Sugar Sweet Loaf
Saturday found me driving through the village of Sugarloaf in Orange County, about halfway between the Catskills and New York City. (I was interviewing someone down there.) It had a postcard picturesque look to it, with lots of little boutique stores, and I figured it was worth a walkabout.
I was drawn immediately to Sales From The Crypt, primarily because it had a tribute up outside for Syd Barrett. Inside, I recognized the song ‘Welcome To The Machine’ from Wish You Were Here, and when I commented that someone there was a major Pink Floyd fan, I was not particularly surprised to hear a British accent in return – especially so once I realized that the store produced its own Celtic crosses, big outdoor jesters’ boots and decorative gargoyles, while boostering its business with many other items gothic, astrological and skeletal.
Actually, while the male partner looked like he would have fitted in at a Spiral Gathering event, his partner turned out to be have been raised in South Africa before coming to New York via Clapham, and she had an interesting perspective on her different home countries. The U.S.A. and South Africa were both like 19 year olds, she suggested – youngsters finally standing on their own too feet. But whereas South Africa was an abused child, carrying immense pain and insecurity around with it, America is the spoilt child, all too used to getting what it wants and distraught to find out it might ever be any other way. And the Brits? Like the rest of Europe, she said, the Brits were well into middle-age, and with the rather cynical edge that comes with having seen it all before. An interesting analogy, I thought.
The only other store in Sugarloaf quite as innovative as Sales From the Crypt was the Gourd Gallery next door, also being staffed this Saturday by the owner/artisan, a woman who produces stunning decorative pieces made out of, you guessed it, gourds. (She also stocks percussive instruments from Africa, Asia and South America; the accompanying ‘fair trade’ sticker is not a panacea to one’s suspicions that a $6 maracca probably cost only 6 cents to produce, but I guess it offsets some of the western guilt.) The other little stores in this one-lane village were mostly more typical of what you’d expect to see in Woodstock, New Hope and other such places: a candle store here, a soap store there, a leather goods shop over the street and an expensive jewelry/sculpture gallery somewhere in-between… Nothing you actually need, but plenty that you’d like to buy.
Perhaps the nicest thing about this cozy little place was stepping into the Barnsider restaurant to use the toilet, and seeing a massive display case as you might expect in a hotel, equally promoting samples from each store in the village. In a nation that threatens to succumb completely to strip malls and megastores, it’s always a thrill to see a small village full of individual proprietors selling their own goods. And it’s that much sweeter when they’ve come all the way from the UK to sell gargoyles and jesters boots, and to honor the memory of Syd Barrett.