Main Street News

Fulton & Forbes Opens With Local Wines and Spirits in Ancram

By Published On: April 11th, 2024

Fulton & Forbes, a wine and spirits store, opened last month in Ancram, NY. The name is a callback to owner Rachel Merriam’s grandfather, who opened his first business at the crossroads of Fulton Avenue and Forbes Street in New Haven, CT. Now, more than seventy years later, it’s the name she has chosen for her wine store. 

Rachel is originally from New Haven, but has been connected to the Hudson Valley since she attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park.  

“When I graduated from The Culinary, I wanted to move to New York City and I knew I wouldn’t be able to live there and work the back of house in a restaurant. I wouldn’t make enough money,” she said.

So she started working as a server at Casa Mono & Bar Jamon in Union Square and from there, she worked her way up to become the wine director and sommelier. 

In 2020, she made the move to upstate New York after her friends, Steven and Justen, purchased Hudson Chatham Winery in Ghent, NY. 

Rachel had been considering the idea of opening her own business for three years and when she found the building in Ancram, she knew it was serendipitous. “I knew I wanted to start a business and it had to be something that I could do by myself. With my background in wine, it just made sense,” she said. “The building was so cute and cottage-y looking. The Roe Jan creek runs behind it and it just feels like a little jewel box.”

After deciding to purchase the building, Rachel started the process of completely renovating the building, as well as obtaining a liquor license. Renovations took nearly two years to complete, during which time she had the second floor expanded from a crawl space to a usable space for community events and workshops. 

“The height was always there. The ceilings went up eight feet, but it just needed a little love. For about a week, the upstairs was just kind of hanging up by a bunch of two by fours. It was scary,” she laughed. “My goal was to make the shop feel like you’re walking into someone’s home, being that it’s such a cute, cottagey building in a residential hamlet.” 

Going forward, Rachel is looking forward to utilizing the second floor as a space for events and to host makers, producers, distillers, artists, florists, and many others. Next on the renovation list is creating a patio in the back of the building to host tastings and events outdoors when the weather is nice. 

Sippin’ locally

So, how does Rachel select which wines to carry at the store? “Lots of tastings,” she laughed. “I’ve worked with so many importers and distributors throughout my career that I always kind of had a basis of what I wanted to carry.”

The selection highlights small producers from classic winemaking regions who make wine in an honest way following organic, biodynamic, or sustainable farming practices.

From there, she’s been in conversation with some of the patrons about what they’d like to see on the shelves so that she can get a better sense of what to carry. “After ten years in the wine and spirits industry, you get a sense for what people want to drink and what they’re looking for,” she said. 

Currently, she carries wines and spirits from many local wineries and distilleries. On the shelves, you can find wines from Hudson Chatham Winery in Ghent, Milea in Staatsburg, and soon, Field Supply Wine in Ancram. Of course, Fulton & Forbes also has a selection of wines from the Finger Lakes Region as well. 

With all of the great distillers in the area, she’s looking forward to building relationships with those businesses and carrying a variety of local spirits. “I think that’s the niche I’m going to take – spirits of the Northeast,” she said. “We also currently carry great local gin and brandy from Branchwater Farms in Red Hook and gin from Catskill Provisions.” 

Additionally, Rachel hosts complimentary wine tastings in the store each Friday for guests to sip on, see what they like, and shop around. 

Building relationships

Though Fulton & Forbes has only been open for three weeks, Rachel has already started building community connections. 

“I wanted to open when it’s a little slower so that way I can troubleshoot and make any necessary changes, as well as have conversations with people and find out what they want to see here,” she said. “I want to be here for the locals as much as the weekenders, and I hope my hours indicate that I’m here for everyone, not just the Friday to Sunday crowd.” 

Rachel held a small launch party for friends and family a few weeks ago and looks forward to hosting one for the community once the weather gets a bit warmer. 

For Rachel, the biggest reward of being in the wine business is providing hospitality to her customers. “I love offering hospitality in a retail setting. The educational aspect of it too has been great. Getting a chance to talk with people and create connections is probably the biggest reward.” 

Looking long-term 

First on the list of goals is to build out the cellar. Rachel is looking forward to carrying a variety of hard-to-find, celebratory, and cult wines for those special occasions. “If this proves to be a good concept, I wouldn’t mind doing other locations, too,” she said. “Since I grew up in Connecticut, I would love to open up something over there sooner rather than later.” 

In the short-term, she also plans on hosting fun events during the summer. With Fulton & Forbes being located pretty close to various campgrounds and lakes in the area, Rachel is planning on offering “Lake Packs,” that will come stocked with everything you need for a great day on the lake – think ready-to-drink canned cocktails, ice coolers, and other drink necessities. 

She’s also looking forward to expanding her bar ware offerings, too. “I want to carry more glasses, decanters, and vintage pieces. I’d love for it to feel like a housewares shop and wine shop all in one.” 

Fulton & Forbes is located at 1415 County Route 7 in Ancram. They are open on Monday and Wednesday from 12-7, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 11-7, and Sunday from 12-5. Visit their website here