Upstate New York furniture maker, Sawkille Co, handcrafts their Modern Farmhouse designs, from sustainably forested materials, in their workshop in Kingston, NY. The Sawkille Shop and showroom, established in 2010, is located across the Hudson river in the historic town of Rhinebeck. Owners Jonah Meyer and Tara Delisio share their story and inspirations with The Shopkeepers.
Why was name Sawkille chosen? Sawkille is the name of the stream tara grew up on.
What motivated you to open a shop? We had opened and operated a more eclectic retail space for 7 years, called Serv ce Station with a focused on art and smaller goods, from that Sawkille came to be.
What is Sawkille best known for? Stools, seating, dining tables.
Where are your products sourced and made? Materials are sourced from the northeast, everything is built and finished at our woodshop in Kingston.
What makes your shop unique? Our designs and the fact that we are a medium/small design build company offering custom options and designs, built to order. As well as our ethos around community and the work environment.
Who are your customers? Design & architecture firms & people who collect and value handcrafted pieces.
How has the internet impacted your business? 90% or more of our sales happen solely through the internet, this was just unfolding when we first opened Serv ce Station in 2003 and by the time Sawkille began confidence in using the internet to source big purchases like furniture had already begun. It has allowed us more direct sales and ownership of how we chose to structure our business in terms of lead times and relating directly with our clients, which is something we enjoy doing and has enriched not only our business but our personal lives tremendously. It’s also a source of lifestyle inspiration and motivation to see so many people carving out their niche and watching it unfold in a way we would have only had access to in the past, if a magazine or print entity chose to feature them.
Jonah Meyer & Tara Delisio, shopkeepers at Sawkille
Who inspires you? Jonah: Gio Ponti, Wharton Esherick, Brancusi; Tara: Krista Tippet, Georgia O’Keefe, Liza MaCrae, my Mother Jill DeLisio, Anne and Jim Meyer, The Goodwins.
What inspires you? Jonah: Shakers, Bauhaus, Windsor Chairs; Tara: Lifestyle, children, Waldorf education, beautifully made things, people with a spark in their eye.
Before I was a shopkeeper.. I was a studio artist (Jonah); I was managing a commercial photo studio and looking for ways to feel more ownership of my time and creativity (Tara).
The hardest lesson learned in starting a business? Jonah: Trial by fire; Tara: there is no structure or authority to tell you when to push through or when to stop pushing, it’s a main line to intuitive decision making and the uncertainty can feel crushing at times.
What task do you like to delegate? Jonah: I prefer to be on the floor, designing prototypes. Tara: Being able to hand over bookkeeping, shipping and employee management have each been a dream come to reality, having great people to work has let us blossom in creativity and vision.
The best lesson you have learned opening a shop? Jonah: Perserverance; Tara: Finding an even keel and maintaining that internally, even when things are falling apart.
Your advice for anyone wanting to open a shop? Jonah: Don’t quit. Tara: I agree.
Which famous person would you like to visit your shop? Martin Puryear is not only famous but a local mentor of Jonah’s and I always appreciate when our lives intersect with people we admire and have drawn inspiration from – he has already visited a few times and that feels very good.
If you weren’t a shopkeeper you would be..? Jonah: Studio artist. Tara: I have never known what I wanted to be…
What is your perfect day off? Jonah: Hang out w/ kids & fam outside. Tara: I agree along with some home cooked food.
Do you have a favorite neighborhood coffee shop? Outdated Cafe in Kingston.
On the Future of Retail
“All the stuff you can buy via amazon…that’s lost
It’s going to be places like Sawkille and other specialty, highly curated shops that are going to exist outside the realm of instant gratification, free shipping, mass produced, mass consumed goods.”
“I agree with this, at this point I will travel some distance to see someone’s retail creation, to touch goods and experience the environment someone has created, it’s about the treasure hunt and someone’s vision brought to life.”
31 West Market Street, Rhinebeck, NY
All Photography courtesy of Gentl and Hyers