Wrap It Up: RI’s Annual Holiday Gift Guide
By Amy Krzanik
Where we live, you don’t have to travel very far to find unique gifts for everyone on your list. Whether it’s a thank you for your holiday party’s host or hostess, or a package sent to a friend or family member far away, choose from our list of artisanal, homegrown goodies and don’t forget to include a card that reads “from the RI region with love.”
TO EAT & DRINK:
Oliver Kita Fine Chocolates Named one of the Top 10 Chocolatiers of 2015 by Dessert Professional Magazine, Rhinebeck’s 20-year-old eponymous chocolate shop has used flowers, herbs, citrus, exotic fruits, berries, nuts and spices to create its line of organic and fair trade fine chocolates. Perfect for gifting, its 16-piece studio collection ($40) was created to fulfill requests for a collection of its most popular flavors, but you can also make your own favorites from its selection of bon bons, buttercrunch toffee, hot chocolate, chocolate-dipped mallomars, and chocolate Mah Jongg tiles, buddhas and polar bears.
H.R. Zeppelin Chocolates Stockbridge’s own organic and fair trade chocolatier will tempt your palate with inspired taste combinations you didn’t know you craved, such as lavender-blueberry milk chocolate, raspberry white chocolate, and cardamom-lemon or sweet basil-lime dark chocolate. They also offer double chocolate truffles made with Berkshire Mountain Distillers corn whiskey and a four-piece box of peanut butter goodness (peanut butter nougat, caramel and peanuts) dipped in milk or dark chocolate and tied with a bow. You can find some of these goodies at Bizalion’s and One Mercantile in Great Barrington, and at Six Depot in West Stockbridge. All of them will be available at the Berkshire Grown Holiday Market in Great Barrington on Saturday, Dec. 17.
Taconic Distillery This Stanfordville, NY distillery and tasting room was only officially completed in August of this year, but its Dutchess Private Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey already has earned accolades from Hudson Valley Magazine and Maxim. Its handcraft spirits are made in small batches using natural spring water from its 113-acre Rolling Hills Farm. Along with the Private Reserve, current offerings include three other whiskeys and a rum, as well as two versions of maple syrup (two 12.7 oz. bottles for $40).
Hopkins Vineyard In 1979, Bill and Judith Hopkins transformed their New Preston, Conn. dairy farm into a vineyard and have been known for award-winning whites, reds and sparkling wines ever since. Hopkins Vineyard isn’t a vineyard only in name — the location grows 11 varieties of grapes on land overlooking Lake Waramaug. Not only that, but its tasting room offers live late-night music, wine bottle painting parties and more.
363 Days of Tea Local author and artist Ruby Silvious has collaborated with Hudson, NY tea shop Verdigris to offer limited edition tea tins based on her new coffee table art book, 363 Days of Tea: A Visual Journal on Used Teabags. Her book ($26.95) can be purchased at the shop and, gifted together with a tea-filled tin, the two serve as a daily reminder that inspirational art can truly be found everywhere.
Hillhome Products In 2009, David L. Davis began making jars of marmalade for his own use and to give to friends. The response was so positive that he began selling at farmers’ markets around his Norfolk, Conn. home. Now you can purchase all of the marmalades, preserves, jams, chutneys, relishes, hot sauces, caramel and fudge sauces, pickles and dressings that David produces, “puts up” and markets by himself. He also offers private labeling, so you can make your holiday gift that much more personal. But as he warns on his website, be careful because “all products tend to be addictive!”
bluecashew Kitchen Pharmacy Surprise your party host this season with a decadent gift from Rhinebeck’s bluecashew, now offering white ($100 – $1,300) or burgundy ($27.50+) Italian truffles and a selection of wild or farmed caviar (call for prices). In addition, your hors d’oeuvres table will be the talk of the town when you serve up La Madia White Truffle Acacia Honey ($15), which the store suggests you drizzle over chunks of Parmesan cheese.
Bottega Organica This Hudson shop is the brainchild of Dr. Andrea Alimonti, a world-renowned geneticist, whose products are based on patented scientific research into the most effective anti-aging plants. All ingredients come from farms in Italy and upstate NY, are made without preservatives or artificial fragrances, colors or synthetics, and each is handmade in small batches. The line includes creams ($85-$165), balms for lips, face and body ($36-$125) and hydrating hair and skin mists ($38-$68).
Hawkins NY Based in Hudson, but known by chic people everywhere, Hawkins NY is famous for its furniture and its collaborations with other designers. The store offers highly curated wares including bedding, rugs, throws and tableware, but we’ve got our eye on their thick Amoeba wooden cutting boards ($68), and Shapes Rugs which are a collaboration between Hawkins and Austin-based designer Alyson Fox ($75-$1,000 depending on size).
Source Adage Founded by creative directors Christopher Draghi and Robert Dobay, the Hudson, NY based fragrance brand and flagship store are dramatically dark (the shop, black; the product line, black) but the scents are inspired by nature. All fragrances, which are named after great American landscapes, are available as candles ($95), reed diffusers ($115) and room sprays ($60). Most recently, the brand launched two parfums for humans ($160) so you can smell good wherever you go, and a collaboration with local gallery The Gilded Owl — the limited edition candle, “Leonor”, smells of cedar wood, musk and dark incense with dusty rose and wild lavender and is inspired by artist Leonor Fini ($95).
Amrita Lash Pottery Not only does Williamstown resident Amrita Lash make beautiful music with her band Long Journey, she creates beautiful pottery, too. Her vibrant work, which is food, microwave and dishwasher safe, includes plates, bowls, mugs, salt cellars, tumblers, yarn bowls, spoons and other items. They can be found on her Etsy page or you can catch her at the annual holiday shindy at Shire City Sanctuary this weekend or at the Pottery Sale in Williamstown on Thursday, Dec. 15.
TreacleandWolf A perfect gift for the friend or family member who loves to entertain, Great Barrington’s TreacleandWolf aprons are handmade with retro-inspired prints and designed with deep pockets to make sure you have enough room for a “plethora of paper umbrellas and a surfeit of swizzle sticks.” Half aprons are $24, and full are $36.
Floating Girl Artist, children’s book author and educator Valorie Fisher lives in Cornwall, Conn. with her husband, children, two cats, many mice and even more trees. Her collaged art cards ($4 each or 6 for $18), on sale at her Etsy shop “Floating Girl,” are a witty way to send a smile across the miles.
Fresh Fish by Jennifer Trainer Thompson Hancock Shaker Village’s new CEO is also a published author, and her latest is a “fearless guide to grilling, shucking, searing, poaching, and roasting seafood.” Put out by North Adams, Massachusetts-based Storey Publishing, the book offers simple step-by-step instructions on how to buy and cook everything from whole fish to shrimp, mussels, calamari and more.
Pacific by Simon Winchester The bestselling author and Berkshire County resident tackles the history of an entire ocean in his latest book. From Silicon Valley to China, and from Magellan’s 16th-century discoveries to the future of the world, this memoir of the Pacific covers it all.
Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt Hunt’s latest novel (her third), described as a “contemporary gothic,” has garnered acclaim from Vanity Fair, The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. Set in Upstate, NY, this is a “subversive ghost story that is carefully plotted and elegantly constructed.”
Putin Country: A Journey into the Real Russia by Anne Garrels For more than three decades, Garrels reported from some of the most dangerous places on earth as a correspondent for ABC and NPR. Called “a quiet masterwork” by Bookforum, the Litchfield County resident’s newest is based on her years reporting from Central Russia and helps explain Putin’s appeal to his country’s people.
Fire + Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking by Darra Goldstein For those not familiar with Scandinavian home cooking (I’m guessing that’s a lot of people), this James Beard-nominated cookbook offers more than 100 recipes that showcase the region’s sweet and savory dishes. Along with how to make smoked arctic char, savory puffed pancakes and cardamom braids, the book contains Goldstein’s illuminating essays on the countries of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden.
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Matt McGhee: 40 Years of Christmas Treasures
By Jamie Larson
In 1976 Matt McGhee opened his first shop in Greenwich Village selling oriental decorative pieces. That Christmas, however, it was his traditional tree ornaments that captured the imagination of holiday shoppers. Now, 40 years later and relocated to Hudson New York, McGhee’s shop (it too called Matt McGhee) is filled with handsome examples of his original designs as well as traditional antique ornaments and decorations of pewter and glass.
The 40th is the ruby anniversary and for the occasion McGhee has painted a new edition of his classic Saint Nick ornament with what else but ruby colored highlights. Made in Germany to McGhee’s specifications, his creations are classical and whimsical. While they might be as high style as decorations get, they still shine with a sense of fun.
“In the early ‘80s I began traveling to Germany and dealing directly with producers,” McGhee says. “Over the years I have taken more of a hand in the design of the ornaments I carry, ranging from specifying the colors that traditional forms are painted, to — in some cases — sculpting models from which molds are made and the ornaments blown, and then painted in Germany or by me.”
McGhee and partner Ronald Kopniki said the appeal of Christmas ornaments is a kind of healthy nostalgia. Because you see them for only a little while each year, the feeling and the memories they impart intensifies.
“It’s a thing that binds the generations,” says Kopniki. “The memories attached to the decorations go beyond the actual objects.”
The shop itself makes for an elegant and festive visit. In one of Warren Street’s beautiful old buildings the space is resplendent with ornate historic moldings and built-in cabinets that set the perfect stage for art glass or the intricately painted little dioramas and Nativities. The miniature pewter “flats” that make up the little winter and woodland scenes are a really pleasant surprise. They are sweet looking from far away and a wonder from up close, hand painted in intricate, nearly microscopic detail.
“Flats are a key component of my business,” McGhee says. “These hand-cast, hand-painted forms and figures are related not only to Christmas, but to other themes and seasons. There are trees, bare or in leaf, elaborate 18th-century garden scenes, winter skating scenes and circus scenes, for example, as well as Christmas trees, Santa in his sleigh or carrying a sack of gifts, and Nativity scenes.”
McGhee’s ornaments seem somehow pre-charged with pleasant holiday memories. There’s a collective sense of the holiday warmth molded and painted into them, by his own hand or his elves over in Germany.
“The ornaments can be very old fashioned or traditional but then also very colorful. You’re allowed to be colorful,” Kopniki says. “And when it comes to some of the art glass, we are also talking about beautiful things you can display all year.”
Winter Walk is coming up this Saturday in Hudson. Warren Street will be closed to cars and the street filled with shoppers, window watchers and holiday performances. There is perhaps no better time to go look around Matt McGhee for your next favorite ornament.
445 Warren Street, Hudson, NY
Holiday Season Hours:
Daily 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
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Mail Call: Annie Selke Company Introduces Its First Catalog
By Lisa Green
Catalogs are near and dear to Annie Selke’s heart. As a girl, the founder of and creative force behind the textile-driven Annie Selke Company, headquartered in Pittsfield, could be found poring through the myriad home and shelter catalogs her parents received. And because so many catalogs carry products from all of the company’s divisions — Pine Cone Hill, Dash & Albert, Fresh American and Luxe — she was used to working on them from the service end.
So now that the company has announced it will soon be sending out its own direct-to consumer-catalog, the big question is — especially from those of who can’t get enough of the insanely beautiful bedding, rugs, sleepwear and furniture coming out of this company — why did it take so long?
Catalogs and print materials have been standard practice in communicating with their more than 2,000 retailers, of course. But apart from The Outlet @ Pine Cone Hill, itself located within the headquarter’s meandering complex of buildings and warehouses, customers have purchased Annie Selke products only through retailers or the website.
From her bright, brick-walled office, surrounded by fabric swatches and rugs, Selke, who lives in Lenox, explains why she waited 20 years to create her own consumer catalog.
“In 2012, we went direct-to-consumer online,” she says. “We needed to have an online presence. I called it ‘passive retail.’ We were just turning on the lights, and people came.”
Two years ago, the company started advertising to consumers, using print as well as web ads as drivers to annieselke.com (a delightful site, by the way, that includes not just shopping opps but “Fresh American Style,” a blog filled with decorating tips, how-to’s, Selke’s travels and even recipes). A consultant advised that it was time to dip their toe in the catalog world. (A little retro, maybe, but that never hurt L.L. Bean or Horchow.)
“We just decided to do it in May” (as in but five months ago), Selke says. “It’s been crazy doing it so fast and we’re still figuring things out as we go, but at least we have a process in place. We hope to put out six more next year, including holiday and furniture versions.” The new catalog division has necessitated hiring more people, and isn’t that music to our ears here in our rural community?
So on September 19, around 300,000 lucky homes will receive the inaugural Annie Selke catalog. Berkshire residents will be pleased to find the introduction of the Berkshire Collection. These pillows, furniture and window panels with patterns and colors inspired by our area will have familiar names like Greylock, Glendale and Barrington.
“I cannot wait for the referendum,” Selke says.
We’re betting the numbers will be good, but regardless, that “Bringing Happy Home” tagline the company uses? It’s pretty much a given.
To be added to the catalog mailing list, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet Annie Selke on Friday, Sept. 16
The Outlet @ Pine Cone Hill hosts a meet-and-greet event with the founder and CEO, Annie Selke, from 2:30-4 p.m.. At the event, which is open to the public, Selke will share her latest design inspirations and answer questions from guests. RSVP at RSVP@annieselke.com or (413) 629-2314.
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Master Artists Reimagine The Modern Jewelry Box
By CB Wismar
Tim McClelland is laughing. Which is okay, because he’s laughing at himself.
“I just thought it would be fun to reach out to 15 extraordinarily talented people who had been part of an intense, creative environment 35 years ago and see what they’re doing now.”
The “what” is stacked in heavy cardboard boxes delivered courtesy of UPS and FedEx. These invited guests surround Tim on the main floor of the jewelry atelier, McTeigue & McClelland in Great Barrington, Mass. It is in this noble gray stone building on Main Street that Modern Treasure Chests, a month-long exhibition of jewelry boxes made by contemporary American Masters, will welcome and intrigue visitors.
The “makers,” as they call themselves, are all graduates and former faculty of Boston University’s Program in Artisanry (PIA) or Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), and these “boxes” are fanciful works of art.
“So understand,” Tim [left] says, “I really didn’t know how many artists would respond. When it was 15, I couldn’t believe it.”
Believe it, Tim. Time to unpack.
The PIA lived for the 10 years from 1975-1985 on the Boston University campus, graduating artisans in ceramics and fiber art, metalsmithing and jewelry making, or woodworking and furniture making.
Certificates of Mastery in hand, they scattered to the winds. Some remained in New England, others migrated west to teach and work in Rochester, New York, Madison, San Diego. The marks of their time together, however, were indelible.
Flash forward 35 years. The challenge sent out to that eclectic community was to create a new interpretation of the jewelry box. After all, McTeigue & McClelland is a luxury jeweler, with Tim (himself a graduate of PIA in metalsmithing and jewelry making) creating unique designs, and his partner, Walter McTeigue, searching the world for the finest stones. Jewelry boxes made perfect sense.
“When the invitation came, how could I say no?” Tommy Simpson, a self-professed “imagineer” from New Preston, Conn., was quick to respond, with designs that are… how does one say this… unique.
Tommy, who brought a great sense of humor to his stint as a visiting instructor at PIA, will be exhibiting his creations alongside the intricate work of Peter Superti, whose studio is in Red Hook, New York. “There was no time like it,” recalls Peter. “PIA was 24/7 with some of the most imaginative people I’ve ever met.”
Rosanne Somerson, now the President of RISD and a skilled furniture maker in her own right, remembers the time as being one of incredible cooperation. “We’re trying to instill that in our students at RISD. It was like being in an extended family,” she says.
The award for “Furthest Distance Traveled” will go to Wendy Maruyama’s piece, hailing from San Diego, which she gently calls her “bento box.” Lined in silk, it has a quiet presence that seems more art than craft.
James Schriber, whose elegant casework adorns the McTeigue & McClelland showroom, was both reflective and brutally honest about being part of the exhibit. “I couldn’t not be there. These people were family. The idea of a reunion after all these years was just too good to pass up. If it had been a major furniture show, maybe it would have been different… but a jewelry box? That you can ship.”
These Modern Treasure Chests are fashioned out of rare and exotic woods that have names evoking foreign travel and the courts of kings and maharajahs. Cuban mahogany. Celanese satinwood. Maracaibo boxwood. Clara walnut. Figured Swiss pearwood.
Each of the artists represented in Modern Treasure Chests has had a singular influence on the American Studio Furniture Movement. They carry on the traditions of Sam Maloof and Charles Eames in their own terms and with their own flair. To see their work is to be awash in talent, to move from one piece to another is quietly overwhelming.
Tim McClelland is smiling, and shaking his head as the boxes are opened and the wrapping scattered to the corners of the showroom. “Amazing,” he says. “That’s the only word for it.”
Modern Treasure Chests
Opening Reception: Saturday, Aug. 20 from 5-7 p.m.
McTeigue and McClelland
454 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA
The exhibit will be in place during normal business hours until Saturday, Sept. 24.
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Oatmeal Studios: Always Good For A Laugh
A trade show display.
By Lisa Green
When Oatmeal Studios gathers its team for a creative brainstorming session, it’s no ordinary staff meeting. The greeting card company based in Lenox Dale, Mass., has been in the business of making people laugh for over 35 years, and the writers, illustrators and managers involved never seem to lose that sense of humor.
“You’re crying, you’re laughing so hard,” says Nancy Crane, the company’s creative product manager, describing the tenor of those gatherings.
“We’re writing funny cards,” adds Joe Gallagher, the general manager. “You can’t take it too seriously.”
But make no mistake: this is a well-established, $1.5 million business, with its products available at 2,100 locations in the U.S. and abroad, and 140 independent sales representatives. Still, a pet rabbit named Oatmeal was the inspiration for the first card created by an artist in Vermont back in 1978, and that’s kind of amusing, right? In 2011, Excelsior Printing Company in North Adams, Mass. bought Oatmeal Studios and brought the lighthearted, brightly colored card company to the Berkshires.
Joe Gallagher, Nancy Crane, David Crane
“In 2010, David Crane [he of the Dalton, Mass. Cranes, who established Crane & Co., Inc. in 1770] asked me to look at the greeting card market because there might be an opportunity to buy Oatmeal Studios,” says Gallagher, who worked in product and business management at Crane for ten years. Excelsior was already printing the cards, so it was a natural transition for the company. (Later Excelsior Printing was sold to Integrity Graphics, which now prints the cards.) A little over a year ago Oatmeal Studios moved to its current location, so its offices are now housed within the Excelsior Integrated warehouse — a 58,000-foot fulfillment facility with David Crane as the CEO — that not only fulfills Oatmeal Studios cards but assembles and ships products for about 80 other companies, as well.
But back to those hilarious staff meetings. Everyone gets a say in what cards are produced.
“We’re a team, and we all vote on the designs,” says Nancy Crane (no relation to the famous family, although she was a product manager at Crane prior to joining the card company). “Everyone gets a chance to ‘ugh’ or ‘I love it.’” The team consists of Gallagher and Crane, sales and advertising folks, and a few of the original people from Oatmeal in Vermont.
Two of the bestselling cards.
The creative process starts with the written word, and what the team is voting on — while laughing hysterically — are the concepts submitted by freelance writers. After they agree they’re going to buy a concept, they start thinking about the appropriate image for the copy. Nancy assigns the job to one in her stable of illustrators, some of whom have been working with Oatmeal Studios since Oatmeal-the-rabbit days. Sometimes an illustrator will submit the whole package — graphics and copy, which are tweaked into the final product.
The company averages about 70 new cards a year, and there are bestsellers that have been in the line for years. Crane does the designs for the newer line of photo cards herself.
“We stick to humor,” says Gallagher “We don’t do seasonal cards, and some are more risqué than others. Some of our retails don’t want anything to do with them.” But with 300 designs in the line, there’s plenty for every kind of retailer to choose from.
Unlike your standard Hallmark cards, Oatmeal Studios sells its products in less traditional settings — liquor and hardware stores, car washes and UPS outlets. Locally, you’ve probably seen them at Guido’s in Pittsfield, The Purple Plume in Lenox and Salisbury Pharmacy.
“What also makes our cards different is that the insides are illustrated, they’re still made in the U.S., and they’re printed with vegetable-based inks on recycled paper,” Crane says. And, creatives in the Rural Intelligence region will be gratified to know that the illustrator gets a prominent shout-out on the back of the card. This is a company that appreciates its staff — even if they’re freelancers.
As with any printed product these days, you have to wonder how long the market will be there. Nancy Crane acknowledges that younger people are more likely to send electronic cards. But selling in so many unconventional locations helps business — you’re buying a gift or a bottle of wine for someone, and you need a card to go with it, and there stands a carousel of delightful cards.
“It’s definitely a mature product, but because we’ve kept it fresh and have a unique look, we’re still doing pretty well in the market,” says Gallagher.
And having fun doing it.
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Braza In Our Back Yard: Home to Fashion Emergency Solutions
By Lisa Green
I’m not positive about this, but it’s extremely probable that some of those celebrities you see on the red carpet are wearing a Braza Bra product, and that’s not an interesting fact just because the products are the kinds of things that prevent wardrobe malfunctions. It’s actually a point of pride, because the strapless panties, backless bras and various (ahem) enhancers underneath those designer gowns come out of an unassuming building in Lee, Mass. In other words, it’s what you don’t see that’s made this 31-year-old Berkshire-based company the success it is today. From its first product, the stick-on bra, Braza has grown into a line of 200 “solution oriented” products for women.
Ted Davis, the twinkle-eyed creator behind Braza Bra, didn’t start his career as an expert in lingerie. As a textile exporter, he had a customer in Brazil whose wife discovered a precursor of Braza’s stick-on bra. He brought the product to the U.S. and an industry was born. Shoulder pads, bra extenders and clothing shields followed, and so did the customers. Retailers first sold them in the lingerie department, but soon the line extension carved out its own niche.
“We created the lingerie accessory business,” says Davis. “People would have an idea for a product, we’d listen, and create a solution to an undergarment problem.” He points out that one of the company’s new products, the backless freedom bustier (“wear the strapless dress of your dreams!” declares the packaging), took a year to get right. While he uses fit models in New York, a lot of the testing was done by the employees.
The growing business called for a larger space than its original New York office, and so in 1993, Davis and his wife, Karen, moved Braza Bra to the Berkshires (they had a house in Becket). They built a 10,000-square-foot building in an industrial park in Lee and, when space grew tight there, they added on another 20,000 square feet. Now, Braza employs 40 people, who often suggest ideas for products, and who seem totally nonplussed that they are handling products that might make some people blush.
To be honest, I wasn’t even sure what some of the products were for, but the packaging is informative and the names are clever. The Silicone Magic Super Dolly offers “super duper” enhancement; the reusable Petal Tops (nipple covers) are “comfortable, convenient and economical;” Flash Tape, the original double-sided dressing tape in a dispenser is “perfect for all fashion emergencies.” There’s a reason the company’s tagline is “Problem Solved!”
“The package has a promise, and you’ve got to make sure it’s going to work,” Davis says. He says friends are envious of his job — yes, he looks at some of the finest breasts when working with the fit models — but it really is about the fit.
Karen, the spokesperson for the company (a.k.a. Braza Queen), who gives seminars for retail salespeople on how to help their customers use the products, backs up her husband’s quest to produce products that help solve a problem. “He lives, breathes, eats and sleeps how to make things better,” she says.
April Burch, co-owner of Bra and Girl, shows the bestselling Magic Clip, which creates a racerback for any bra.
And it’s not just about preventing those embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions. Braza has expanded into footwear comfort solutions, hair wraps, hosiery and pumice stones (for removing pilling on sweaters). There’s a whole line of “swimwear essentials” that includes cleavage kits, water-resistant Flash Tape and Swim Petal Tops as well as products for nursing mothers and affordable breast forms for post-surgery (most insurance plans don’t cover additional prosthesis products).
From its warehouse off Route 102, the products go out to more than 4,000 retailers in 32 countries, including Ricky’s of NYC, Faces in Northampton and Victoria’s Secrets. In Great Barrington, the clear bra straps and converter clips are best sellers. “They’re kind of like our nuts and bolts,” says Dan Alden, co-owner of Bra and Girl.
“It’s been 31 years and you can still find people who have never heard of us,” Karen says.
Well, not that they’re admitting, anyway.
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RADC: A Warehouse Of Treasures At Hudson’s River Side
By Jamie Larson
Hudson’s position as a world-class destination for great art and antiques is well deserved. But as its stature has risen briskly over the past 20 years, an ever-increasing percentage of the city’s old eccentric vibe (which drew artists and dealers to the city in the first place) has been priced out.
Fortunately, it’s coming back in a big way. The Riverfront Antiques and Design Center, located in a massive former factory, houses two dozen shops that have managed to spiritually capture the manic, classy, grungy, glamorous, artistic fury of the early days of Hudson’s turn-of-the-century artistic revitalization, all under one roof. It is a wild place to shop.
When you’re done with the Warren Street crawl, turn left down along the river, bump over the railroad tracks, pass the Basilica and enter the bog-adjacent parking lot of a large nondescript warehouse. There you’ll find this mass of hidden treasure that is RADC (pronounced Rad-Cee). Enter through door 21 of the former L&B Furniture factory and it’s kind of like entering one of those bizarre places where some of your weirder dreams take place.
“It’s a new market for makers,” says Glen Adams, owner of Tongue In Chique and a RADC member. “It’s created a really positive energy. Once you get inside it’s a whole new world.”
Tongue In Chique
The largest operations in the warehouse, right up front, are Cottage Treasures Antique Warehouse, a well-established brand with New Jersey origins, and The Other Company. Neither is a member of RADC, but they did get the ball rolling. Cottage Treasures’ Paul Dorman was using the front of the warehouse for storage before making an agreement with the building’s management to open up an outlet for his huge collection of interesting stuff last year. After that, the floor space behind Cottage Treasures began being rented out by lots — at very reasonable rates — and vendors began flocking in.
In no time at all an eclectic neighborhood of tightly packed booths had sprung up. While each vendor rents a spot individually, they joined up as RADC to support each other through advertising and events (see their float in the upcoming Out Hudson Parade). There’s antiques and art, of course, but there’s also vintage clothing, in-house upholsterers, craftspeople, an event planner and a brewery (with a tasting room nearby, across from the train station.)
“People here are truly artists,” says Leith Pardee in front of her shop, Shelina’s. “People are bringing something different. There’s a feeling of a Parisian flea market.”
At home in RADC are extensions of Warren Street staples like the Lili and Loo Annex and Red Chair Antiques Annex, proving that RADC is a complement to uptown shops. There are quirky and well-curated standalones like Shelina’s, Mad Era, and the fabulous Tongue In Chique. As you walk around, the invariably interesting people who run the shops emerge from behind a statue or a stack of trunks to have a sweet little conversation with you. This really helps enhance the wonderland feel of the 200,000-square-foot warehouse, illuminated like Christmas by a thousand old lamps and chandeliers.
Manuel Madera in his shop, Mad Era.
“People are finding out about us and they just keep coming,” says Manuel Madera of Mad Era Antiques & Reproduction. “There’s so much here, you can find something amazing, from a low price range to whatever you could want.”
There is perhaps no more potent a pill to stimulate creative growth than cheep rent. It’s why people moved to Hudson 20 years ago to start something new. There’s an unmistakable sense of community at RADC that lightens the mood of the cavernous space.
Larry Forman is the president of the Hudson Antique Dealers Association (HADA). He and Mark Wasserbach shared a location for their businesses, Mark’s Antiques and Larry’s Back Room, for 20 years before their rent was doubled. Now they’ve got a sizable chunk of the warehouse. Having the HADA president in RADC shows the venue’s connectivity to the city.
“There’s a lot going on down here,” Forman says, not just of the warehouse but Hudson’s of growing riverfront district. “We’re a part of Hudson’s new downtown.”
Sarah Berney of Sarah Berney Art.
Chris Ungaro from Beacon, New York, manages a medical office and makes furniture and woodwork as a hobby, but he never considered having a store to sell his pieces until he visited RADC and saw how affordable it could be. Now he’s put up walls and created Dichotomy Home to showcase his talent.
“It’s like a bazaar,” Ungaro says of RADC. “It’s the variety of people that make it special.”
RADC has a distinctly different feel, in quality and atmosphere, from a standard antiques mall. For now we can pretend it’s our secret — until everyone finds out about it.
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BerkChique! Is Back
By Marilyn Bethany
Berkshires fashion icon Vicki Bonnington will begin planning next year’s BerkChique!, a charity clothing sale she co-chairs with Rebecca Weinman, as soon as this year’s (May 6 - 8 at the former Crane Stationery factory in Dalton, Mass.) wraps.
As Bonnington, whose cast-offs last year accounted for fully half of the BerkChique! take, explains it, “I’m a really great shopper.” No kidding. To cite just one example of her prowess, some months ago, while scrolling through eBay, she noticed a listing for “a rack of Jean Paul Gaultier” garments offered by a boutique that was going out of business. After a quick calculation in her head, she confidently ran the bidding up to a winning $1200.
“Each piece of Gaultier retails for at least $1,000,” she reasoned. “So, if there are two pieces on that rack that work for me, I’m ahead, and, of course, I donate the rest.”
Gaultier notwithstanding, nothing in Bonnington’s section of the sale is “dime a dozen stuff.” Fashions are presented on racks labeled $20, $40, $60, $80, $100, $150 and $200. There’s also one headed “Priceless.” This last contains garments whose price is to-be-determined through “discussion” with (consider this your Warning Label) Bonnington, a retired litigator for G.E.
Regardless of the price, one must think of it as money well spent. Conceived by Nancy Fitzpatrick, owner of the Red Lion Inn, as a means of monetizing the upscale detritus from her friends’ closets, BerkChique!’s donations now include both men’s and women’s garments, some from contributors with ties to the fashion industry. Beneficiaries include 1Berkshire, IS183 Art School, WAM Theatre and CATA, among other regional non-profits.
Recalls co-chair Rebecca Weinman, “Last year, after we wrapped on Sunday, I went out in Pittsfield and saw at least three women wearing BerkChique! buys. It’s great to make so many people happy while raising funds for important organizations.”
May 6 – 8
The Stationery Factory, 60 Flansburg Ave., Dalton, MA
First Dibs Party & Sale
Friday, May 6, 5:30 – 8 p.m.
Admission $25/1; $40/2
Saturday, May 7 & Sunday, May 8
9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
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David Pirrotta Brands Pops Up At Privet Lives in New Preston
By Amy Krzanik
Some brands are so exclusive that you can only find them in Los Angeles, New York City and… New Preston, Connecticut. No, that’s not a typo. Thanks to Privet House owners Suzanne Cassano and Richard Lambertson’s Privet Lives pop-up shop, launched in July of 2014, New Englanders now have a chance to shop luxury brands found (almost) nowhere else.
Former collaborations include Shinola, Filson and Madeline Weinrib, and this past weekend Privet Lives launched its newest partnership, a sleek white showroom featuring David Pirrotta Brands. All 12 haircare, skincare, make up and beard-grooming brands under beauty guru Pirrotta’s umbrella will be available: Gloss Moderne, David Mallett, Verso, Grown Alchemist, Shiva Rose and more.
Cassano was familiar with Pirrotta’s lines, which are sold at Barneys in New York and Violet Grey in Los Angeles, as the grooming expert’s advice is often sought out by (and his products featured in) national magazines like Vogue, Details and GQ.
The whole idea behind Privet Lives, says Cassano, was to create a concept space for brands, designers and artisans she and Lambertson admired who weren’t well distributed in the area. The shop is completely transformed for each collaboration in order to better represent the unique vision of each creator.
And how does Cassano persuade the people she’s chosen to set up shop in New Preston? “I’m not above stalking people if I like their stuff,” she says. “When I first met with Pirrotta Brands, I was already thinking “‘apothecary pop-up.’”
Pirrotta, a Glastonbury, Conn. native who spent a lot of time in Litchfield County growing up, jumped at the chance to feature his products at Privet, which he calls one of his favorite homes stores in the country. “I’ve looked up to Suzanne and Richard for years, and for them to ask us to be part of it was such a compliment. They’re located in a small town, but everyone watches what they’re doing. People drive from all over New England to shop and spend the day in New Preston.”
Cassano, for her part, is still surprised when people say yes to these joint ventures. But mostly, she says, she’s thrilled. “We’re pretty lucky to have all of David’s products right now.” And so are we, but make plans soon, because your luck runs out on June 18.
Privet Lives (adjacent to Privet House)
13 East Shore Rd., New Preston, CT
Wednesday – Monday, 11 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
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Organic By John Patrick Trunk Show Is A Natural At J. Seitz
By Jacque Lynn Schiller
Sustainability and transparency are buzzwords often thrown about these days. But for Hudson Valley resident and the namesake behind Organic by John Patrick, fair labor and green awareness shouldn’t be radical ideas but the norm. In fact, he introduced the world’s first certified organic cotton oxford shirt and his business continues be the model of a truly eco-friendly fashion label.
“It is the job of the manufacturer and designer to produce the highest quality product and deliver it to the customer,” the designer says. “They shouldn’t be in the dark. My clients, our friends, trust us because we tell them exactly what it is.”
Patrick’s clients and friends include the beloved J. Seitz shop in New Preston, Conn., where the designer will bring a special grouping of his latest collection at a trunk show on April 30.
After designing hats in the 80s (his first customer was Barney’s) then making ready-to-wear pieces for specialty stores in the 90s, Patrick moved to South America and lived in Peru, working with anthropologist, James Vreeland, who discovered color-grown cotton. Perhaps uncovered is the better word, as the farming phenomena resulting in naturally dyed fibers has been practiced in the Andes for hundreds of years.
“Through James, I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge about native organic cotton and its certification,” says Patrick. “Not a lot of textiles were being made in organic cotton at that time, but I basically convinced a very large industrial mill in Peru to produce the textiles.”
The Organic by John Patrick slip, camisole and some organic cotton t-shirts were ecstatically welcomed by (“kindly brought into” as he puts it) the fashion industry, resulting in many magazine profiles and recognition from the prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of America. In other words, this clothing concept with a conscience was swiftly acknowledged as something special.
Now with customers all over the world, Organic by John Patrick has grown into a highly respected, global business without compromising ethics. And while available in discriminating shops and online, on Saturday, April 30, a highly curated selection of incredibly soft, earthy-hued pieces will be available at J. Seitz. Not only can you meet the fascinating man himself — seriously, he can wax rhapsodic on a range of subjects from the cultivation of cotton in the US to the heritage of spinning and weaving in Southern Mexico — but also pick up a few of his favorite things that sometimes don’t make it to retailers. And this: customers will receive a 10-percent discount on Organic purchased during the show. It’s a rare event.
“We do not do trunk shows. Ever. But I love the Seitzes and they have a wonderful mom and pop business,” the designer says. “Joanna [Seitz] asked me to do it. I said absolutely.”
And Joanna holds a similar enthusiasm for Patrick’s work. “John is a wonderfully eccentric and creative spirit,” she shares. “His authentic and beautiful American-made clothing embodies his personal beliefs about sustainability and the environment. He lives his life based on these principles. We’ve been carrying the line for many years and our clients can’t get enough of his soft organic tees and sweaters. Who wants to put chemicals next to their skin when they can chose something organic and chic instead.”
Can’t argue with you there, J. Seitz. Nor with Patrick’s plan while in the area. “When I come over there I’m also going to stop at Guy Wolff (Pottery, in Bantam, Conn.) and pick myself up some pots.”
Like his line, his thumb is green as well.
John Patrick Trunk Show at J. Seitz
Saturday, April 30, 2-5 p.m.
9 East Show Road, New Preston, CT