This Christmas morn dawned with an unusually warm temperature of 40F, only dropping a degree or two as the day went on. Gusty breezes blow, and tumultuous water flows due to recent rains and the snow melt from the high peaks. Merry Christmas!
26F at 7am, overcast with thick, foggy cloud cover, sun just managing to break through mid-morning amidst light flurries. 36F by 12.30pm, branches dripping with melting snow.
Go to Blue Barn Antiques, in Shandaken/Phoenicia for some excellent bargains on high-quality antiques like this Rockwell-painted plate (above) for $15. There is still a pile left with different Rockwell paintings. Other utterly gorgeous vintage and antique dresses are still there alongside modern artisanal products like Pillowtique’s pillows and handmade crafts.
The artistic and entrepreneurial spirit is thriving indomitably in the Catskills where you’ll increasingly find more accomplished artists, tastemakers and downright fascinating people bringing their urban pursuits to the country. Furthermore, most businesses worth spotlighting here in the Catskills seem to be owned by women. Faye Storms has owned Blue Barn Antiques on Route 28 in Shandaken since 1979, having moved to the Catskills from NYC. “My husband brought me up here to recover from a sports injury and I fell in love with the place,” she says. “Then he put a bid on the store after we got married”. Storms learned the antiques trade after she bought the property, went to auctions, studied books, talked to people and set up the store. Shortly thereafter, she and her husband got into reproduction furniture which made them hugely popular. “There was nothing like it in the area at the time. We had cars lining up down the street.” The property has an interesting history having been a farm, a store and a luncheonette with a dancehall stage at the back that is still intact.
A graduate of FIT in New York City, Storms is also an accomplished artist – something that antique store owners seem to have in common in the area – a town council member and a real estate broker. She has firsthand knowledge that game changers and influencers, artists willing “to take a gamble or leap of faith” are pouring into the area and buying up property with the intent to start enterprises and encourage growth in the area.
Blue Barn’s prices are also reasonable, making it the place for an exciting bargain. A red, antique, ankle-length dress made in Shanghai, pictured below was $36. The store is also frequented by stylists for motion pictures, dinner theatres and fashion shoots.
There are two buildings on the Blue Barn property: a one-storey building (pictured top) and a two-storey building next to it, which Storms is slowly turning into a dealer center with all different dealers of various wares in addition to antiques like clothing, arts and crafts. You’ll find Theadora Anema’s Pillowthique, which featured early on Upstate Dispatch.
From 12pm to 5pm this coming Saturday December 6th, there will be an open house at the Blue Barn.
Blue Barn Antiques, 7053 State Route 28, Shandaken, (3 miles west of Phoenicia), New York. Open winter hours: Saturday and Sundays, 11-5pm.
Catskills’ artist Alix Travis has released a coloring book based on her own drawings for ages 7 and upwards. The book, priced at $15.50, will be available at the Commons Gallery, Margaretville, when it opens for the new show December 2nd to 31st, “Abstracts by Christopher Engel; Sculpture by Anthony Margiotta; Figures by Alix Hallman Travis”, the reception being December 6 from 3pm to 5pm.
Every dollar that you spend locally is 5 to 7 times the value of that expenditure to your community. When you shop at a big box store you’re diverting your capital directly out of your community to places like Asia, where most American products are made and wherever the owners of the big box store live. Furthermore, big box stores notoriously pay low wages to their workers, so by regularly shopping in those stores you’re contributing to the large-scale expansion of a low-wage job sector, such is the power of your wallet. Moreover, it’s no secret that government is bought and paid for by large corporations through lobbying and campaign fund contributions, the Supreme Court now having ruled that those contributions may be unlimited. Even if every American decided to vote in the next election, this fact would remain unchanged. This means we are remarkably more powerful when we are spending our money than when we are voting. All the power is in our purse and how we spend our hard-earned money, quite an extraordinary fact. Think about what would happen if we all stopped shopping for a few days, or stopped buying brand-new products, or only purchased food from our local farmer.
One way to buy local and recycle is to choose vintage stores for your Christmas shopping, thereby saving your economy and your environment in one fell swoop. One such place here in the Catskills is Mystery Spot Antiques in Phoenicia owned by Laura Levine, an artist who has shown work at the MOMA and has work in the permanent collection in the National Portrait Gallery. Laura has a superbly discerning eye and has filled her “odditorium” with magnificent, beautifully unique gifts like a snakeskin purse, a shearling coat, Liberty of London ties, gorgeously dainty Czech glass goblets and a bucket of polaroid cameras.
“I have always collected weird things my entire life,” she says. “I’m from the city. I grew up in the city, but my parents had a little cabin upstate when I was a kid and we used to go to yard sales and in the city I always used to go to flea markets.” Her antique store used to be in a little multi-dealer store in Phoenicia Plaza, near where the Phoenicia Diner is now. She had a 10 x 10 booth and stocked it with antiques until the placed closed down. “I had 30 days to move my things out and I was either going to sell it all or take the next step and open my own shop. I wasn’t going to do that, but I found a little space on the boardwalk in Phoenicia for $200 a month, so I took it. I opened over the summer for 20 days a year and the store grew from there.” That was over 13 years ago and five years ago the shop moved to its current, much larger and more prominent location on Main Street.
The store has just invested in two pick-up truck loads from an estate sale that she is still picking her way though, but her favorite thing of the moment is a steel shoe mold from a shoe factory, in a men’s size eight. “The thrill of the hunt is really the fun part,” says Laura who still lives in New York City and has an employee run the store for most of the time. “When I am at the store, I love meeting my customers. I’ve made some really great friends. I feel like it attracts kindred spirits and I always end up having something in common with the customers, like our paths crossed in the music business or the art world or something.”
For this weekend’s Small Business Saturday, the store is displaying a table of gift suggestions which range in price from 25 cents (for vintage greeting cards) to about $200, but the average price at the table is $20-$30. Gift certificates are also available: perfect for Christmas and especially if you’d like your in-laws to visit more! Entice them back to claim their gift.
If you’re wondering why Davy Crockett is outside, he’s a loaner from the neighboring Sportsman’s Cantina, moved there after Hurricane Irene, that Laura was thrilled to receive. It’s Davy’s birthday on August 17th and last year they had a Davy Crockett day during which customers dressed up as Crockett and local businesses donated prizes.
Go and have a dig around yourself in Mystery Spot Antiques, 72 Main Street, Phoenicia, New York: (845) 688-7868. Open weekends only for the winter, Saturday 11am to 6pm and Sunday 11am to 5pm. Find them on Facebook and Instagram. THIS WEEKEND ONLY: for Small Business Saturday on November 29th, get 20% off everything, except Mystery Spot Antiques’ tote bags and t-shirts.
Christmas is approaching. There’ll be caroling, midnight mass in unheated churches, parties in which you’ll not find the whisky to which you’ve become accustomed and bars wherein they’ll charge you $15 for a thimble-full of Scotland’s finest.
You’ll need a hip flask. Should you find yourself with an empty hip flask but no funnel this season, use a wooden chopstick. You’ll find one stuck between the center console of your car and the passenger seat.
Put the chopstick into the flask pointed side down. Hold the top of the (alcohol) bottle at the flat end of the chopstick and begin by gently soaking the top of the chopstick, then slowly follow this action through, tipping the bottle gently and pouring slowly.
Ensure that the chopstick doesn’t touch the inside of the flask rim when you’re pouring or the booze will spill over the side of the flask. In order to achieve this you can fix the chopstick, without having to hold it between your fingers, by trapping it in a horizontal position between the rim of the bottle and the bottom of the flask. You’re basically using the weight of the bottle to hold the chopstick in place while you pour. It’s easier to do this before you start drinking. A worthy flask should have its capacity stamped on the bottom in ounces or millliletres (see the third image on this post below) but if it doesn’t, a glass measuring jug or smaller bottle containing the flask’s capacity will also do the job.