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Influencers + Tastemakers

A Local’s Guide to Upstate New York with Mercantile Owner Brent Ridge

In 2006, partners Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge were working as an advertising exec and physician in NYC. Thinking they'd spend some nice weekends upstate, the following year they bought Beekman 1802, a historic farmstead in Sharon Springs, NY. Soon, however, that plan was turned on its head when the 2008 recession hit and they lost their jobs back to back. Luckily, the blow turned out to be a serendipitous one as it sent them upstate full-time, where they threw themselves into producing soaps and cheeses and began turning a profit off their farm and mercantile. Now, with more than ten years of upstate living under his belt, Brent Ridge gives us the low-down on the best things to see and do in the bucolic region.

A Brooklyn-based writer and editor, Chelsea's work has appeared in Matador Network, The Huffington Post, the TripAdvisor blog, and more. When not planning her next trip, you'll usually find her drinking way too much iced coffee (always iced—she’s from New England) or bingeing a Netflix original series.

See recent posts by Chelsea Stuart

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How did Beekman 1802 come to be?

Beekman Farm was originally built in the year 1802 by a gentleman named William Beekman. Beekman was a self-made man. Though orphaned at sea as an infant and uneducated, he accumulated considerable wealth by establishing a mercantile in Sharon Springs, NY, and selling wares not only to local farmers but also to the wagon trains that were leaving the Northeast and heading out to the western frontiers. We purchased the farmstead in 2006, and after losing our NYC jobs in the recession of 2008, started making skincare products using natural ingredients and selling them by hand first at Henri Bendel on Fifth Avenue and then to our first big client, Anthropologie. We now sell all over the world and on our own site. We don’t think of Beekman 1802 as a new company, but rather one that was dormant for about 200 years.

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What do you love most about living and working in upstate New York?

We now work with over 300 craftspeople throughout upstate NY to create a full range of products from skincare to home decor to gourmet foods. We love the wealth of talent and the devotion to craft. This year we’ve created a special collection with another upstate NY design company, Mackenzie-Childs, whose inspiration is also drawn from their own farm in Aurora, NY. Anyone who visits upstate NY will return to their home place inspired.

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What spots would you recommend a visitor check out on a trip Upstate?

If making a summer weekend trip we recommend starting in Sharon Springs, NY (there are tours of the farm on select weekends in the summer and fall). Beekman 1802 Mercantile sits right on Main Street, and the Black Cat Cafe and Bakery and the American Hotel Restaurant are great spots for lunch. You could then move over to nearby Cooperstown and visit Brewery Ommegang, the Farmer’s Museum, and take in an evening performance at the Glimmerglass Opera Festival (the hot ticket this summer is their version of West Side Story). A great spot for Sunday Brunch is the historic Otesaga Resort Hotel which has a massive porch that overlooks Otsego Lake.

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Where do you love to shop?

We find inspiration in the old, and there are lots of antique, vintage, and architectural salvage places around that are mining the agricultural and industrial history of upstate NY. Three of our favorites are the Wood Bull Antiques in Milford, NY, Fort Plain Antiques and Salvage in Fort Plains, NY, and Hort & Pott in East Durham, NY

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What would an ideal Saturday look like for you at home?

Because we grow almost all the food we consume, this time of year every spare minute is spent doing the chores on the farm and putting up enough food to last us through the winter months. We love having friends for the weekend who like to get their hands dirty during the day and then relax on the porch with wine and cheese as the sun goes down.

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