by Anne Pyburn Craig | photos by Roy Gumpel
Breathe deeply as you enter High Falls Mercantile, and let the clean and soothing aromas lighten your heart. Whether you’re after a gift for someone special or design inspirations that will make your home a haven that restores your soul, you’ll know you’ve entered a special place where beauty and comfort reign supreme.
Larry Ruhl remembers longing to open a shop of his own as a boy. "I’ve wanted to be a shopkeeper since I was about ten. Other kids played doctor—I played proprietor." Perhaps it’s that playful joy that has kept High Falls Mercantile gaining new fans, keeping old ones, and winning national media raves ever since Ruhl made the leap from developing products for someone else to selecting and presenting them in his own digs back in April 2004.
"We did a lot of research, a lot of grunt work, and then we threw a really big party," recalls Ruhl of that debut nearly a decade ago, when some 700 people showed up. The blend of meticulous study, hands-on effort, and social engagement may be what has enabled High Falls Mercantile to survive and thrive through what has been a challenging decade for retail.
And thrive they have. The store was listed as one of fifty "2013 Retail Stars" by Home Accents Today magazine and is beloved by weekenders and lifetime locals alike. "I think our product mix sets us apart," says Ruhl. "I love searching out great new finds for the store; it keeps me passionate about retail. Our interior design business is stronger than ever. We are doing more product development, and that’s another of my favorite things to work on. We have also grown our e-commerce site and continue to work on that."
In large part, it’s all about the good, good things. That ambrosial odor that wafts throughout the store imports from a 400-year-old Santa Maria Novella. And those artfully laid out decor schemes invite you to reimagine "home." High Falls Mercantile is filled with items Ruhl has discovered and fallen in love with: rugs by Dash & Albert, whimsical art from Sugarboo, and fine linens and tableware and mirrors. Ruhl features both new and old, including pieces crafted of reclaimed wood and burnished metals from High Falls Mercantile’s own furniture line.
Enticing as the merchandise may be, it seems likely that the human factor plays a huge role in Ruhl’s success. His intelligent engagement with homemaking extends into the local community and beyond. This year’s Annual Tent Sale featured a VIP preview that benefitted the Rosendale Food Pantry, and heirloom seeds in frame-worthy artist packs from the Hudson Valley Seed Library are prominent in the garden section. High Falls Mercantile is also a regular participant in the "Design on a Dime" benefit for Housing Works.
Ruhl has also embraced the power of online marketing, building his shop-at-home department and offering some of his choice items through the Vintage and Market Finds division at One Kings Lane. But he and partner Jeff, whose career in real estate dovetails quite nicely with the fine home goods business, revel in their central Ulster County location. "We found a beautiful farmhouse in Rifton and started weekending there ten years ago," he says, "and we quickly fell in love with High Falls. We knew it was the perfect place for High Falls Mercantile. It’s beautiful and has an incredible history." Ruhl further remarks, "High Falls is going through a transition, but I've always loved change, so I'm excited to see who lands in town next."
Be sure to visit High Falls Mercantile this holiday season, and let its sights and smells transport you as you enjoy the sumptuous blend of painstakingly chosen vintage pieces, fine new goods, and furniture classics designed to be passed down for generations.
For more information,
visit High Falls Mercantile
at 113 Main St, High Falls;