A Shop of Her Own and Good, Clean Dirt
Published: February 24, 2010
AS Misha Mayers was preparing to return to work in August 2008 after maternity leave, she received some unwelcome news: Her job at Ralph Lauren as director of merchandising for Japan had been eliminated.
Ms. Mayers, 39, and her husband, Dan Mayers, 47, a freelance photographer who specializes in interiors, worried over how they would manage without her income. The new parents of twins, they owned an apartment in Chelsea and a Greek Revival farmhouse on 13 acres here, a small town in the western Catskill Mountains. They also rented a second-floor space for the vintage clothing store Ms. Mayers ran on weekends in the town’s business district.
She had been on the verge of closing the shop. “The twins were just a few months old, and I couldn’t fathom how I was going to go back to work and keep the store going,” she said. “After I found out that I was laid off, I just went into the store, and thought, we’d better keep this open.”
The business, named Clementine for the vivid orange of the store’s décor, has since moved into a street-level storefront and developed an online shopping site (clementinevintageclothing.com). “Expanding the business in our eyes is a creative way to maintain a second home when we shouldn’t have one,” she said.
The couple first stumbled upon Andes in 2000, soon after they started dating. On their way to visit friends, they took a wrong turn and ended up driving through town. They were intrigued. “There was an interesting aesthetic going on,” Mr. Mayers said.
They pulled over at a farmhouse on the outskirts of Andes with a homemade “For Sale” sign in front, peered in the windows and “fell in love,” Mr. Mayers said.
The $150,000 price tag for the 2,500-square-foot, four-bedroom house only increased his infatuation. “I had been looking at buying apartments in the city,” he said. “They were all smaller than the living room in Andes, and I thought that was ridiculous.”
Mr. Mayers closed on the farmhouse in 2001, and the couple began spending weekends there. He got busy repairing the roof, shoring up the structural beams and building furniture.
For Ms. Mayers, time in Andes was a way to “restore a sense of balance” in her busy life in the fashion industry. “There was no television, no computers, no cellphone,” she said. “There was a leisurely pace to life.”
The farmhouse was built post and beam in the 1840s. Many of the original features are intact, including the built-in cabinets in the kitchen and geometric moldings in the living room, and paint on the doors and window frames has become naturally distressed over time. During a kitchen renovation in the 1990s, previous owners left exposed some of the original hatchet-split boards.
But the couple have not been shy about incorporating more contemporary touches. They painted the interior in bright shades of yellow, lime green and purple. Mr. Mayers, who has a degree in engineering, has a yen for industrial design. Glass and chrome ceiling lamps hang over the kitchen island, and a sculpture he created from old gears sits on a bookshelf. His landscape photographs adorn the living room walls and the upstairs hall.
The property also has a long history, with incarnations as a livestock farm, a pony farm and a Christmas tree farm. Rows of pine trees, now much too tall to fit in living rooms, still cover much of the land.
The couple got married on the hillside behind the house in 2005, on a patio they made together with three-foot square tiles of bluestone. They also built a gazebo and a set of white benches for guests. “It was hard work, but all of these projects we do make us stronger, because we see what we are able to accomplish together,” Ms. Mayers said.
Now their main project is their 20-month-old twins, Petra and Max. Ms. Mayers is their primary caretaker during the week, while Mr. Mayers works. He takes charge on weekends when she is at Clementine.
The twins, he said, enjoy the shift from their 750-square-foot apartment in Chelsea to a house more than three times as big, with plenty of outdoor space. “In New York City you just don’t feel like walking in the grass with your shoes off,” Mr. Mayers said. “Up here the kids can play in good, clean dirt.”
Or with footwear. On a cold early February afternoon, as her brother napped, Petra picked up a snow boot from the collection of shoes by the back door and hauled it over to her mother. “Petra has a thing for shoes,” Ms. Mayers said. “It starts early!”
Ms. Mayers’s interest in fashion began in her teenage years and was inspired by her grandmother. “She was very glamorous and she loved clothes,” Ms. Mayers said.
The Clementine logo is a black-and-white photograph of her grandmother in the 1930s, striking a fetching pose in a bathing suit. (Mr. Mayers added an orange tint to the suit, using Photoshop.) The photograph was taken while she was on vacation in the Catskills.
“She met my grandfather, who was a photographer, up here,” said Ms. Mayers, who was raised in Southern California. “I grew up hearing about the Catskills. But it was just totally by coincidence that I married a photographer, and we bought a house up here.”
Ms. Mayers has come to know the region in a way that her grandmother, a onetime tourist, could not. Her shop draws weekenders seeking bargains (few items are over $65) and teenagers from the nearby high school looking for prom dresses. She has organized fashion shows to raise money for local charities.
As her business and community involvement grow, Ms. Mayers still finds her weekends in Andes a respite — though not quite in the same way as when she was working full time and childless. “The business grew out of a hobby, so it doesn’t feel like work,” she said. “And it’s great getting away from the kids!”