“When COVID hit, all plans went out the window. At first, the response was ‘How do we get people food?’ It was sort of in crisis mode. People responded in a major way, and it just sort of grew.”
- Jessica Olenych, co-owner, Home Goods of Margaretville
Margaretville natives Jessica and Jake Olenych both grew up making people comfortable in the Catskills. Jess had her first real job at the Cheese Barrel, a specialty foods shop on Main Street. Jake and his parents own Mountain Flame Inc., providing eco-conscious fireplaces and woodstoves.
So when Home Goods of Margaretville—a home- and kitchen-products shop—came up for sale in 2014, the couple thought it might be a good fit. “I grew up in the kitchen,” says Jess. “I always loved feeding people.”
For a while, Jess had considered an entirely different life. “I studied political science and got my degree from Elmira College,” she says. “I traveled the world. I moved to Washington, D.C., and interned in a congressman’s office. But even though politics hadn’t gone completely nuts yet—this was in 2002—I hated it! It wasn’t for me.”
Running Home Goods felt better. The initial, most visible change they made was moving the business across Main Street to the People’s National Bank of Margaretville. Over the years they tweaked the inventory as they gained experience running a retail operation.
It is, as a customer says in a rave review, “THE place to shop for home supplies in the area.”
In 2019, to celebrate five years in business, Jess and Jake did a bold remodel, reclaiming the old bank’s 12’ ceilings and running shelves the length of the building’s long brick interior wall. And now, in 2021, Jess finds herself in charge of not just a nifty kitchenware and decor store, but a vital community center that a Yelp reviewer recently called “the jewel of Margaretville.”
In a bit of serendipity, in December 2020, the Cheese Barrel closed its doors after 30 years. Located directly across from Home Goods, Jess and Jake had always shied away from offering a lot of food products out of respect for owner Sue Ihlo. “We didn’t have any immediate plans to change anything in the shop, but when COVID hit, all plans went out the window,” says Jess. “At first, the response was ‘How do we get people food?’
Home Goods of Margaretville—a home- and kitchen-products shop—came up for sale in 2014, and Jessica and Jake Olenych thought it might be a good fit. “I grew up in the kitchen,” says Jess. “I always loved feeding people.”
With the Cheese Barrel having closed, Jess and Jake stepped in to fill the void and to become an essential business. They greatly expanded their shop’s food offerings, while still maintaining their kitchen and home goods inventory.
“We started bringing in local produce and expanded to carry all sorts of gourmet goods, especially things that are hard to find in a rural area. Now we have three refrigerators, a large cheese cooler, and a pastry cooler, and we source ingredients from the world over. Our customers have been the driving force behind most of the expansion, and it’s been so much fun to learn and source what they request.”
The store’s website lists available produce, herbs, and offerings from the cooler, freezer, and bakery, so that customers can make a shopping list and email it ahead of time. Delivery days are listed, so that one can be sure of arriving when the eggs, produce, or specialty bread are freshest. The website also has direct links to the nonprofit Catskills Food Hub and the 607 CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), a multi-farm collaborative.
Jess hasn’t neglected the housewares. The store carries kitchen delights and necessities from names like All Clad, Viking, Cuisinart, Swiss Diamond, and OXO as well as cookbooks, candles, stationery, antiques, and home décor. You’ll find fine cutlery, canning supplies, and baking pans. It is, as a customer says in a rave review, “THE place to shop for home supplies in the area.”
The store’s Facebook page glows with warmth, whether sharing Grandma Peg’s Zwetschgenkuchen (plum cake) recipe or announcing daily prepared specials. “Did you know that we have two registers and two checkout stations? One for the lover of all things sweet and one for the lover of all things salty!” says one post. To the news of a standup freezer, a customer responds, “Now the store’s even cooler.” Pandemic safety is affectionately framed: “Can’t wait to see your smiling masked faces!”
“Our customers have been the driving force behind most of the expansion, and it’s been so much fun to learn and source what they request.”
It’s clearly a love story for this homegirl and her Home Goods, which she keeps as affordable as possible. “I grew up a whole mile from here,” she says. “I went to the elementary school down the block. I’d never want anyone to feel priced out or not included.”
And lately she’s helped a lot of newbies set up camp. “I’m overwhelmed and enormously grateful,” says Jess. “People come into Mountain Flame just about every week saying, ‘I just bought a house!’ Should any be seeking home goods, we suspect we know just where they’re directed. I’m amazed at how much my life has changed in the past year-and-a-half...it’s beyond incredible.”
Home Goods of Margaretville
784 Main Street, Margaretville
845 586-4177 | hgom.net