Canvas + Clothier Brings the Department Store Back to Poughkeepsie

Photos by Dean Kaufman

This home goods and clothing store in Poughkeepsie is on a mission to bring back brick-and-mortar retail while revitalizing the neighborhood.

There hasn’t been a department store in downtown Poughkeepsie since Luckey, Platt & Company closed its doors in 1981. But last summer, an updated version made its debut on Garden Street, near the westbound arterial. Canvas + Clothier is, as its owners Mary Vaughn Williams and Jillian Grano call it, a micro-department store—a place to buy home goods, clothes for men and women, accessories, and even get a bite to eat.

Williams and Grano both have a background in retail and design. Williams has run Hudson Clothier in Hudson since 2014. Grano started Utility Canvas, a line of home goods, clothing, and bags, in the 1990s in the New Paltz area before moving to New York City. They’d been working together for eight years when they got the idea in 2020 to open a new store.

Canvas + Clothier store

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“Utility Canvas is one of my best-selling brands,” says Williams. But she didn’t have the space to include the whole home goods line. The catalyst behind the new store, says Williams, was to get a “bigger retail space to expand the vision of what we were both doing individually.”

That vision includes a deep commitment to selling sustainable, American-made goods that are fashionable and practical. And while the duo first looked for space in Brooklyn, they settled on Poughkeepsie after friends told them to check out the real estate there.

“The building that we moved into was the first one we looked at,” says Williams. Built in 1871, the loft-like structure was most recently home to law offices. Grano and Williams spent nearly nine months renovating it. But “we left it very raw,” says Williams, and reverted the interiors back to the original spaces featuring exposed pipes and cement floors.

“We loved the idea that it could be multi-level and be a part of what was driving a new economy in downtown Poughkeepsie,” says Grano.

Eat, Browse, Linger

Grano and Williams wanted to create a store that was, says Grano, “more meaningful than just a small, single-category boutique. We have to compete with the internet and people’s time.” Their inspiration stemmed from small, carefully curated department stores, including the now-defunct Henri Bendel in New York City, where both Grano and Williams grew up.

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“Our tagline is ‘linger, learn, eat, and shop,’” explains Williams, adding that many people come in just expecting a coffee shop, which is the first thing you see when you walk through the front door. The coffee and food, including baked goods from popular Kelly’s Bakery in Poughkeepsie, are worth a stop on their own.

But wander in a bit farther and you’ll enter the space showcasing men’s and women’s wear and accessories. The items are selected with an eye toward what Grano and Williams call the Hudson Valley lifestyle: practical, hardworking, casual classics. They’re timeless, too—denim dresses, vintage-style leather jackets, canvas overalls, and cotton tees—all USA-made brands like Prairie Underground, American Trench, and Xírena, as well as Grano’s Utility Canvas, Archerie, and Javelin clothing lines.

Canvas + Clothier store

The second floor is devoted to home goods, from bedding and tableware to cushions and aprons, all made by Utility Canvas. You’ll also find perfumes, soaps, and other scented bath items. There’s a large shelf solely dedicated to Utility Canvas bags—sturdy, colorful, everyday totes, weekend bags, and vacation duffels. Like the first floor, the items are all artfully arranged, and there are plenty of inviting nooks to sit and mull over a purchase.

And mull you may. The prices for most items are on the high end (think $100 for long-sleeved tees). That may not raise an eyebrow in, say, Rhinebeck (or most of Brooklyn), but they seem a little pricey for Poughkeepsie. Grano and Williams are conscious of that, and try to offer a range of more affordable products.

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Besides, they say, it’s important to know why things cost what they do. For them, it’s important to sell well-made, domestically produced goods that won’t end up in a landfill after one season. “That gets back to the ‘buy less, buy better’ thought process. What you buy is going to last and it’s going to get better with age,” says Williams, who adds that most people “just think about saving money. But what we really have to focus on is where does our money go when we spend it and how do we keep it in the community?”

Enjoy Art, Too

You’ll also find the “learn” part of the Canvas + Clothier tagline in the gallery space on the second floor. In February, the store hosted Alex Meltzer, a ceramicist from Newburgh. There’s also a multimedia show of Hudson Valley artists built around the theme of American Patchwork opening in April and running through the summer.

Canvas + Clothier accessories
A display at Canvas + Clothier

“The intent is to always have something that feels more museum-like so that there are more reasons to come here than to just shop,” says Grano. With its emphasis on local artists, the gallery also speaks to Canvas + Clothier’s mission to provide quality products to the community, whether it’s Poughkeepsie residents, Hudson Valleyites, or curious day trippers.

“We’re just excited for more people to discover us and Poughkeepsie,” says Grano. “And we’re super-excited to be here and really help spearhead the rejuvenation of the city.”

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