On a Monday afternoon, there's a few middle-aged men hunched over half-empty pints at the Dutch Ale House in Saugerties. They're watching "American Choppers" on mute and talking about the panoramic mural of an old pub scene painted above the shelves of booze. A few locals enter just to shout a greeting to the buddies they knew would be there, but decide to order a round when "Hotel California" spills from speakers placed somewhere overhead. (They'll order the house-brewed pale ale if they know what's good for them.)
This scene of casual camaraderie is one you'll find around the village; it just takes different forms depending on the shop or café. Saugerties is set up like a row of shoebox dioramas. When you look up, you'll see the same sturdy buildings, slightly weathered from years of grit, but nearly each one houses a modern, trendy, or at least decorative storefront window at its base that peeks into an atmosphere completely different from the next.
Across the street from the Ale House you'll find W Couture, for instance, where the mood is vibrantly feminine. Although the boutique feels luxurious—note the shimmering chandelier and elegant décor—owner Wendy Coffey's effervescent personality is as approachable as her selection of clothes and accessories. "For a long time I wanted to open a shop like this that would appeal to all kinds of women—different ages, different styles—and be affordable," she says. "We sell sizes 0-18, outfits for all occasions, and items to fit any budget." Find vintage-distressed cowboy boots by Old Gringo ("The best handmade-in-America boots you can find," she says) next to budget-friendly blouses, or sleek Michael Kors purses alongside sparkly costume jewelry. "People often tell me they feel like they stepped into a Manhattan boutique," she says, "but with much better prices. Plus, I have a background as a stylist and offer those services. Once a client is in the dressing room and they see what I can do, they get pretty darn excited, and they tend to keep coming back." As if to prove her point, before she finishes this statement, she's been interrupted three times by acquaintances coming in to say "Hello" or to check out the new Coach purses, and each person is greeted by name with a warm embrace and excited smile. Her customers are more like guests, and other shop owners are companions, not competitors.
In the Nest
While W Couture is compared to boutiques in the Big Apple, customers at Lighthouse—a housewares and entertaining gift shop on Partition Street—say the store seems to be right out of Cape Cod. "We wanted to open a shop to sell home and entertaining essentials that are both lovely and affordable, in an inviting atmosphere," says Kathleen Honzik, who co-owns the store with friend-since-fifth-grade Shari Weingarten. "We've always loved the Saugerties vibe, and because the Saugerties Lighthouse is pretty iconic we used it as the theme of our shop—bright and full of light."
The store offers a large selection of kitchen wares, from French-inspired glassware and table linens to colorful knives and gadgets, displayed on delicate shelves or in glass jars. There's also a selection of soaps, baby items, and gourmet products, including local cheese, teas, and honey. Between the background music, the scents from the soaps, and the owners' gentle, hostess demeanors—they even offer you coffee or cocoa as you walk in—you immediately feel the graceful presence upon entering. It's one of those places where people shopping in pairs coo over how cute an item is or how perfect gift it would be for so-and-so, but they do so in hushed voices, so as to not disturb the ambiance.
But if "the feminine touch" isn't a requirement in décor shopping, there are no shortage of other options to outfit your home. There is also the eclectic Rock Star Rodeo, offering everything from mounted deer heads to quirky figurines, plus a small selection of vintage clothes and locally made jewelry. Find sustainably produced, fair trade, and recycled housewares at Green, also on Partition Street. This shop offers three floors of products—antiques in the basement, midcentury furniture on the top floor, and everything in-between, well, in between. "Our bread and butter is the midcentury furniture," says co-owner Charlie Walker, "and that goes all the way up to the funky 1970s." The shop appears to be half estate sale, half mod boutique, and its selection is always growing.
While "gently used" seems to be a running theme between many shops, Dry Goods—a stationary, art, office supply, and gift shop—offers trendier items. "I can't believe how many mustache posters I've sold," says owner Karyn Pavic, motioning to the framed Field Guide to Mustaches on the wall. "A friend got it for me as a gift, and I thought it was great, so I started selling them. It's been a surprisingly big seller." Geek-chic and off-beat gifts seem to be the popular choices here, as the next big seller is stationary by Pantone, the trendsetting color experts that artists and designers swear by. The shop carries tables of quirky books, unique office supplies, colorful notecard sets, and a small selection of fun barware, plus wrapping paper and a wall of greeting cards for all occasions. A singular find worth mentioning: pens with casings crafted from used Jack Daniels whisky barrels, made locally by Trees2Pens. But besides offering a unique array of goods, Pavic, who also owns the Ale House with her husband, had set intentions for opening the shop. "For one thing, it drove me crazy that I'd have to go out of town to buy a decent birthday card or wrapping paper," she laughed. "But I also do a lot of graphic design work—business cards, invitations, logos—and I wanted to be able to offer it from a storefront. I've been familiar with the community for years through the Ale House, so I knew this would be a great location. I love Saugerties—we're like a big, laid-back family."