Beekman 1802 Mercantile was founded in 2009 by Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell. The original shop was housed on the first floor of an empty hotel in Sharon Springs, a small village in upstate New York with a population of 547. The creation of the store was part of the docuseries ‘The Fabulous Beekman Boys’ which followed Brent and John’s transition from city slickers to country folk and to make a small farm and retail operation a sustainable business amidst the global economic crisis of 2008. In 2013 Beekman 1802 moved to a renovated 1860’s mercantile that had served the community as a firehouse, court, jail and library. Inspired by old department stores, Brent and Josh worked with local crafts people to design and custom fit the space, from the cabinetry to the light fixtures and hand-printed wallpaper. Famous for their best-selling Beekman 1802 goat milk based skincare products and goat milk cheeses, they also work with over 300 regional artisans to create unique items for the home inspired by their life at Beekman 1802 Farm.
Who inspires you? We are constantly inspired by the craftspeople we work with who not only are keeping American made handicrafts alive as an art form but also pushing the known aesthetic boundaries of those forms.
What inspires you? Everything that we create is inspired either by our life at Beekman 1802 Farm or by the idea of the types of products that William Beekman would have stocked on the shelves of his own general store back in the day.
Before we were shopkeepers… Josh was an advertising executive and a New York Times Bestselling author and Brent was first a physician working who went back to business school and was then an executive at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.
The hardest lesson learned in starting a business? In any business, the hardest leap to make is realizing when you need to sacrifice part (or all of!) your own personal income in order to hire people with better skills than yourself.
What task do you like to delegate? The bookkeeping!
The best lesson you have learned opening a shop? No matter what type of business you own or operate, you are in the hospitality business. Make every customer happy. Hospitality: the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.
Your advice for anyone wanting to open a shop? You must differentiate your offerings and when possible have products that are entirely unique to you. The flow of customers to mobile shopping (and specifically to Amazon where selection pricing and shipping efficiency is an art form) means that you truly must create a unique retail experience to compel customers to enter your shop.
Which famous person would you like to visit your shop? We are most thrilled when other shop owners come into our shop and find ideas. We’ve had the creative teams from Anthroplogie, Ralph Lauren and Saks pop into our little shop which was a big thrill because we do the same thing in their stores!
If you weren’t a shopkeeper you would be just be….goat farmers
What is your perfect day off? Along with Farmer John we still manage all of the operations and grounds of the farm, so our perfect day off is catching up on farm chores.
Five favorite shops. This is a very hard question to answer! Can we cheat and say “The last five shops featured on The Shopkeepers.”? Each one is fascinating and inspiring.
Favorite neighborhood coffee shop. We only have one coffee shop in our little village, The Black Cat Bakery, but it’s a pretty great one!
The Future of Retail
“Retail is a very challenging business now and in the future. One should not think about opening a shop, one should from the beginning think about opening an ‘experience’.”
187 Main Street, Sharon Springs, NY