When Russell Hatch and Michael Morrissey bought a weekend house in Claverack a few years back, they “littered it” (as Hatch puts it) with carpets and ceramics from Turkey, a country they’d frequently visited on vacation. “We love the patterns and colors, the blues in the tiles, and the reds and variety of dyes in the kilims,” says Hatch. Morrissey, a onetime corporate travel agent, was interested in opening a retail store, and the couple realized a mini Turkish bazaar would have no competition on Hudson’s antiques-laden Warren Street.
In spring of 2004 they launched Otto, a small, cheery shop carrying tiles, ceramics, textiles, and, as their motto has it, “Things Turkish for the Home.” Hatch, who by day is chair of the science department at Horace Mann School in the Bronx, made one additional import, this time from Chicago: his mother, Crickett, who runs the store.
Recently, the inventory has grown to include objects from the Middle East and North Africa, including pottery from Morocco and tiny pastel glass bottles and mother-of-pearl boxes from Egypt. “Part of the fun of having a shop is meeting interesting people,” says Hatch. “There are people from all over the country — and all over the world — walking up and down Warren Street.”
437 Warren St., Hudson
Jenny Wonderling calls her High Falls store, Nectar, “a feast for the senses.” It’s certainly a visual feast, with colorful objects from India, Africa, and Asia ranging from candles and inexpensive accessories to Algerian beaded doors, garden statuary, Bedouin rugs, and cabinets intricately inlaid with camel bone. You can walk around the store five times and discover something new on each circuit, then cross the street and see more (including a gorgeous nickel-silver soaking tub) in the outpost opposite.
Wonderling, whose career includes stints in the restaurant biz and as a writer, opened the shop in late 2005 after a friend came back from India with a load of merchandise and no plan of what to do with it. “It was timing,” says Wonderling, who had been contemplating starting a business of some sort. “The space was available, and the stuff wasn’t like anything being sold in shops nearby.”
It was also serendipity. “I studied anthropology, and I was always interested in world culture, so this is a good excuse to travel,” she says with a laugh. “And I love that so much of what I buy is fair trade; that’s an important ethical side.”
Don’t miss the back room devoted to organic, hand-blended teas and accoutrements. “The tea business is alive and well,” declares Wonderling, who may serve you a cup. “Foreign as it is,” she remarks of her inventory, “it attracts every type of person, every age. People are starving for texture, things that are handmade. We’ve gone so far in the other direction.”
1412 Rte. 213, High Falls
White Rice owners Rudy Huston and Mary Vaughn Williams met in the mid-’80s when both were students in New Orleans. After graduating, the couple set off on a long visit to India, where Williams was captivated by the fabrics she discovered. During a sojourn in Goa, she “bought some bolts of hand-loomed fabric, found herself a little tailor shop, and started making clothes,” Huston recounts. “That was the beginning. But it’s hard to ship anything out of India.”
In Bali, though, where their trip ended, they found beautiful batiks — and a blossoming textile industry with export companies in place. “We were smitten; we just fell into it,” Huston says. They launched White Rice as a wholesale clothing label in 1988, shuttling between their Manhattan apartment and a thatched house in Bali. Then, in 2002, with children to consider, they decided to open a retail store — and branch into furnishings. “We’d bring a container of wood things from Java, and our neighbors and friends would snap it up,” Huston says.
Exorbitant city rents sent them searching in the Hudson Valley for a place where the “worldly customer” might be on the prowl. “We drove down Warren Street on a Sunday night in the rain, the lamps were casting a glow… We looked at each other, and that was it,” Huston says. “Within two months, we were building owners.” That was seven years ago. After a 27-dumpster makeover, the four-story, 1856 building became their home and offices, and in 2004 they opened the store. Clothing takes up one half of the space; furnishings from Java and Bali the other. You’ll find ornately carved Colonial-era cabinets and daybed panels, as well as transoms from demolished homes and other lovely architectural remnants that Huston is passionate about salvaging. There are also benches, armoires, and consoles made of reclaimed teak, and accents like copper bowls, pottery, drums, and whimsical oil paintings depicting what Huston calls “the lovely, breezy lifestyle of Bali.”
531 Warren St., Hudson
The only sign that this 7,000-square-foot emporium was once a supermarket is the one still attached to the front of the building. All humdrum comestibles are gone, replaced by objects ranging from a $4 recycled plastic change purse made last week to a stone Buddha from Afghanistan, carved in the third century and yours for 150 thousand bucks. In between, you may find a Ming Dynasty altar table, mid-century Danish furniture, a Moorish wall clock, Japanese masks, or a British Colonial dressing table.
The store, which houses the fascinating finds of 14 globe-trotting dealers, was opened in 2002 by Able Sun, himself an import from Hong Kong who came to the U.S. 20 years ago to study international law. These days he divides his time between practicing in New York City and overseeing this treasure trove.
“I travel extensively — it’s my passion — so I liked the concept of having items from many different countries and periods,” says Sun, who believes the most interesting interiors are mix-and-match affairs (and whose Federal townhouse in Hudson reflects that view).
The store offers a couple of pleasing bonuses: A floral designer has a booth in the front, where orchids and other blossoming plants offer an earthy, sweet-smelling welcome as you walk in. And farther back is a little café area, with sofas and chairs where you can plop down with a cappuccino or a cup of tea and perhaps a dessert goodie. “The concept is that the husband can sit and have coffee while the wife shops,” Sun jokes.
310-312 Warren St., Hudson
Like many a weekender before her, Maria Mendoza longed to find a way to move full-time to the Hudson Valley without giving up a career that was thriving in Manhattan. She’d been an interior designer for 25 years, some of those with the posh architectural firm Swanke Hayden Connell, and had launched her own company, Marigold Interior Design, so she had credentials aplenty.
“But nobody up here knew me,” says Mendoza, who now lives in Woodstock. “So Marigold Home is a front, to show what I have to offer.” The store, which opened just outside of Kingston in March 2008, carries an attractive, affordable mix of things from Europe, Asia, and the U.S. that reflects Mendoza’s taste, but is likely to appeal to almost anyone. “I like to go with what’s current but classic — stylish things rather than a trend,” she explains. “I always design depending on the need of the client.”
The store carries upholstered and traditional furniture as well as quirky pieces — like a twig canopy bed, and purple molded rubber chairs from Amsterdam. You’ll also find Italian pottery, Venetian glass, French table linens, English tableware, cutwork pillows from Hungary, lamps, picture frames, rag rugs, throws, candles, and soaps — as well as lovely things for babies.
“I want my customers to be inspired by the ambiance; I want them to feel good when they’re here,” says Mendoza, who plays soft classical music in the store to soothe any anxious browsers. (She is a classical pianist herself.) You may also get a welcome from one of her two big black poodles, who work in the store with her (although they snooze a lot).
747 Rte. 28, Kingston
You may remember Four Winds in Rhinebeck, or perhaps the original branch in Stone Ridge. Both stores carried handsome, solid furniture and housewares from Indonesia, gorgeous Kurdish rugs, carpets and kilims from Afghanistan and Pakistan, and intriguing home accessories like painted mirrors, bronze dragons, carved figures, and outdoor lava stone planters. The remaining Rhinebeck shop “was going well until the economy tanked,” says Patrick Sweeney, who owns the business with his wife, Cynthiana. “Then we had to get slim and trim.”
That meant closing the store and opening the High Falls warehouse to the public — with all the same cool merchandise, at discounted prices. Anyone who enjoys antiquing or sale shopping will love poking around here.
Luckily, this downturn doesn’t faze the Sweeneys as much as it might less blithe spirits. The pair met on the road in the mid-’80s while following the Grateful Dead. When Jerry Garcia went to Hawaii, they did too. “Our first date was six glorious weeks on a beach,” recalls Patrick, who had been manufacturing clothing in Guatemala when he wasn’t at concerts. After their stay in Hawaii, the love birds set up shop in tropical Bali. “I was enchanted with Bali,” he says, and the couple went back and forth until, as Sweeney puts it, “the advent of children meant we had to clip our wings.” They settled down and opened the first store in 2000, importing housewares instead of garments.
The Sweeneys still travel to Bali on occasional buying trips, although these days, “it depends on school,” says Patrick, who still misses their days on the road. “When the kids are grown, me and the wife are going to hop in the motor home and go,” he says. Fair warning. Meanwhile, the warehouse is open on weekends or by appointment.
2452 Lucas Tpke., High Falls