“It was a passion for me,” says Joan Osofsky, owner of Hammertown Barn, about opening the first store in Pine Plains, NY back in 1985.
“I say 38, and I don’t feel as old as it is,” she laughs.
Just getting started
Joan’s daughter and Hammertown’s design director, Dana Simpson, shares that her mom started Hammertown out of her love of home decorating.
“My mom was crafty in the 1980s and she was very inspired by Ralph Lauren and the homage to old school American style.”
In the 1970s, Dana says that Joan always “made the most of our homes, wherever we lived.” Joan’s interest in decorating and DIY opened the door for her to open a home decor store. When Hammertown first opened, Joan didn’t intend for it to be a destination spot, but rather a unique country store where customers could find home goods and gifts or take craft classes. It was also a way for her to be creative and support both her family and the community.
Hammertown first started out with mostly antiques and home decor items, but Dana says that bringing in the first line of furniture in the 1990s was the biggest transition. “It catapulted the business to a different place. Hammertown still carried all of the other home decor items and gifts, but the addition of upholstered furniture was a big investment and a big risk financially.”
Joan concurs: “The base of our upholstery is products made in America. Some bigger brands aren’t built to last, and it’s always been a constant that we buy things that stand the test of time. Hammertown stands the test of time.”
Their first expansion was actually to Hudson, but when Joan discovered that there was space opening up in Rhinebeck in 2001, they decided to move their second Hammertown store there instead. The store in Great Barrington, MA, followed soon thereafter in 2002.
“Our mission has always been to provide a Hudson Valley and Berkshire Hills take on interior design and the ‘Hammertown look’ is something that people really respond to in the sense that it’s not cookie cutter and it’s always evolving,” says Dana.
Something for everyone
Joan and Dana both echo the goal to provide a variety of products at different price points so that Hammertown has something for everyone. It is also the exclusive regional purveyor of a variety of brands including Cisco Home, John Derian, Libeco Linens, Ethnicraft, and Lee Industries. “From custom upholstery to bedding, lighting, antiques, and gifts, our aim is to provide a unique shopping experience that feels a bit like a treasure hunt,” Dana explains.
“Sometimes interiors are a daunting thing and people can be intimidated, but our goal has always been to help people feel like they can approach Hammertown style and make it their own, without breaking the bank,” Dana says. “We want everyone to feel that no matter your budget, there is a way to make changes in your home that will make a real difference in your daily life. Sometimes a simple throw and new pillows is all that is needed to revive a sofa or bed. You don’t need to start from scratch.”
One thing that is undeniable is the quintessential Hammertown style. Joan says it isn’t “formulaic,” and that’s one of the reasons why it works. “I often say that it’s perfectly imperfect. People will come in and say ‘Oh my god, I could just live here,’ and to me, that’s the highest compliment.”
Joan says that even though Hammertown is current with the trends, they always reference history and maintain links to the past to create a layered style that is unique and evolving all the time. The products are a mix of styles from contemporary, rustic, and modern, which allows Hammertown to include their antique products alongside more modern contemporary pieces.
“Our ‘secret sauce’ is the ability to adapt to the trends, without taking on things that you’ll regret purchasing or that are going to go out of style,” Dana elaborates further. “We aim to carry well made, well designed pieces for your home that feel timeless, but provide you with that update you need.”
Part of Hammertown’s unique business is their design services. Whether you are looking for paint color recommendations or need interior design services, they can accommodate your needs. Options can be simple or in-depth, from two hour consultations customized to your needs to fully realized interior design plans for rooms or entire homes.
“You get as much or as little as you want from us,” says Joan. “It’s an investment that’s worth it, because one wrong purchase can set you back quite a bit of money and also interfere with your style.”
Challenges and growth
Over its 38 years in business, Hammertown has weathered its fair share of challenges. Dana says that one of the overarching and ever present challenges is changing and growing with the economy in a way that keeps a small business viable. One of their biggest challenges is determining how to grow in the changing landscape of home furnishings.
“When we started, there were a few design magazines like Country Living and Martha Stewart Living that focused on inspiring ways to improve your homes, but with the industry growing and the arrival of HGTV, you have to fight for relevancy,” Dana explains. “I think that it’s the convergence of maintaining your relevance and staying true to your core ideals, and also developing over time as the needs of the community around you change.”
Naturally, the launch of the Internet and big box stores also caused Hammertown and similar other small businesses to take a bit of a hit. Dana says that “if clients see something we sell for less online and ask us to match, we simply remind them that we stock things locally and provide delivery and customer service that these bigger brands can’t. Plus paying a bit more for something purchased locally supports the economy and people who live here.”
It goes without saying that the pandemic also put a strain on their business. Coming out the other side of the pandemic has created a very challenging time for the home furnishing industry, but these challenges haven’t caused Dana or Joan to lose perspective, which is a feat not easily achievable in the current climate that small businesses are weathering.
“It requires us as a group to look for new ways to grow, and that is both challenging and rewarding. I feel like facing these challenges head on has allowed everybody from the top down to grow professionally,” Dana says.
One of the biggest rewards that Hammertown has encountered over its 38 years in business is the relationships that they’ve built with people and families in the community. “We have a lot of history, we know our customers, we’ve seen people have babies and then their babies have babies,” Dana laughs. “It goes beyond just feeling successful as a business.”
Additionally, Hammertown doesn’t have much staff turnover. “That’s what allows us to make it during tough times and what has cemented our relationships and commitment to the business in both regards – us to our employees and our employees to us,” she says.
Another reward is the longevity of Hammertown’s position within the community and the ability to give back to the people in the Pine Plains, Rhinebeck, and Great Barrington communities, as well as the surrounding areas.
The Pine Plains location of Hammertown hosts bi-annual tent sales on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends where they offer “early bird” ticket prices. The funds from the ticket prices are then donated to the Pine Plains Fire Company and to the Pine Plains Community Center. Following the tent sale, if Hammertown has leftover items, they aim to donate them to charities like Habitat for Humanity and others.
Additionally, Joan is active in the community and is on multiple boards in the area, including the Northeast Community Center, The Stissing Center, and a local animal shelter, while Dana is on the board of the Moviehouse in Millerton.
“We’re always looking for ways to reach into other towns,” Dana says. “Through our employees, we also find things that are happening and we try to keep a behind-the-scenes position and keep connected to the various charities and organizations that make our region so special.”
Dana says that keeping connected to the community and giving back is a vital element of Hammertown’s ethos. “I think for us, we feel like our focus on building a home extends beyond the four walls of your house,” she says. “It’s important to acknowledge that where you live is more than just the house you live in.”
Hammertown also hosts a variety of different community-oriented events, including pop-up dinners, book-signings, design workshops, and cooking classes in which all of the proceeds go to charity.
Hammertown has an upcoming cooking class in October. The event is titled, “Cheese Boards for Charity – Master the Art of Cheese Boards” with Barrie Prinz on Sunday, October 29th, where all proceeds benefit the Salisbury Volunteer Ambulance Service. The class will be held at the Pine Plains store and tickets are available for purchase on the Hammertown website.
Both Dana and Joan share that Hammertown is looking forward to the resurgence of eclectic home decor and comfort, and the desire to make your home look and feel like you. “If I look back over the years at the things that we’ve sold, there is one constant, and that is that those things had meaning and in some way connected with me,” Joan says.
Joan says that many people now are wanting to add warmth back into their homes and not make them so overwhelmingly “modern and sterile.” Dana agrees and shares that Hammertown will continue to adapt to the trends while maintaining their unique blend of style.
“We have another era upon us, whatever that looks like,” Dana says. “We don’t know what’s going to happen, but we’re really excited about our next steps. For now, we’re just riding the great wave of the return to homelife. What is home to you, and how do we help you make that your special place?”
Visit Hammertown’s website here or visit one of their brick and mortar stores at the locations below.
The Barn in Pine Plains
3201 Route 199, Pine Plains
6420 Montgomery St, Rhinebeck
Downtown Great Barrington
15 Bridge St, Great Barrington