High Falls Mercantile

Looking for a creative collection of antique, vintage and new things for the home? Head to High Falls

As any of its 700-some residents will tell you, my hometown, High Falls, is the Center of the Universe (that’s it’s official nickname, too). It’s a pretty hamlet, with restaurants running from quirky to fine, a wonderful florist-cum-jewelry shop, two potteries, a museum, and several cool home furnishing stores. One of those is High Falls Mercantile, where you’ll find a mix of new, antique, vintage and reproduction furniture and accessories, as well as some quirky curiosities. Walk in and ask “what’s new?” and Larry Ruhl, one of the owners, will likely point to something old, as he did when I dropped in last week. (In this case, it was a truly unusual collection of one-of-a-kind, papier-mâché-covered wicker boxes from China, circa 1940s.)

Ruhl and Jeff Serouya (“partners in life, business, and animal ownership,” as Ruhl cheerfully puts it) are transplants from New York, who went in search of furnishings for their home in the Hudson Valley when they moved here a few years ago. They didn’t find the kind of store they were looking for, so in 2004, they opened their own in a renovated 19th-century building in the heart of High Falls (which, as I mentioned earlier, is the center of the universe).

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papier mache boxA one-of-a-kind, 1940s Chinese papier-mâché box

botanical printThe Maggot-Bearing Staphelia, one of many colorful botanical prints

Their flair for mixing old, quirky, and traditional furnishings was on display from the start, most notably in the original, sometimes phantasmagorical, window dressings that Ruhl creates. (They look even better at night.) Both also have an eye for the beauty of everyday objects, as you’ll see from the framed fragments of wallpaper or old tools, tractor parts, and fishing spears mounted on end like sculptures.

The new merchandise runs from notepads and linen dishtowels to dinnerware and glassware, cotton and wool rugs, beautiful pillows, upholstery fabric by the yard, and cushy sofas and chairs. A concrete pedestal coffee table for $525 would look dramatic indoors or out. Among the antique furniture recently were some Mission-style dining chairs for $125 each. Vintage pieces include ironstone, transferware, lusterware, mismatched silver-plate cutlery, glazed mixing bowls and pitchers from the 1940s and ’50s, and, last week at least, a folding screen made of narrow, old door panels. There are all kinds of interesting prints, too. I loved the vibrant botanicals (including one of The Maggot-Bearing Staphelia, above right), and the framed, old pressed-flower botanicals from the late 1800s.

inside the shop Old and new kitchenware and accessories sit side by side

The store smells wonderful, thanks to the Santa Maria Novella soaps, fragrances and beauty products. The Florentine apothecary has been milling soaps and making nice-smelling things since it was founded by Dominican Friars around 1221, and has evidently perfected the art over the centuries. Cheap it isn’t: a bar of soap can run $40, but the scents are heavenly, the ingredients are all natural and not tested on animals, and the soap “lasts forever,” Ruhl says. “We have a crazy customer base for that line. Crazy for it, I mean.”

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If you have trouble visualizing, Ruhl will let you take things home to see if they’ll work. If you have trouble pulling it all together, he’s an interior designer, and can help. Serouya works in real estate, but you’ll often catch him in the store. (“Mostly I keep Jeff for important things like taking out the trash,” Ruhl jokes.) Both will give you a warm welcome, even if you’re only browsing. They like well-behaved dogs, too. For more information, click here, and check out their video on YouTube.

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