Kaaterskill Market: An Aesthetic Entry Point to Sustainability | Chronogram Magazine

Kaaterskill Market: An Aesthetic Entry Point to Sustainability

A Fashion Industry Veteran Puts her Creative Eye to Work Selling Sustainable Products for the Home

While the selection of things like biodegradable baby bibs, natural loofahs, and horsehair brooms has proliferated online in the past few years, there are still very few sustainable home goods boutiques where you can touch and try products before bringing them home. The recently opened Kaaterskill Market in Catskill fills this gap with flair. At the Main Street brick and mortar, you’ll find a range of items that are as utilitarian as they are beautiful, made with natural materials and ethical labor.

After a Fashion

After growing increasingly disenchanted with the fashion industry—both with the crazed consumerism it begets and the mistreatment it is built upon—in 2019, Katie Hartsough left a job as a VP of merchandising in the city to live full time in her upstate home. She had learned about production practices, visited factories in China, and ordered merchandise from those same places to be shipped halfway around the world in plastic bags. “It was always about what was new. What are you supposed to do with the version you bought two months ago?” she says. “It just really started to weigh on me. It was no longer an industry I wanted to participate in—even in a sustainable way.”

So she traded the manicures and fast fashion of corporate life for a fashion fast and the wilds of Greene County. “Suddenly I didn’t have to get a new shirt for my meeting on Friday,” Hartsough says. “I just wanted to be peaceful in my surroundings and to feel good about the objects I was using. I just wanted things that would last.”

She turned her focus on her home and finding sustainable—and beautiful—tools and objects for daily life. Eventually her quest to find everything from brooms to dish towels, made with ethical labor using green materials, bloomed into a business idea. In 2019, she began selling at the farmers’ market in Tannersville. That gave way to pop-ups with other businesses. And then in the summer of 2020, she switched to the Windham Farmers’ Market. Alongside farm stalls hawking summer squash and tomatoes, she sold Fair Trade baskets and organic cotton produce bags, as well as wooden cleaning brushes, cloth napkins, kitchen towels, plastic-free detergent, and dryer balls. “Functional was the focus,” she says. Everything had to meet her standards of sustainability, traceability, and fair labor practices—and it was a hit.

With a successful market season coming to a close, Hartsough noticed the Catskill Country Store location on Main Street in Catskill had come up for rent and she played with the idea of a brick-and-mortar. Cautious, she initially signed a three-month lease. “It started as a holiday pop-up,” says Hartsough, who split the storefront with farmers’ market friends Catskill Mountain Woodworking to minimize her risk. “The holiday season was really great, and the community responded well, so I decided to keep the space,” she says. With a permanent home and room to spread out, she has begun expanding the product offerings.

“Now that I'm here, it’s been wonderful to connect with more local makers,” says Hartsough. The collection, which started with an emphasis on Fair Trade and internationally sourced products, now includes candles from Catskill Candle Studio and in-town neighbor Cave Glow, hand sanitizer and salve from Woodstock-based Mira’s Natural, Cairo-grown dried flowers, a soap collaboration with a New York artisan, ceramics from Middletown maker Tellefsen Atelier, and wooden kitchen implements from Katrok.

The Anti-Trend

Professionally, Hartsough’s made a U-turn, shifting from a workplace centered around an ethos of quick, constant consumption to a focus on enduring quality. “In the city, I worked in trend direction and product development. What I’m doing now is so anti-trend,” she says. “I want timeless things that last. I don’t want anything to feel like it’s too cool. I don’t want uber hip, I just want beautiful, functional.

While function has always been at the forefront of Hartsough’s sourcing choices, it is impossible for the aesthetics she honed over a career in fashion not to come to bear. And indeed creating a visually appealing display is part of her hook. She describes her tack as “approaching sustainability not from an activism standpoint but from an aesthetic standpoint as a way to attract people who might not otherwise be interested, and then allowing them to go deeper into why these specific products are of value.” Hartsough adds, “Once you see beauty in something then you are able to consider, ‘Oh, this is made of wood, or natural fiber. It’s made in an ethical way. I know where it comes from.”

To fill the void left by Catskill Country Store, Hartsough will begin introducing artisan pantry goods slowly, starting with ethical chocolates for Valentine’s Day from Troy-based Primo Botanica and ramping up to a wider selection by April. “With Circle W and the Country Store closed, there is nowhere on Main Street to get granola, maple syrup, or honey—all those local treats,” she says. “I’m really excited to offer that to the community next.”

While a growing sustainability market is blooming online, Hartsough is smitten with the tactile experience and human interaction of brick and mortar. She says, “I love the idea of the physical space being a place of discovery for people that wouldn't necessarily consider sustainable or fair trade options.”

Kaaterskill Market

428 Main Street, Catskill