By Alison Rooney
Women are always half of the customer mix at Hudson Valley Outfitters (HVO), but twice a year they are especially welcomed: on Ladies’ Night. The Cold Spring outdoor clothing, shoes and equipment retailer hosted the spring edition of this distaff invitational on Friday evening, April 8. A good turn-out of women, invited through HVO’s email list and through social media, came to check out the special deals available just that evening, have a peek at the season’s new merchandise, and partake of food, wine, raffles for goodies and an unhurried opportunity to talk shop with owner Teri Barr and her staff.
Corinne Telgheder had traveled to HVO all the way from Pine Bush, an hour away, with a mission in mind: to purchase a particularly coveted pair of shoes, a set of black Vibram Five Fingers to be specific, at a discount. Mission was accomplished and happiness achieved mere minutes after entry.
Nadine Farrell, of Putnam Valley, had come to HVO three weeks earlier, interested in the kayak lessons that the store offers along with the sale and rental equipment. Now on the e-newsletter list, she was spotted at the cash register, multiple purchases being rung up.
HVO turns ten
Hudson Valley Outfitters turns ten years old this year, and will celebrate this big anniversary with a party in May. The store operates as a clothing and equipment retail establishment, a hub for kayak hire, lessons and tours, and as a kind of base camp for those wishing to hike in the area. These branches
often feed into each other, with people calling for kayaking reservations stopping by to pick up accessories or tourists strolling up Main Street coming in to browse and discovering that they can actually get out on the Hudson via an instructional kayak tour.
Teri Barr moved to Philipstown in 1994, in one of those common, fortuitous ways in which many transplants seem to find themselves here, “I literally drove into town, thought ‘this is it’ — instant love.” Barr’s love for the outdoors is longstanding and includes time spent by the ocean, living in Venice, California roller-skating and playing tennis. Nowadays her focus is the Hudson and the hills and mountains alongside of it.
Most of HVO’s business is via word of mouth, with many coming from the tri-state area and Pennsylvania. Barr says “often someone stumbles upon Cold Spring; they then bring their friends.” Kayaking has been an organized activity on the river for over 25 years, but local access and interest has been enhanced and stimulated by the 2006 opening of the Scenic Hudson-owned Foundry Dock Park, by the Metro-North station. In the past few seasons, according to Barr, HVO “gets about 100 people in the water each weekend.” The kayaking season runs from Memorial Day weekend through the end of October. Experts and novices both are served by HVO. There are group and individual Fundamentals classes, as well as Strokes and Boat Control and Rescue Training offerings. Scheduled group tours, some with instruction, visit Constitution Marsh, Bannerman’s Castle, West Point and, for beginners, Little Stony Point. Most weekend tours wind up with waitlists.
One-person and tandem rentals are available. Single kayakers may visit Foundry Cove or Constitution Marsh; two people may go on the Hudson itself, however one of the pair must be rescued-trained, with proof. Children, with a minimum weight of 50 lbs., are allowed, and an adult must accompany anyone under the age of 18. People who cannot swim can go on the tours, with a guide, and the guide must be made aware that they do not know how to swim. A ‘what to wear and bring list’ is provided to those who reserve. HVO has a great variety of kayaks available for purchase, some still at pre-season discount rates.
HVO provides a tide schedule on its website and advises that the ideal time to enter the Marsh is two hours before high tide, and to leave is two hours after high tide. A note advises potential paddlers to “Please be advised that if you paddle into the Marsh at low tide, you will get stuck in the mud and disrupt the very sensitive eco-system.”
Those who prefer to experience the outdoors on land are well-catered for at HVO too, as the store carries an assortment of New York/New Jersey Trail Conference Maps and staff is always available to give advice on local trails and hiking conditions. Barr says most hikers arrive by train.
The retail trade
The retail side of the business attracts a mix of locals and tourists. “We depend on our local customers a great deal,” says Barr. The biggest overall sellers are shoes, socks and hats, and Philipstowners purchase quite a lot of the children’s shoes, in particular. Locals were out in force on Ladies’ Night; Patricia Byron, of Cold Spring, was one of them. She praised the store, “It’s just a good buy; the quality is incredible. I would recommend it to anyone. It’s a wonderful part of Cold Spring.”
Many visiting from the city need a little outdoor footwear assistance. “We try to get them out of their black leather boots if they’re headed off hiking,” says Barr. Store Manager Linda Hoffmann has encountered “shoe anxiety” with the popular “toe shoes” the store sells, “Men, in particular, get anxious — they can’t relax their feet at first. I tell them ‘take your time — you don’t have to perform!”
HVO opened without a business plan, but with a Mission Statement, the gist of which has remained unaltered: “We want to be a place where people can have a good time. We want to be the facilitators of that.” Barr says that she and her staff “pride ourselves on customer service. We expanded to the shoe side in 2007 because people need shoes, and we have them in infant sizes through to men’s size 14s.” Sometimes it takes an unusual approach to convince a customer about the claims of a particular product. Barr recalls one jet-skier in particular: “I sold him waterproof kayak clothes. He came back and said that he didn’t think they were waterproof. So I told him to let me test it and I took him out the back and sprayed him with a hose!” (He left convinced.)|
Barr credits her ten-year survival rate as due largely to “having the store open seven days a week, posting hours and sticking to them—that’s critical, and in terms of Main Street success, having interesting items that the locals need and that the tourists will buy.” It takes work though, and it’s never easy. Barr notes, “When we started, I thought, okay, we’ve got these kayaks and a van, now we need to open a store. It fell into place. As soon as the store opened we hit the ground running. I’m still putting out fires!”
The next Ladies Night will take place in late fall. Hudson Valley Outfitters’ website provides a lot of detail on all of the kayaking options: www.hudsonvalleyoutfitters.com/ The store, located at 63 Main Street, Cold Spring, is open weekdays from 11 to 6 and weekends from 9 to 6. They can be reached at 845-265-0221.
Photos by A. Rooney, except kayaking class, courtesy of HVO