By Gianna Volpe
If you’re using the North and South Ferries to hop forks for a weekend party this autumn, Sylvester Manor is now running the perfect one-stop shop with the Gatehouse—sure to make you this season’s perfect party guest as the one-room cottage located across Route 114 from the historic farm’s main entrance is currently chock-filled with gorgeous local goods and gadgets to gift any gracious host or hostess.
“Every time I come in here to do something, I end up buying something,” Sylvester Manor’s executive director, Jo-Ann Robotti, said with a laugh about the shingled one-room cottage—built by the Clark family of White Oak Nursery. The Gatehouse opened as an accessible visitor’s center and gift shop for the artists and craftspeople of Sylvester Manor and beyond just before Labor Day weekend.
“We realize that it’s a small community and wanted to be able to showcase local merchants and artists’ wares that fit in with our ethos,” she said.
Enter event planner extraordinaire, Maria McBride—consultant for June’s Farm To Table dinner at Sylvester Manor—called the opportunity to fill the one-room farmhouse with fascinating objects fitting their rustic farming lifestyle the “perfect project” for the long-time editor, author and stylist of the bridal persuasion.
“It’s very farm-to-cottage when I really think about it,” said Ms. McBride. “Everything in the store is one degree separated from the farmhouse aesthetic…I started to collect apple crates and vintage shelves as sort of the core way of merchandising the space.”
Nearly the entire cottage contents—down to the antique furniture commissioned through Marika’s Furniture and the hand-picked Black Cat Books about farms and gardening—can be purchased, which makes the new Sylvester Manor Gatehouse more akin to a high quality, agricultural boutique than just another gift shop.
There are even entire sheep skins for sale there, which are sourced from the flock annually raised on Sylvester Manor’s back fields. “They’re tanned, washable and great for nesting babies, bed pads, rugs or even throwing on your car or your sofa,” said Ms. Robotti. “We started out with about a dozen and have sold several already.”
Shelter Island’s artists are well represented at the shop between John Pagliaro’s jewelry and Stephanie Frances’ ceramics, but North Fork artisans can be found there as well; the notecards, maps and other original art made by Orient’s Denise Fiedler were noted as hot-sellers this summer at the Gatehouse.
Shelter Island bee-keeper Sarah Shepherd of Herbs, Hives and Honeybees also sells local honey and vibrant flower bouquets at the shop alongside Catapano’s cheeses and Sylvester Manor butter made by Vine Street Cafe, however the Gatehouse is meant to complement—rather than compete—with Sylvester Manor’s open-air farmer’s market down the road.
“The response has been tremendous,” Ms. McBride said of the shop’s success thus far. “There really aren’t a lot of gift shops on the Island.”
And it’s not just gifts, gardening tools or flowers that can be found there. One of the more unusual items for sale at the shop are adult coloring books—something Ms. Robotti called a major trend in modern mindfulness techniques. “It’s being looked at as the new yoga,” she said.
The Gatehouse is scheduled to be open Saturdays and Sundays through November 27, at which point Ms. Robotti said the board and organization will evaluate whether or not to continue using the building next season. That said, the response has thus far “exceeded expectations,” she noted. In addition to shopping for friends and family, visitors can also find out about all Sylvester Manor’s planned events there, which includes the upcoming house tours and finale Creekside Concert set for September 17.
For more information, visit the Sylvester Manor website at sylvestermanor.org.