Over the past 20 years, the Village of Millerton, New York’s commercial Main Street has transformed itself into the Hudson Valley’s epicenter of antique shopping. Despite the populous nature of design-inspired shops in town, Millerton native Charlotte Sheridan, owner of Merwin Farm and Home, has managed to carve out her own unique identity within the community. After nearly four years of ownership under her talented belt, Charlotte describes her design inspirations, her evolution in Millerton, and the challenges she has faced as a small business owner in the face of uncertainty.
How did the inspiration for your shop come about?
I grew up in a home filled with hard working people. My father was always looking for ways to improve the beauty of our home. He was a skilled professional as well as a talented artist. He, in many ways, inspired me to venture out on my own, take risks and trust in my intuition – design or otherwise. He has since passed on but, for me, my ambitions as a small business owner exist to honor his memory.
My design inspiration came to me when I began working at Country Gardeners Florist here in Millerton. That was my first real hands-on experience with design and how beautiful objects can help architect space into a motif. Country Gardeners owner Joanne Scasso, her eye for floral design and her determination as a female small business owner really helped build my confidence to try and create my own niche in town. After learning floral design and working on beautifying weddings and holiday households with Joanne I began to realize that I loved design on a deeper level. It wasn’t long before I felt the urge to expand my own style into the home on a larger, more conceptual scale.
How would you describe your design style?
It’s not an easy or straightforward question to answer. For me, design and style depend so much on individual expression, their kinship with the home as well as those who occupy the space. Though I am inherently drawn to farmhouse motifs, I love venturing into different styles as well. From rustic country to modern and clean, there’s something personal that can be found anywhere and I enjoy meshing different styles together.
How did you find your way to your current location on Main Street in Millerton?
I came to my current location on Main Street, across from the Oakhurst Diner and next to Taro’s, through a mix of pure luck and motivation. The joy of coming from, and living in a small town like Millerton is that most opportunities are discovered by the communal act of word-of-mouth. That is exactly how I landed in the spot I’m in now. Millerton is a village built upon generations of families relying on each other for their collective endurance and that idea continues to this very day. That tradition has created a small wellspring of opportunity for many small business owners. It’s almost as if the village itself is a living, breathing function of its residents and it’s them I have to thank for the survival of my shop.
How would you describe your shop?
My store is a small, unique shop that features found treasures, old and new, as well as many handmade and local products. I have spent the last two years collecting a wide variety of farmhouse and cottage-style home and garden decor that I feel accentuate both my style as well as the spirit of our area. I also offer DIY workshops both in-store as well as private bookings. I love helping customers get hands-on and discover their own hidden talents for creating wonderful individual pieces.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a small business owner over the past two years?
Obviously, the biggest challenge that I, and many small businesses everywhere, experienced over the past two years and one that few saw coming was the world-wide pandemic and its effects on people and the economy. There were times when I was completely gripped with anxiety over what uncertainties were waiting for me in the future. The feeling of helplessness and complete lack of agency is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone and yet, we all experienced it on some level. I found myself faced with those stresses on top of the fact that I was still a young owner of just two years and was still working out the kinks of owning a business for the first time.
As with many small business owners, I am not out of the proverbial woods yet. However, it is my customers who have supported me and my two children who have kept my focus clear and my resolve unbroken.
What do you see in the future? How creative do you feel you can get with your business?
The future of businesses of every size seems to exist within the trappings of convenience and speed and I would love to expand my shop with more of an online presence. Life has invariably changed over the past two years and I feel like it is my time to evolve with those changes. I must admit, I never wanted to sell online previously. I was content staying put as a brick-and-mortar shop, and that will always be an important aspect of my business, but after the pandemic I’ve realized that allowing customers access to my store in an online format will definitely improve my business as well as the relationships with potential customers. That is not to say my shop will ever be fully digital, I feel I must still meet folks in order to gain a better understanding of their design sensibilities as well as how I can adapt mine.
How do you find inspiration?
My inspiration revolves around creating a lifestyle for people, a way of letting one’s inner self out and existing in those spaces that are most personal and lend themselves to self-expression. Those ideas need not only pertain to the home, but in everyday life as well. We all want to surround ourselves with those things that help us define who we are to the outside world and that’s what I want to help folks accomplish. From housewares to jewelry, clothing and workshops that appeal to the community of rural people near and far, I want to reward everyone’s imagination. I am constantly finding inspiration in my own life that relates to how I want to live and that spills over into my business.
What’s it like to own a small business while managing a family life?
Owning a business while raising a family means my job doesn’t end when I close the shop in the evening, I just punch out of one and punch into the next. Thankfully, though it can at times be overwhelming, it’s not something I do alone. I have great support from my partner in life and without that I don’t think I could manage everything.
I miss my father terribly and wish he were here physically to see how far I’ve come in the past three years. However, I see his light in my children every day and feel his spirit of ambition within me each time I open the doors of my small shop. I’m proud of my dream and I hope to continue to have the opportunity to share it with my community for years to come.
Merwin Farm and Home is located at 20 Main Street in Millerton, NY, across from the Oakhurst Diner. For more information or to receive updates on the latest in-store workshops, follow Charlotte on social media @merwinfarmandhome. To inquire about hosting your own private workshops, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (518) 567-6737.