks and top-of-the-line brands like All-Clad French skillets ($125) and a collection of Emile Henry bakeware ($99) that would make Julia Child proud. Metro shelves are full of Catskill butcher blocks ($49.95), glass cake stands, Swiss glassware, and Le Creuset cast-iron pans. There are white porcelain servers, linens (from simple to all-out farm-y toile), French wooden spoons with long or short handles ($6.95), and a large selection of Chilewich placemats, Peugeot salt and pepper mills ($69), and Nespresso espresso makers ($219).
11 East Shore Road
New Preston, CT
bluecashew Kitchen Pharmacy
If there ever was an art gallery masquerading as a kitchen-supply store, it’s Rhinebeck’s bluecashew Kitchen Pharmacy. The shop is overflowing with distinctive, carefully selected culinary must-haves like the ultra-hip slow juicer by Huron ($299) and the Francis Francis X1 iperEspresso Machine designed by Italian architect Luca Trazzi ($595). Pair with a Pantone coffee mug ($13), Jakob Wagner artfully designed “Propeller” Trivet, and Bodum’s sleek Yohki Glass Storage line ($19.95 & up).
Owners Gregory Triana and Sean Nutley go German for their knives, like Messermeister’s hand-crafted knives and its combination zester/channel knife ($6.50), and they go French for their classic cookware, like Emile Henry’s oval stewpot ($225), and French again for their linens like the Le Jacquard Francais tablecloths and tea towels ($25 & up). They swing Italian for tabletop items, like iittala Dewdrop Kastehelm 60’s designed glass plates and servers ($19 & up) and iittala 5-piece Renzo Piano designed flatware ($98). But bluecashew is not only about chic Euro design; they also stock Vermont-made J.K. Adams Company’s wooden cutting boards, pot racks, and French rolling pin ($12), the (almost) exclusively USA-made Chilewhich recycled vinyl placemats and floor mats ($23 & up), and USA Pan recycled stainless steel home bakeware patterned after its commercial products.
6423 Montgomery Street
Hammertown, thought by many to be the region’s arbiter of fine home furnishings, effortlessly transfers all of its well-edited decor knowledge to kitchenware. Its cookware department includes perfect Fishs Eddy double-fired ceramic cereal bowls ($6 & up), Dansk Kobenstyle cookware ($99 & up), and crisp (machine washable) hemstitch linen table runners ($24 & up). Hammertown stretches across our region with three locations, each with a little slice of kitchen heaven, but arguably the best culinary equipment is in its Rhinebeck location. Interspersed within the kitchen finery are condiments, spices, and a selection of tea from quality purveyors such as Bellocq Tea Atelier ($36) and local faves Harney & Sons ($10.95). They also stock vintage bistro flatware ($3.95 per piece), French tumblers ($4.95 & up), and a good quality assortment of serving bowls and platters ($19.95 & up). Everything in the Hammertown kitchen section is countertop-worthy, from the white ceramic egg crate ($9.95) to the super-curated stash of classic and current cookbooks, including Pig: Cooking with a Passion for Pork and Le Pain Quotidien Cookbook ($29.99). Hammertown also has a small area carved out for home housekeeping supplies, including Caldrea cleaning sprays ($7.95 & up) and Christophe Pourny’s much sought-after line of furniture and leather tonics ($18 & up).
6420 Montgomery Street
3201 NY Route 199
Pine Plains, NY
Hammertown Great Barrington
325 Stockbridge Road
Great Barrington, MA
For other purveyors, check out the Related RI Story: The Kitchenware of Columbia County(0) Comments
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Shopping: Linen and Then Some In Great Barrington
By Dale Stewart
“Linen is the best fabric out there, not just because of the crisp, clean look it provides, but because it also keeps you warm in the winter and cool in the summer,” William Caligari says while showing the simple detail in a $600 sheet set by Libeco. “It’s soft, but it’s incredibly durable and versatile. I can use it as a wall covering, as drapery, and on a bed.”
Caligari is standing in his four-month-old storefront, Linen, the latest addition to the family’s Kennedy-like empire of all things home, with a corner on the Berkshires decorating needs. Brothers Jeffrey and William Caligari oversee a dizzying list of businesses that pepper the region: Both Great Barrington’s E. Caligari & Son, started by their great grandfather, and Caligari Hardware in Lenox, opened by their father in the 1950’s, supply the region with paint, wallpaper, upholstery, carpet, tile, and window treatments. Caligari Sanitary Supply and Taylor Rental loan out various necessities from wedding tents to moving trucks to landscaping machinery.
But it’s the youngest son, William, who added high-end to the family arsenal. “There are seven businesses in the family; it seems like we open a new business every ten years,” he says half-jokingly, “And it’s all about the long-term relationships we’ve made that we’re the most proud of. We’ve been working with Canyon Ranch for the past twenty years through William Caligari Interiors and the Drapery Workroom.”
William Caligari needs to become an expert in everything he takes on; he studied Interior Design at The New York School of Interior Design in Manhattan before re-joining the family business and adding William Caligari Designs. Prior to opening The Drapery Workroom in 2009, he attended the Custom Home Furnishing Academy in North Carolina, where he developed a deeper knowledge of fabric and how to use that information to manufacture draperies, bedding, and table linens. The Workroom handles a variety of projects, from hotel guest rooms and custom designs for his high-end residential work, to custom and semi-custom draperies, window treatments, pillows, bedding, table linens, and other fabric products. Linen also provides a professional ironing/pressing service, custom alterations, and monogramming.
Linen provides a little slice of ABC Carpet and Home in the Berkshires, with nearly a dozen brands, each one Caligari considers top of the line, such as towels from The White House ($75 & up); the Belgian line Libeco ($125 & up); the gold standard in linen, Eastern Accents; hard-to-find brands like Huddleston (coverlets, $250 & up); and local favorites Traditions, and Legacy Linens. Linen’s back wall serves as an idea board Caligari uses to showcase past and present design projects. It’s not uncommon to see an idea for a client end up in the store as pillows, custom headboards and ottomans, or cocktail napkins.
Caligari keeps tight-lipped about his clientele list, but has received much praise for his ongoing relationship with Canyon Ranch (both the Tucson and Lenox locations, as well as personal homes of the founders) and the recently completed a Crane AP 2.0 project for the Technical Materials division of Crane and Co. headquarters in Dalton, MA. He will say that shortly after opening Linen, former First Lady Laura Bush, with a friend and several secret service men, swooped into the 600-square-foot space and snatched up 40 white on white La Gallina Matta ($27) oil clothed linen place mats after seeing them on a table at a dinner party the night before. “We sent them out to the Crawford Ranch.”
An equestraian and avid athlete with a passion for bicycle racing, Caligari seems to never rest, saying, “I’d love more hours in the day.” He did manage to take a brief break to get married this past August and go to Vermont for stage races. His retail nod to his love of sports is a Libeco bicycle jersey in short and long sleeve versions. ($50 & up.)
Caligari hesitates to discuss his yet-to-be-launched home line. “I have a line that I haven’t branded yet, but I’m not in a hurry to do anymore expanding any time soon.” But there is a feeling that it won’t be waiting in the wings for long.
105 Main Street
Great Barrington, MA
Wednesday through Saturday 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
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Louisa Ellis: Two Stores of Her Own
By Dale Stewart
For thirteen years, Melissa Bigarel travelled the country fixing corporate retail chain stores in trouble. She did it in New York, Boston and Madison, New Jersey, all the while dreaming of one she wouldn’t have to fix—her own.
Styling was in her blood and she put her time in. “I’ve been working in retail since I was twenty. I always knew I wanted a shop of my own.” All she had to do was figure out where to set up stakes. “My husband, Mark, discovered Great Barrington after friends bought an inn in town.” He came home to Bigarel and said, ‘I’ve found the most perfect town.’ And that was pretty much it.”
Louisa Ellis opened in 2011 on Main Street in Great Barrington and to date carries nearly 20 different lines of contemporary women’s ready-to-wear clothing. There were plans to open another space on Hudson’s Warren Street, but it wasn’t until 2012 that things were going well enough to do so. “We didn’t want to open Hudson until we had a good feel here. But now, Hudson is our showcase store. The town feels different because it changes so much. It always feels fresh and energetic. Collections live longer in Great Barrington—there’s more space for it.” In Great Barrington, Bigarel is known for her store windows; she’s sort of a small-town Simon Doonan. “Our latest window is a little bookworm and a little geek chic!” she says, referring to the library theme of her current display.
“A lot of these designers are ones I’ve been following for years. We also have lines you can’t find everywhere. Who wouldn’t want to wear a photo of flowers on taffeta?” She’s speaking of a full skirt from Pink Tartan ($375). Bigarel spins around her store in three-inch heels, pointing out a range of designers, such as Shoshanna. “She fits women with curves so well, her dresses are amazing.” Bigarel gleefully catches design details many would miss: “And look at this blouse, there’s a little nod to the poplin style, but you don’t have to commit. And look at this Milly dress. She really took a moment and thought about the back of this dress.”
Louisa Ellis has a decidedly feminine take on style, favoring flirty blouses from Plenty by Tracy Reese ($118), cocktail dresses from Nanette Lepore ($198), hip boyfriend sweaters from Rebecca Taylor ($195), and those figure-flattering dresses from Shoshanna ($295). It’s like stepping into a Barney’s in the Berkshires, a Harrods of the Hudson Valley. The shop receives a new collection every month, which hits Hudson first then rolls over to Great Barrington, and ranges from from work-appropriate pantsuits to casual day and evening dresses and, in late September, occasion dresses, which will fill in a larger role in the Great Barrington store.
Smart and studied, Bigarel is a voracious reader, so much so that she named her store “Louisa Ellis” after a character in one of her favorite novels, A New England Nun. Written in the late 1800s by Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman, the book is based on a woman who decides to remain independent and not marry, a scandal in its day. If Louisa Ellis were an actual person, she’d be a confident, sophisticated, and fun thirty-something, like Bigarel herself.
Bigarel has created exclusive relationships with top-notch vendors like Delman—she worked with them on an iridescent winter white patent pump, creating a specially made beaded camouflage clutch. And there’s plenty available for those looking for non-apparel items like Alexandra Ferguson‘s “Be Nice or Leave” felt applique pillows—made from 100% post consumer recycled materials, costume jewelry by Elizabeth Cole (as seen in Zac Posen’s 2012 Resort collection), to colorful scarves and candles by Lollia. Bigarel also has her own nail-polish line, Berkshine, something she did as a side project and plans on re-vamping and re-launching in the near future.
For now, the Massachusetts native and her husband rent a church parsonage in Salisbury, Connecticut with their shop dog, a Japanese Chin named Steinbeck, another ode to Bigarel’s literary side. They still haven’t figured out where they’re going to land, but it will definitely be somewhere convenient to the two stores. “We were pleased that the place we wanted to work is also the place we wanted to live,” she says. “We have the life we’ve imagined for ourselves.”
307 Main Street
Great Barrington, MA 01230
Monday through Thursday 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Friday through Saturday 10:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Sunday 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
426 Warren Street
Hudson, NY 12534
Friday through Saturday 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Sunday 12:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
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Small Batch, Big Space: A Hipster’s Mecca in Great Barrington
By Nichole Dupont
At first glance, Abby Webster and Andrew Pruhenski are the typical hipster couple. They are young. They raise chickens. He is mousy-haired and sports vintage jeans and canvas shoes. She is uber-creative, only slightly adorned with a gray t-shirt and asymmetrical bead necklace (which she made, of course). Their friends are foodies and farmers with thick-rimmed glasses. But what these two Berkshire natives have is much more than a “look.” On the busy Independence Day weekend, the couple opened the doors of One Mercantile, to the delight of passersby and vintage seekers who haunt the boutique streets of Great Barrington. The interior space — with its raw brick walls, high ceilings, infinite wood floor — is appropriately Brooklynesque and industrial. Every wall, every shelf, and even the window displays are busting at the seams with gifty items and home goods. Authentic vintage pieces, including a long “parts” shelf (once used in a ship mechanic’s shop) chock full of goodies, anchor the entire store in a time when things were built to last… and, well, are really cool to look at.
“Anything vintage or vintage looking, those are hot items,” Webster says while arranging fresh-cut fuchsia daisies in a vase. “The vintage look is very popular with all demographics.”
“The enamelware is definitely one of our best sellers,” Pruhenski pipes in, pointing to a six-piece Falcon Enamelware prep set (red or blue rimmed; $105). “This company is out of England, and it’s over 90 years old. It’s the same stuff we all remember our grandmothers baking with, but now it’s food safe. And really sturdy. Nothing has suffered in terms of the quality of these pieces.”
Actually, quality is part of the mission of One Mercantile, which, unlike other big name gift/goods stores (you know who I’m talking about), does not seek out cheap repros in order to cut retail corners. All of the items in the store are painstakingly researched, and the result is an impressive collection of what Webster calls “small batch goods.”
“We really tried to start on the right foot and that meant small production items,” she says. “A lot of it is local; like the cutting boards by Ben Downing and pottery from Wheel and Loom, both out of Housatonic. There are also some really cool artists from Canada and the West Coast who are upcycling everything they can get their hands on.”
As is the (sustainable) hipster way, recycling is a necessary (and charming) component to the merchandise at One. Snazzy Jetsam wallets ($46) boast neat textiles — made from vintage menswear — straight out of the Mad Men set. Cut from the same cloth are Sparetime Bowties ($45) designed by local seamstress extraordinaire Nicole Campanale. Also in the textile arena are vibrant, silk screened tea towels ($58 for a set of four) that evoke memories of the 1950’s kitchen.
It’s hard to imagine that this airy, industrial space filled with light and glassware and curiosities was once a dank, low ceiling-ed, wood-paneled thrift shop whose style harkened back to the 1970’s. When Webster and Pruhenski began the quick yet aggressive renovation process they were amazed at how big the space was. And that it had never realized its full potential.
“There were marks in the floor, under the carpet, that had been here for at least 20 years, where a clothing rack had stood in the same spot,” Webster says. “And there was also a food pantry in the back [the former location of the Berkshire Community Action Council] so a lot of good went on in here. We wanted to keep that inviting atmosphere.”
Pruhenski is a little less marveling, pointing to the shop’s floor-to-ceiling windows, in which an aqua bike is poised (for sale for the right price) for a picnic.
“They filmed a scene for The Cider House Rules here and made a false storefront,” he says. “But then they never took it down. From the outside it looked great but from this angle, there was duct tape all over the glass. It was kind of a mess.”
But not for long. Between Webster’s design background — she studied photography at MassArt in Boston — and Pruhenski’s retail savvy as a longtime manager at Domaney’s liquors and one-time owner of the now vacant Threads, also on Main Street, the two have put something together that has a solid foundation. And, they have a place to sell their stuff. The two design glassware of all sizes using uniquely labeled bear and wine bottles. Also on tap are run-of-the-mill Mason jars (some blue, some clear) complete with tops and secured glass straws. Perfect for a no-spill lemonade vessel. The glasses, as well as nearly everything else in One Mercantile (like gorgeous Kantha quilts made from recycled saris; $65-$85) are a collective “a-ha” moment where simple ideas are churned into functional, quirky, and beautiful pieces. Webster is even hinting at stocking handmade terrariums, courtesy of her eldest sister, at some point in the near future.
“The main idea is to keep it small and consistently stock a variety of items,” Webster says. “And to get some online sales set up. And, of course, we’re always looking for new designers.”
8 Castle Street
Great Barrington, MA 01230
Open 7 days: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
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The Rhinebeck Department Store: A Bit of History Repeating
by Dale Stewart
Barbara and Dick Schreiber set their sights on One East Market Street back in 1985. The historic three-story Italianate building has been a cornerstone in Rhinebeck village since 1870, where, catty-corner from Beekman Arms Hotel, it stood as proof that the all-purpose shop has not gone the way of the horse and buggy. It didn’t matter that the business wasn’t for sale, or that the classic brick pile was heavily deteriorating: They were all in.
“It isn’t just about the store,” Barbara Schreiber says. “The store is about the building.” When Barbara originally approached “Lloyd,” the building’s owner, he wasn’t ready to sell. She became a real estate broker, and waited. “I thought, if I could write the way my life would go, I want to own that corner building.” She got her wish five years later, and the Rhinebeck Department Store was born. “I don’t want the business without the building.” Schreiber wasn’t looking for a get-rich-quick-scheme. She wanted the Dutchess County life, and slowly accumulated it: the country house, ubiquitous country outfitter, the community. She wanted to continue the function that the corner store had served since the 1940’s when it was the Hudson Valley Department Store. Every small town worth its salt has a central emporium store like this; Vineyard Haven has Brickman’s and Aspen has Pitkin County Dry Goods.
The Rhinebeck Department Store has authentic country classics down to a science, from knit tops by Fresh Produce Clothing ($26 & up) and brightly patterned Echo scarves ($32 & up), to colorful kids’ rain boots from Hatley ($38). There are selections from Pendleton, a brand synonymous with farmers and hipsters, to drive home the country charm, and a moose head looms over the dependable Woolrich classics. Other Americana mainstays, like the 250-year-old Caswell-Massey and 1960’s Royall Lyme cologne, punctuate the well-chosen lines. The owners’ attention to detail is evident; no inch in this compact space is poorly used; if the store is going to carry a dozen brands, they’re going to carry the best of what that brand has to offer. The Rhinebeck Department Store is comforting in its simplicity.
Part of the Rhinebeck Department Store’s charm lies in the meticulously restored space itself, which had a crumbling foundation and inexplicable layout when the Schreiber’s fell for it. The second and third floors had no direct access, and no heat, electric, or plumbing. Shepherded by an architect and the New York State Historic Preservation Office, the second floor is now home to At the Top Hair Co-Op, an eight-chair salon, and the penthouse, which once produced potbelly stoves, now houses Satya, a popular yoga studio.
For nearly all of those twenty-two years, Dick and Barbara have worked side by side. “There’s a rhythm,” Barbara says of the couple’s roles. “He has his job description; I have mine.” The Rhinebeck Deparment store is a continuation of their former lives. Dick, a former stockbroker turned think-tank executive, takes care of the day-to-day operations and Barbara, a former design and merchandising senior executive for a major woman’s corporation, does the broad planning, mapping out spring 2014 styling and beyond.
Barbara and Dick have dug into the community as voraciously as they did the renovation of the building. Barbara become Rhinebeck Chamber of Commerce co-president in the early nineties and both have helped launch an area website, EnjoyRhinebeck.com, in an effort boost tourism and the town’s profile. Their building, said to be the highest peak in town, also cleverly disguises a T-Mobile cell tower. Barbara looks around at the businesses outside her door, “We are a part of this community, we’ve seen a lot come and go in twenty two years, and have genuinely enjoyed every minute of it.”
Granted, this is not the usual idea of retirement. But, when not tending to their seven-day-a-week shop, the active couple can be found riding horses and playing tennis. “Sure it’s a different pace, it’s not 21-day trips to the Orient or a buying trip in Europe, but there’s never a dull moment here. We’re at the crossroads of everything here.”
Rhinebeck Department Store
One East Market Street
Rhinebeck, NY 12572
Monday – Saturday 9:15 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.; Sunday 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.