For Tim Luby and Jess Fritscher, a pair of avid hikers with a longstanding love for the trails and hollows of the Catskills, visiting just wasn't enough.
"We were driving back from one of our many trips to the Catskills," Luby said. "I kind of blurted out, 'They need an outdoor store here.'"
That was just six months ago. Since then, Luby and Fritscher, a couple of young Rockland County residents with day jobs in Manhattan, have wasted no time making their vision a reality. On Friday, August 29 the pair officially launched the Catskill Mountain Storehouse, a lovingly-curated little outdoor store in the heart of Phoenicia's Main Street.
The couple (they're engaged to be married) has been coming to the Catskills almost every weekend since they met, Luby said.
"I feel like the Catskills is the backdrop of our relationship, and how we've grown together," he said.
What that glorious backdrop needed was a few more props, Luby decided. Specifically, a place in the central Catskills where a weekend hiker could pick up a few extra tent poles.
"We've forgotten so many things at home. The poles for our tents -- [once] we ended up having to rent a room instead of staying at the campground," he said.
Luby and Fischer are a little bit in love with the funky, laid-back little hamlet of Phoenicia. So far, it seems the feeling is mutual.
"People say they think it will do well," Luby said. "I think it's filling a void, and will make Phoenicia even more of a destination for people. The other business owners are super supportive."
The store is small, but the owners aim to keep it stocked with useful gear, with a focus on unique products you can't find at the likes of big-box retailers like REI and EMS. Much of the gear at the Catskill Mountain Storehouse comes from brands like Six Moon Designs, an Oregon-based maker of ultralight tents and packs, and Enlightened Equipment, a Minnesota company that makes unique lightweight camping quilts.
"I've talked to a lot of cottage manufactures, smaller guys who have this cult following, who make packs and tents for hardcore backpackers," Luby said. "I went on a little shopping spree myself to test all this stuff out. Stuff that I really have a personal hand in choosing. I meticulously chose everything we're carrying."
The Catskill Mountain Storehouse also rents packs, tents and other gear for backpackers who just want gear for the weekend.
For now, the Catskill Mountain Storehouse will be a weekend-only venture, and the pair will keep their day jobs. Luby hopes the business will grow enough to employ one or both of them full-time.
"So far, we haven't been crazy stressed about it. It really has been a labor of love. Nonstop, but we're doing okay," Luby said.
The store's low-key opening over the Labor Day weekend was a festive occasion, with resident "store dog" Muppet on hand to greet customers, and a sampling of homemade grass-fed filet mignon jerky, smoked beans and s'mores à la Luby.
Luby doesn't expect to get rich selling tents and backpacks, but he says it's deeply rewarding work.
"Never in my life have I gotten so motivated to do something. I haven't even stopped to think, 'Oh my God, what are we doing?' We just did it," he said. "It's exciting. It feels like fulfilling work."
Catskill Mountain Storehouse. On the boardwalk at 60 Main Street in Phoenicia. Hours: Saturday-Sunday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, contact the store at 845.688-3143, or visit their Facebook page.
A few other local Catskills independent outdoor stores to check out:
46 Main Street
Al's Sport Store
6964 River Road
1000 Hurley Mountain Road
Windham Mountain Outfitters
61 State Route 296
Below: The Catskill Mountain Storehouse's sign, inspired by local trail markers. Photos courtesy of Tim Luby.