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Shopper’s Diary: Cult Store Gardenheir in the Catskills

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Shopper’s Diary: Cult Store Gardenheir in the Catskills

January 27, 2023

Given that all we want from our gardens is that they be beautiful, it is somewhat ironic that the garden products sold in big stores often fall pitifully short on the aesthetic front. Endless plastic? Garish colors? Twee design? Guilty as charged.

So when we discovered Gardenheir, which began as an online store conceived by two avid gardeners before developing into a brand with two physical stores, it was an epiphany. Here, everything is beautiful, carefully considered, and curated—and, quite frankly, we wanted it all. We recently spoke to founders Alan Calpe and Christopher Crawford to get the lowdown on their gardening journey, their latest store in Windham, NY, and the Italian clogs they cannot keep on the shelves.

Above: They never intended to be shopkeepers but opened a shop in Windham, NY, late last year.

Like many new gardeners, the pair fell into gardening when they bought a cedar skate bungalow in the Catskills town of Windham. While renovating the house, they fell under the spell of the four acre blank canvas outside their door. “We knew very little about gardening when we got our place upstate, but it wasn’t long until it felt like all our thoughts and efforts were preoccupied with it,” says Alan, a visual artist who works mostly in video and performance, of their property. The pair has gradually reimagined the landscape by opening up views to distant mountains and creating a new curvaceous pond and flower-rich borders.

Above: The hard-wearing Gardenheir smock ($98) is both chic and functional and comes in washed cotton drill as well as Japanese denim ($128), which sold out in days but is soon to be restocked.

As their gardening addiction took hold, one thing became clear: The equipment they needed for the garden wasn’t in any way singing to these two creatives (Christopher has previously worked in fashion and retail). They also realized that there was probably a good number of fellow newbie gardeners who felt the same way. Their original online store pulls together the world’s most covetable garden brands—beautiful tools and equipment from Sneeboer and Haws, clothes from French brand Le Laboureur, and handmade items including the prettiest birdhouses with cedar shingles made by Richard Winkworth in England, German-made brutalist birdhouses, and beautiful bentwood pails made in Oregon. Alongside these wares, they’ve developed their own very desirable in-house collection of knitwear, jersey, smocks and accessories.

Above: If there’s one cult product that has really taken off, it’s the sturdy Italian-made gardening clogs ($78), a superior version of the omnipresent gardening clog with removable cork insoles in a subdued palette of colors. “They have been a universal hit…and not just with gardeners,” says Christopher.
Above: The Himalayan hand spun cashmere scarf is another bestseller ($168). “We sell lots of cashmere all year,” adds Christopher. “We think they’re a really good value, especially as the yarn is hand loomed and dyed in Nepal.”
Above: Sneeboer’s tools fly off the shelves, and Gardenheir is the only store in the States who stock their vintage tool collection which has a constant waitlist.
Above: The potting shed brush and pan, $88, is made by the British artist and designer Geoffrey Fish from foraged ash, boar hair bristles and galvanized steel.

“During the time when we were entirely online, several people wrote us sweet messages of how it reminded them of favorite shops abroad or the glory days of Smith and Hawkins, and I think this started to seep into our thinking of the possibility of opening up a space,” says Alan. Last autumn they paired up with the newly opened Wildflower Farms in the Hudson Valley to create a Gardenheir hotel shop, and in November they opened up a second store in Windham, where they sell their whole range alongside larger pieces, including terracotta pots and vintage furniture that is not practical to sell online. Soon they will be adding handmade willow obelisks by former T magazine editor Deborah Needleman. “We’ve met so many great people, and quite a few who we would’ve never known had places so close to us. We’ve joked that Gardenheir is bringing people out of the woods to finally find one another!”

Above: The shopkeepers and gardeners Christopher Crawford and Alan Calpe.

Although classic, the collections somehow feel radically different—as though someone has finally realized that there’s a new generation of gardeners who would like to find products that are not just functional but beautiful, too. A line in their online bio suggests that the garden could be ‘the largest and most diverse art and fashion show there is.”

“This line really embodies what we are trying to accomplish with Gardenheir,” adds Christopher. “A sort of new look at the gardener who we think is (and has always been) quite cool. Many of our favorite gardeners have come to the practice from the worlds of art and fashion, and it makes a lot of sense. The garden, with its constant reinvention of itself is actually really similar to fashion and art. There’s a push and pull between an appreciation of the past and tradition with the desire to do things differently.”

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