Shopping small

By CASS COLLINS
Posted 12/4/19

Our small-business owners are the lifeblood of our community. At a time when monster malls are sitting empty and Amazon is gobbling the world’s retail economy, they are the ones we go to every …

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Shopping small

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Our small-business owners are the lifeblood of our community. At a time when monster malls are sitting empty and Amazon is gobbling the world’s retail economy, they are the ones we go to every day for a loaf of fresh bread or our favorite coffee. They greet us in the morning at yoga class. They suggest a wine pairing for our barbecue. In a small town, the profit margin can be slimmer than a shaving of Parmesan, especially for a new business. The entrepreneur can have to devote both time and money to get the business to a point of profit, or even sustainability. If you live in a small town, you may already know what I’m saying is true because you, too, are a small-business owner.

In the 20 years we have been in Narrowsburg, we have seen almost every storefront turn over. The future home of The Tusten Cup was the office of The River Reporter. Laurie Stuart, the publisher, was the first person to welcome us to town. The Heron was the Chatterbox Cafe, owned by Jill Padua. Later it was Dave’s Big Eddy Diner, then just the Big Eddy. The Laundrette was not an artisanal pizza place and bar but a real laundromat and car wash. (It was also my imagined pipe dream Tiki Bar on the river.) One Grand Books held the workshop of Kelly Dean, a maker of extraordinary hand-crafted bears, sought after by international collectors.

My old friend, the artist Margo Spoerri, had her studio on Main Street, where Narrowsburg Proper is now. When Margo was there, the front windows displayed her atmospheric paintings. In the back, she painted on an easel, her oil paints laid out on a palette. While she was painting, her long dark hair was pinned up and out of the way and she was dressed in paint-splattered old clothes, quite the contrast to her afternoon salon attire. When friends and potential collectors dropped by on weekends, she would be elegantly dressed, a splash of red lipstick on her lips, and seated on one of the set of velvet chairs she had acquired from a disgraced yogi, holding court over a bottle of wine. She would welcome you enthusiastically once she had determined your identity either from the sound of your voice or the self-introduction her friends practiced: “It’s Cass, Margo.” Her blindness did not deter her from painting marvelous canvases or from reading voraciously using a myriad of devices as her vision deteriorated.

The River Gallery was home to Barbara Braathen’s gallery. Some of the artists she represented still show at The River Gallery. The quality of the work was impressive for a small town.

The Chi Hive, ever-evolving yoga studio, gym and space for the expressive arts, was a warren of rooms filled with thrift-store “antiques” and used but usable furniture perfect for budget-stretched second-home owners.

The twin anchors of Main Street, Rasmussen’s Furniture and the eponymous Funeral Parlor were owned by the Rasmussen family then. (“They gotcha comin’ and goin’,” we used to say.) Now both are shuttered after a massive fire a few years ago. But across the street, Charles Blanchard still weaves his magic every day on a loom that turns out one-of-a-kind rugs and wall art fit for a museum.

I was sorry to note the passing of a favorite small-town cafe in Callicoon recently. Adella Dori was the kind of place you hope will last forever. I planned my week around visits there, either after an Agway trip or the farmers’ market on Sundays at Callicoon Creek Park. Eva Barnett practiced her whole-earth beliefs while serving some of the cleanest, freshest food around. We will miss her and wish her well in the future.

Shop small, everyone!

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