Rural Outfitters: Peter Becks Village Store Opens in Salisbury
Store owners Becky Belcher & Peter Feen on a bench made out of old skis
With three boarding schools—Salisbury, Indian Mountain and Hotchkiss—Salisbury, CT, is arguably the preppiest town in our region, but until this week there was no place for prep students or their parents (or grandparents) to buy the high quality sporty clothing and gear that’s essential to the preppy lifestyle. Now Becky Belcher (Taft ‘97) and Peter Feem (Gunnery ‘99) have opened Peter Becks Village Store on Main Street, which carries a wide range of casual apparel, footwear and paraphernelia for country life including hiking boots and outerwear by Patagonia. “There was a void in the market,” says Belcher, who grew up in Salisbury and shopped for athletic equipment at the Village Store that occupied this same location for many years and closed in 2005. “I’ve come full circle. Annette West, who is our store manager, was my tennis coach growing up. She used to string tennis racquets for the Village Store and she will be doing so here, too.”
Although it carries snazzy polo shirts by Collared Greens, belts and ties by Vineyard Vines and tennis togs by Wilson, Peter Becks is not for preppies only. It plans to cater to the thousands of Appalachian Trail hikers who pass through Salisbury every year, picking up care packages at the post office across the street and carbo-loading on sandwiches from LaBonne’s Market and cookies from Sweet William’s Bakery. “We have tick guard, sleeping bag pads, camping utensils and tents stakes,” says Feen. “This is a place where you can buy a can of tennis balls, shoe laces, Smartwool socks. We’ll be getting tents and sleeping bags soon. We don’t want to be perceived as a shop for weekenders though we expect they will enjoy shopping here. We’ll adjust the merchandise as we find out what people want.” Adds Belcher: “We have things that women need, too, like yoga pants and running bras.”
Though they are virgin retailers, Belcher knows the challenges faced by independent clothing stores, because she worked as a sales rep for Vineyard Vines for six years. “I also handled the custom lines for prep schools so I understand that market, too,” she explains. She knew that there was not a store for 20 miles that sold the brands she wanted to sell—including Ray Ban, Marmot, Patagonia, Bill’s Khakis—so she was sure that manufacturers would be happy to supply her shop. “We really don’t have any local competition,” she says. While Saperstein’s in Millerton already caters to the Carhartt crowd, Peter Becks is going one-step upscale with items such as $80 Mountain Khakis from Jackson Hole, Wyoming and well-cut Ibex merino wool sportswear from Woodstock, Vermont.
The couple have designed their store to be a hangout with a welcoming seating area in front of an electric fireplace flanked by bookshelves stocked with guidebooks. To make sure they got the look right, they sought advice from designer Matthew Patrick Smyth who has gotten rave reivews for his makeover of the White Hart Inn up the street. They installed a TV over the fireplace so when people come in and give talks about travel or sports they can show films, too. The store’s logo includes a ski jumper because Peter Becks expects to capitalize on the hubub surrounding the annual Salisbury Ski Jumps as well as the Junior Olympic Trials which will be coming to town for the first time next winter. “The Salisbury Winter Sports Association has given us old skis that we’ve hung vertically on the walls to divide areas of merchandise,” says Feen. “We also re-used two signs from the old Village Store.”
Though Salisbury has an independent grocery store, pharmacy, bank, post office and several shops, it is a relatively sleepy village, and the couple hope Peter Becks will help enliven it. “It’s such a great town untouched by chain stores and chain restaurants, but it’s in need of some new energy,” says Belcher. “It’s a very outdoorsy town and we are filling a void. People enjoy shopping locally, and we want to make shopping locally as fun as possible.”
Peter Becks Village Store
19 Main Street, Salisbury, CT; 860.596.4217
Wednesday - Monday 9 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Grand Opening Celebration August 28 10 a.m. - 5 p.m, with free hamburgers and hot dogs