Lizzie Douglas is the proprietor of Stick in the Mud, a recently-opened cafe and store selling local goods and produce, in the ground floor storefront of the Bussy Building in Margaretville.
JNU: What brought you to the Catskills?
LD: The connection I have with the Catskills was that my daughter originally had a second home here.
Where did you raise your daughter?
My daughter lives in Brooklyn.
Did you live in NYC for a long time?
No, I have never lived in NYC. Before I came here I was living in Colorado, in the Four Corners area. Before that, I was travelling all over as a tour director and before that I was living in London.
What took you to Colorado?
As a tour director I would take my groups on authentic stagecoach rides and we would do Hollywood, Vegas, Grand Canyon Wild West Style. We would do dinner and dancing afterwards. I met a stagecoach driver.
I used to put people from my groups onto his stagecoach rides and I ended up marrying him and running the business with him in Colorado. We had over 60 tour buses rolling into our ranch in Colorado. [Laughs]
That sounds idyllic.
Yes, like here it was god’s country, that’s for sure.
Have you always been a country girl?
Not really. I couldn’t wait to get to the bright lights. I grew up in a small town in Scotland: very country, a dairy, cattle and coal mining area. I couldn’t wait to get to the bright lights of London and never looked back really. I’ve kind of come full circle, back to my roots in a sense, back to the country and the simple life that I grew up with. But in the meantime, I went a bit crazy out there and did everything possible. So I was definitely a city girl for a while.
What did you do in the bright lights of London?
I worked for a company called Guerlain, a French perfume company. I started off working part-time for them in department stores like Harrods and Selfridge’s when I was bringing up my kids in London at the time. I progressed up the ladder and became national promotional team leader in the end.
I bet you did.
I was with them for fifteen years. From there I became a tour guide and my kids had grown up by this time and left the nest. I got this amazing job as a tour director for a British tour company and travelled all over Europe, America, Australia and Japan.
You’re a world traveller, Lizzie.
Not really, but I have done so much within that job that was awesome, that was just the best fun ever. Within that job I met my husband and we partnered up to build that business in Colorado and unfortunately because of personal stuff it didn’t work out. So I headed back over this way, thinking about heading back to London, but not really sure. I stayed up here in the Catskills to do all my howling at the moon and forgetting about everything and thinking now what? I found the Catskills a great healing place at the time after going through a divorce, etc. So it’s very dear to me, the Catskills.
How long have you lived here?
This is my seventh year now. I feel very much at home here. I feel content; there it is, content. I’m content to see the eagle fly down the river; content to see the seasons change right in front of my eyes; to have a community that is so much fun and a caring, loving community, supporting each other. It’s definitely feels like home.
I find people are really entrepreneurial up here.
That’s the golden ticket, right there.
I’ve hit the nail on the head, have I?
Yes, but I just don’t like that expression. [Laughs] Your golden ticket, you have to find your golden ticket in the Catskills to survive. Whatever it takes, you have to be resilient and hardy to live in the Catskills. Even if you are extremely talented, there may not be the demand for your skill. Therefore, you have to reinvent yourself, adapt to life around you, find your niche and finance yourself to stay in this paradise.
You have to work hard. I think my Scottish upbringing really has stood me in good stead for that… always look on the bright side mentality. I totally have that. You have to do everything with 100% and gusto.
You’re so right. What did you do when you first rocked up to the Catskills and had a look around?
Well, as a matter of fact, I was looking here, there and everywhere. It was all mom-and-pop businesses in the village here. The one place that I never actually walked into to find out if they needed anyone was the shoe shop. At the time, I remember looking at the windows and thinking, oh, with boxes piled here, that I could never work in there. I tried everywhere else but there, so it’s ironic that I ended up getting a job there. I had two jobs: one at Hannah being the floor manager, but there was something calling me to the shoe shop. So I took that job on a full-time basis and that’s where I worked for six years and it’s one of the best places I’ve ever been. There’s something in that Bussy Building that is where I’m destined to be. [Laughs] I can’t explain, but I know it. It’s the history and the people that have come and gone in that building. It’s such a landmark building and we’re all just passing through it. So for me to hear, in the years of being in that space, stories of people coming home for holidays or their childhood memories when it was the grocery store, right through to the present day… Most people have fond memories of the shoe shop too.
You really did make that shoe shop your own. (Literally!)
It was out of my control. It was all destined, I believe.
Yes, because now you have Stick in the Mud in that same location. Tell us about that.
I kind of knew I was destined to go back into that space [after the shoe shop closed], but the first thing I wanted to do was to get everything out and go back to the original floor boards. I wanted to tap into the old Bussy Grocery Store again. I feel the energy even more now that the floorboards are exposed.
Tell us about the Bussy Building
It’s a three-story building, originally a grocery store. Upstairs they used to have shoes and clothing. Downstairs was a butcher’s shop, a grocery store and a cheese store. Everyone remembers there being a big wheel of cheese on a big dandelion wine barrel. That was back when you could cut your own cheese off the wheel. The butcher would always have a bone for your dog and you could send your kids down to get the groceries that would be ready and waiting for them and bagged behind the counter. Everyone wore white aprons and that’s why we wear white aprons at Stick in the Mud. People come in here as adults now and tell me all about their childhood memories and what the Bussy Building meant to them. Everyone loves the building.
After the grocery store closed, there were various other retail outlets. Now it’s my time there with Stick in the Mud, to bring into the village, under one roof all the wares of the farms in the area. So we’re hoping to build on that. Not to bring back the old grocery store, but in a different way. The general concept is to know where your food is coming from, really. It’s from right here on our doorstep and it’s in abundance all around us. That’s where we’re heading and inspired by the grocery store and by the old-fashioned idea of getting your dinner in one place. And all farm to table, which is very easy to do around here. Lucky Dog Farm hub delivers all down the Route 28 corridor all the way to Brooklyn.
Will you have events and parties at Stick in the Mud?
Yes, that’s really exciting. The space definitely lends itself to a party atmosphere. We have already booked a couple of parties, although at the moment we’re taking baby steps, but we’ve got a lot going on even though we haven’t even started advertising yet. We haven’t been open six months yet.
When did you open?
We opened for Thanksgiving weekend and we only opened that weekend for the sake of the community who was a huge support in helping me get open with the GoFundMe account. So were able to get the doors open for Thanksgiving so people weren’t coming back home from the holidays and seeing this landmark building all closed up in darkness. We just thought it was the right thing to do, so we brought everything forward.
Do you still have your radio show on WIOX?
I sure do. I love my radio show.
How long have you been on the radio?
Five years almost from the beginning. My first show on the air was New Year’s Day and all my family were listening in from Scotland. It was a Scottish show originally called Scotch on the Rocks.
How did you get the radio show?
Again, that was from the shoe shop, you know, everything kind of generated from there. CJ, another DJ, came in and I got to know her and she kept telling me, “you must get to the radio station. They’ll love you with your accent”. I never did, but one day she came into the shop and told me she had set up an appointment for me at such-and-such a time. So I found myself there, completely petrified, at the board, and just being drawn into this fun vortex. Where the heck would you get such an opportunity to do this? I don’t know anywhere where I would have this opportunity again!
When’s the show?
8-10am on Saturdays.
Yes, it’s called Wake Up a Go-Go.
Do you have to get an early night on Friday?
Normally I do. There are exceptions. I leap out of bed in the morning for the most part because I still get such a kick out of it.
What inspires you most about the Catskills?
Oh, the pure honesty of it all. The beauty and the honesty: this is it. You get what you get. You get your harsh winters, your beautiful springs, the pure water and the pure air. It’s incredible to just watch the sky change. You can drive for miles and not see another car. I feel inspired just by watching every day life here.
The Catskill Mountains attract creative people. There are so many creative people here that are just so giving of their talent. You know, the Dalai Llama was in Woodstock and I think this whole area has a very spiritual connection too. He saw that and he commented on it: how beautiful everything is and gently flowing. It’s calming. I would say I remind myself every day that we really are just passing through here.
What you mean spirits passing through?
When I used to be a tour director I would be at the Grand Canyon every Wednesday for six months of the year. I would find my little spot when my group was off taking photographs. I had my little secret spot that was very quiet. I would think of my family back home and just look at the wonder of the Grand Canyon, which has a great history. You can read it just like a book. It’s ancient history and we’re just here passing through. We don’t have too long, so enjoy, embrace and be kind.