A few months ago, Seth Baird was walking with his fiancé and friends in Woodstock when he passed by the open storefront that would come to house Baird’s General, a gathering place for regionally made foods, crafts, home goods, and antiques. His fiancé told him that he should open up a small business in the space, but garnered nothing more than a chuckle from Baird in response. The dismissal turned out to be short-lived, however––the next day, Baird contacted the owner, and by Memorial Day Weekend, Baird’s General was open, proudly announcing its existence to passersby with bright rainbow bands of color painted on the edges of the window panes.
Before the pandemic, Baird had been living in Manhattan, working in administrative support for a private equity firm. He had finished business school, transitioning away from his previous career as an actor, a few months before COVID-19 swept the city. Baird and his fiancée had moved to the Hudson Valley to continue working remotely when they realized that they didn’t want to return, prompting Baird to reexamine his professional priorities. Opening the general store, he’s found his place amongst the ecosystem of small businesses in the area, working with Damn Good Honey, Phoenicia Soap, Tree Juice, Papa’s Best Batch, Hudson Harvest, Stony Brook WholeHeartedFoods, and Creekside Farms to provide local and artisanal goods.
“We carry as many Hudson Valley products as we can,” says Baird. “Items that you can get from my store support not just my small businesses, but a dozen others as well.” That list includes honey, maple syrup, jams, beef jerky, pickles, sauces, nuts, soaps, paintings, and antique finds. He tries to find local small businesses not yet represented in Woodstock, “to give them a voice to the tourists and the locals who are trying to broaden their wheelhouse of places to support.”
Baird describes the inside of the store as “a big treasure hunt.” Modeled after the general stores of the 1920s with the addition of “weird, modern touches,” customers can find canned goods mixed up with small plastic animals that Baird has placed around the store for both the customer’s entertainment as well as his own. “I have bugs next to the bug spray,” he chuckles.
Central to the scene are two large wooden tables, topped with fruit spreads, soaps, oils, sprays, and jars of various pickled substances. Below them sits a neatly stacked tea set, alongside an amalgam of ceramic bowls and wicker baskets. Above the fireplace, there shelves are stocked with clocks, vases, and bits of petrified wood. Cards handwritten in colorful marker distinguish the hot sauces from the maple syrup.
Baird is committed to his store being a tolerant, welcoming space. “I like to think our place is a safe haven,” says Baird. “As a gay man, I wanted to make sure my shop was inclusive.” Reducing waste is also paramount for Baird, who thinks of the general store as a way to place previously owned products “that might otherwise be found in some landfill” in the homes of happy customers.
The basement displays entirely vintage products and antiques. “There are little hidden gems of thrift store and auction finds,” Baird says. “I wanted to give these things a new life. Everyone is worried about getting newer, bigger, and better things, but sometimes the older things are better.”
Baird’s General is open Monday through Thursday 11am-5pm, Friday 10:30am-5:30pm, and weekends 10am-6pm.
Baird’s General LLC
34 Tinker Street, Woodstock, NY 12498