By Buffy Calvert
Notice something new at the blinking light? Step inside. Inhale the delicate fragrance of lavender, dried flowers and spices. Take in the dazzle of an artful array of vintage jewelry, filmy scarves, clever one-of-a-kind bags, Christmas ornaments and accessories. Oh, a bone-china teacup! It holds a hand-poured soy candle with upright wick and so do these other “re-purposed” table wares. The scent wafts up from sachets, a Victorian recipe perfected by co-owner Letty Johnson sewn into lace-edged linen handkerchiefs, bark cloth, and other elegant scraps.
Letty’s husband and business partner, Randall Johnson, dubs their wares, “An eclectic mix, a quirky collection, things you don’t see anywhere else.” In fact, he wanted to call the store, “Quirky.”
Randy and Letty met as eighteen-year-olds when they were both teachers at a church summer program for inner city children in Hartford. Randy went to Yale, majoring in Architecture, and on to the Yale School of Architecture; Letty graduated from Fashion Institute of Technology. In 1974, the couple started “In Vintage,” a wholesale and retail business featuring hand crafted, costume jewelry in New York.
They bought their home on Gladstone Hollow in 1991, moving to Andes “like turtles, with our business on our backs,” according to Letty. Their daughter Lauren graduated from ACS as valedictorian, transferred from Elmira College to SUNY Albany, and now lives in Colonie with her husband and year-old daughter. Her parents turn to her for savvy business advice.
The Johnsons opened THE CATSKILL COLLECTION at BLINK on Memorial Day weekend. Randy quit his job at Macy’s in Kingston, happily trading a 3 hour commute for one of 3 minutes.
“I’m in heaven!” Randy exults. “I can’t believe my good fortune. I underestimated the demand.” The couple are eager for other artisans to show them their handwork. Currently, they represent 20 local and 3 regional artists.
Randy, with a keen sense of effective display, (honed in gift shows where the aim is to “Arrest the Buyer,” he says), exhibits the plethora of disparate items effectively. An arrangement of vintage pins are splashed over the face of a tux jacket he wore at Yale, candles seem to float on a curved glass étagère, finely woven scarves flow over a dowel. Step inside, just to enjoy the view. ~