After 20 Years, Country Lane Will Close

Vicki Nolan at Country Lane in Sag Harbor. Kathryn G. Menu photo

Country Lane, the shop at the corner of Main and Washington Streets, traditionally would shutter its doors for three days and three nights just after Halloween, as Vicki Nolan transformed her space into a holiday wonderland of ornaments, homewares and décor items hand-picked to fit into the urban farmhouse sensibility the store has become known for during its 20-year history.

But last Thursday, the doors to Country Lane were open, the store bustling, patrons walking out of the Main Street shop, arms bursting with eggshell blue boxes containing delicate vases and platters, decorative throw pillows and earthenware in the store’s trademark brown, craft-paper bags lined with gingham tissue paper.

For Ms. Nolan, it was a day filled with abundant emotions — gratitude for the clientele that has come to include dear friends, appreciation for the village she has worked in for two decades, and an understandable sadness. It was the first day of a liquidation sale of the popular store that Ms. Nolan owns with her husband, Skip, announced that morning on social media. Country Lane is expected to close at the end of the year.

“We have had the joy of customers becoming best friends,” said Ms. Nolan in a social media post. “Seeing children born, years flying by and then seeing them head off to college. We have all shared countless laughs as well as a few tears. The store has been a lot of hard work but lots of fun, too, with so many memories.”

In that post, and in a separate interview on Monday, Ms. Nolan acknowledged that the reason for the store’s closure was the pending sale of three contiguous properties including the building Country Lane is located in. That property, with frontage on Main, Washington and Division streets, contains over half a dozen stores and apartments. Listed last spring by owner Julia Hyman for just under $12 million, it was revealed earlier this fall the properties were in contract to be purchased by Manhattan Skyline Management, which is owned by Donald Zucker. The closing of that sale was anticipated this week.

“I just felt like we had 20 really great years in Sag Harbor and, with this big change coming, it just was the right time for us,” said Ms. Nolan, who has served on the board of the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce. “I have just been overwhelmed by how special everyone has made both Skip and I feel. It just goes to prove I have had the best 20 years and the best customers ever. Sag Harbor is such a special place — from the beginning, I could not see my store in another place.”

Ms. Nolan opened Country Lane 20 years ago on Washington Street before moving to the store’s current corner location, once home to Gallery Accents, 15 years ago. She opened Country Lane after several years as the assistant director of continuing education at Pace University. The daughter of a master flower show judge and designer, Marnice Burns, Ms. Nolan was always drawn to design, and to the country stores in Vermont where she and Mr. Nolan would take ski vacations.

“I loved my work but I wanted to do this new, creative thing,” she said. “I had never worked in retail, but I always felt like I can do whatever I put my mind to. I have always felt empowered in that way.”

The Nolans had spent a lot of time in Montauk, and found themselves drawn to Sag Harbor. For Ms. Nolan, it was the perfect village to open the kind of store she wanted.

“I wanted to have a store that felt like you were coming into someone’s home — warm, inviting, comforting,” she said. “I tried to display my things like they would look in a home to give people some inspiration, some ideas.”

After announcing the store’s impending closure, Ms. Nolan knew her regular customers would come in to buy their last Country Lane wares, but she said this week she could have never anticipated the response. By Monday, the store was almost empty, a handful of baskets, some ornaments, furniture and wall hangings all the remained.

“I really thought I would be here until December,” said Ms. Nolan. “Everyone has really been so supportive. I have had phone calls from people as far away as Florida, people from California have called in — and that is what it is all about.”

Ms. Nolan said she hopes to host a gathering Thanksgiving weekend, when she would traditionally offer hot cider and cookies for her clients. “I just want to do something,” she said. “I have had such wonderful customers that have really and truly become friends.”