As I prepared to write our cover story this month, I sat down to look through our past newsletters (don’t want to repeat myself you know). I’ve looked through them before, usually with a chuckle and a roll of the eyes here and there, but always with an appreciation for this printed record of Hammertown history. Yet this time around, I was uniquely struck by the stories we have shared over the years in the context of some things that have been on my mind of late…in particular the future of Hammertown and Hammertown’s hometown, Pine Plains.
As I read through our archive, I looked a little closer and began to see the stages of Hammertown’s life — the early years of Hammertown, our turbulent adolescence, and now, an established business in Pine Plains with two vibrant sister stores stretching Hammertown from the Hudson to the Berkshires. With each cover story I read, I paid a little closer attention to just what we’ve been sharing with the world over the past 15 years of Hammertown. Our cover stories have been a reflection of both who we are and who we strive to be, not just as a business, but also as a family, and a member of the broader community. We have been sharing our voice and our vision, sharing the Hammertown experience of home.
Then I thought about the fact that, more and more, I have customers and friends who have been responding to our stories and sharing their thoughts and appreciation. Of course, nothing makes me happier as a business owner to know that people are reading our newsletter, but on a more personal level, it has been truly inspiring to feel connected to the bigger conversation that goes beyond simply what’s so great about our store (it is!) and why you should shop at Hammertown (you should!). This bigger conversation, of course, is a conversation about Home.
Here at Hammertown we have the “home” discussion a lot. We consider it our job to not simply provide our customers with great products, but also with the experience creating and being at home. We want shopping at Hammertown to be an experience…a real experience of home, whether you purchase anything or not. So that when customers come into the store, it’s like a friend coming over for a visit. Sure, they have come to shop and experience Hammertown’s decorating and gift ideas first hand, but like dropping in on an old friend, the visit has another level as well. Where are the girls [our dogs]? How are your kids doing?…What’s Carol got cooking?…I have pictures of my grandson to show you!…Katy just graduated!…Joan, I need a “brainstorm” session for my daughter’s wedding – we need a caterer and a photographer – any ideas…Can you recommend a baby sitter? I could go on, but you get the idea…life at Hammertown has always been about opening up our home to the community. The hours fly by, and how lucky I am, along with my staff, to have a job that is about sharing our home with others.
With my thoughts circling around growth, community and vision, I could not help but consider the zoning issues that have resurfaced in Pine Plains. Recent public hearings on the matter have brought out the different voices in our community. As a one-time resident (I lived here for over ten years but now live next door in Ancramdale) and business owner in Pine Plains, I have a vested interest in the future of our little town, as well as some insight into what small businesses (i.e. a local economy) need not just to survive, but to thrive and share their success with the community.
My reflections on zoning clarified how important my vision for Hammertown has been to its ultimate success. From the day I first saw the big grey-blue barn in 1984, I have had a vision for Hammertown that has guided me. All of the important decisions we have made have been in an effort to fulfill that vision. For example, the Barn’s particular appeal lay not just in the historic structure, but its beautiful, rural surroundings. So preserving both has been a priority.
While this vision has evolved, having it to begin with is the core of what I feel defines a good business. Whatever the final outcome for the zoning question here, it is my hope that through this process, Pine Plains can unite around its own shared vision for the growth of this special town. Regulations, while essential to zoning, should provide a blueprint for growth, not limit the inspiration that may help this shared vision evolve.
Make no bones about it: zoning is a complicated issue. Good zoning can help a town fulfill its vision, but bad zoning can crush this vision and simply provide a blueprint for rapid development out of scale with the existing community. I’m grateful that our town has committed the necessary time and resources to explore this question thoroughly and make an informed and judicious decision.
So, as is often the case, reflecting on the past lead me to thinking about the future of the voice and vision of Hammertown. Ours is a meaningful voice in the community and I would like to see it grow and expand in that way.
Our web presence has been a challenge for us over the years, but we finally have a vision for our site that makes sense for our small independent store. I can’t provide the thousands of home products that other sites can offer, but I can offer to the web community the Hammertown experience of home. With this newsletter, we are launching our new website. It will feature newsletter archive favorites, furniture, lighting and design resources, a rotating selection of our favorite new items, and the Hammertown Blog, tentatively titled Home in the Country, where we open up the conversation of Home to the web community. We hope customers, both old and new, will visit us online, join our email newsletter, and see how we are trying to bring a feeling of home to our little piece of cyberspace.
Back in the real world, we will continue to expand and improve out interactions with our customers and community. That means more seminars, classes, readings, art and artists (see the back page to find out what our artist-in-residence is up to this weekend). The world is changing faster than it ever has and, to stay relevant, we need to listen to our customers and your evolving needs. In our newsletter and on our website, we’re excited to continue the conversation about Home that we’ve been having with you for 23 years.
As you can see, many wonderful challenges lie ahead for us at Hammertown. As we continue to grow, our steps will remain small ones, allowing us to evolve without changing our core or straying too far from my original vision. As we move forward, I hope to build upon the relationships and discussions that have been forged within our stores. In doing so my ultimate goal is to reach out to our community and our customers in more interactive ways. From the blog on our website to interior design services, seminars, classes, book readings and beyond…you are sure to see us making that extra effort to be more than a home furnishings store.