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One Mercantile

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Great Finds in a Little Locale

Mary pottery“I have dug my heels into this spot.” Maggie Calhoun is talking about Great Finds, her bright, airy, restored 1880’s millhouse perched directly across from the Cotton Mill Falls on Kinderhook Creek in Valatie. “I like the underdog. Valatie isn’t as posh or pretty as its Kinderhook-Chatham neighbors, but you’re going to drive through here to and from many, many places. And I love this spot.”

Columbia County born and bred, Calhoun knows about committing to a spot. She and Birge, her husband of 30-plus years, live on a piece of land that was passed down through nine generations of his family, who settled in the area in the late 1700s.

Although its Main Street has spruced up a lot since the old days, Valatie can sometimes still feel slightly Dickensian on the edges, but Calhoun saw value in the old mill town. “It’s on the way to so many places: Chatham, North Chatham & East Chatham, Kinderhook, Red Rock. You have to pass by, sit at the stop sign, and see me.”

Great FindsGreat Finds is a micro home and lifestyle department store, similar to Hammertown, a beacon to its south. Calhoun wants to be a little of everything to everybody, and Main Street’s main attraction: a women’s clothing and beauty boutique, gift shop with wedding registry, and kitchen and homegoods store. She carries a lot of insider, up-market housewares, including Casafina, Waechtersbach, Pillivuyt and Skyros, and unique recycled bottles-turned-wine-glasses from the Green Glass Company. “I try to find items made in the USA, or at least from favored European countries.”

Calhoun convinces a client of the practicality of the “gluggle pitcher,” a glazed ceramic water pitcher shaped like a fish that gurgles while you pour, insisting there is purpose in this odd item. “It’s definitely functional. I tend toward functional pieces; I don’t do tchotchkes or little things that say, ‘You’re cute and I love you.’ Even the gluggle pitcher is useful. They’re made in England from an old mold originally made in the 1870s. You can use it as a vase, but to use it as a pitcher fill it three quarters full and it gurgles.’ I test all the kitchen items myself, so I know they work. And I love colorful kitchenware,” like the JosephJoseph Hands-On Salad Bowl & Servers ($40).

Calhoun also goes local. “I like regional and local pieces. I work with five potters and they’re great—I sell their work every day of the week.” One of those is fine contemporary porcelain creations by Spencertown’s Mary Anne Davis, pictured at top.

Great Finds ClothesUpstairs, Great Finds is awash in a neutral color palette, with a stylish array of women’s clothes, bath goods, and baby items. Calhoun explains her approach: “Everything is here out of client necessity or request. The clothing part is difficult for me; I’m not exactly a fashion plate.” Calhoun leans toward the Yala bamboo line ($68 & up), with eco-friendly designs similar to Eileen Fisher. “I’m interested in a more moderate price point, although it doesn’t always turn out that way.”

She also carries linen and cotton sweaters from Avalin, Italian-made wrap sweaters by Italca, cashmere from White & Warren, and tummy-controlling Lysse Leggings, along with tops from New York based Lilla P, and hand-woven scarves imported by Sevya, a company dedicated to working with non-profits, cooperatives, and artisan families to improve working conditions and equipment.

Tucked into an opposite corner, the rug room is stocked with Dash & Albert from Pittsfield, along with special order options, and the bath/baby room offers soft bamboo towels from Weathered Stone Towels in nine neutral colors ($48), Pine Cone Hill slips and robes ($48 & up), organic baby clothes from Empress Arts ($24 & up), and Sckoon Organics and Jellycat stuffed toys like aardvarks and long-eared mutts. Lead-free heirloom pewter cups and spoons made in the USA by Beehive Kitchenware ($16) are also on display.

Great Finds“Oh, and beauty!” says Calhoun. “Let’s not forget beauty!” Calhoun stocks sought-after lines like FarmHouse Fresh, a Texas-based beauty line, handmade soaps and candles from locally loved Asia Luna in Pilmont, California-based EO Naturals organic body care products, and some of the most elegant and beautifully packaged cult-items from Tokyomilk.

Calhoun is amazed that, with all this goodness going on inside, there are still questions about what Great Finds is. “The biggest problem I have is that the name doesn’t clarify what the shop is. I always hear, ‘I thought you were an antique shop.’ People still come into the store, walk up to the counter, and ask me if I buy old watches.”  —Dale Stewart

Great Finds
3043 Upper Main Street
Valatie, NY 12184
518 - 758 -8999

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Posted by Dale Stewart on 04/16/13 at 09:47 AM • Permalink