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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Homes Going UP! (and my blogging blues)

First things first. We got a lot of homes going on at the moment at all different phases of construction. Couple of things they got in common is great design, great land, great pricing, great value, great floor plans and a great vibe inside and out.

Sure it's a recession, and sure no one is supposed to be working, and no one is definitely building homes, and no one is getting financing, but some how 'no one' is really pounding our door down and waiting respectfully in line for their turn to own a piece of heaven.

Reminds me of the Edie Brickell song "Nothing", that has the clever turn of phrase where nothing is personified as something.

Up above is the picture of the Tiffany's blue Cottage 23 which is closing on Friday, which will be our last closing of a fan-f%$^!ing-tastic year of sales. Seriously - what company kicked this fricking Great Recession in the rear, faced down the dirty stinky breath of overdone pessimism and too much media, and hit it right over the fence in deep left center field. I hate to be obvious - but the answer is ... Catskill Farms. I joke, but it's no small piece of achievement - I mean, this was a world-wide correction, and this little company of our just kept chugging along. It's kinda amazing and a few times James and I just looked at each other in amazement as the calls kept coming in, the houses kept closing, and we kept on cautiously rolling the dice into the eye of the storm.

Here's Cottage 24, our last home we have for sale, currently - up on Lucky Lake outside of Narrowsburg, NY - and I think it's possible that it may be spoken for shortly since we have a couple coming up for their 2nd visit this weekend - and how I know it's somewhat serious and doable, is the fact that they have been looking for quite awhile - so they are an educated consumer - the exact type we like. The more our customers know, the more they value what we are doing.

1250 sq ft, and so many new details I'm just going to hold back describing them until I snap a few photos this weekend. It's on almost 8 acres and will sell for $335k.

Front door will be changed out for a duel action dutch door shortly, but with all the in and out, it's better to compromise some aesthetic for some functionality.

And here, below, is Ranch 2. Great colors, cool look and feel, big views in most directions and spoken for. Tony and Laurie should be in this home in February +/-.

And Cottage 20 ain't too shabby either. The siding just went up and I saw it this morning and loved it. I mean loved it. That's one of the great things about collaberating with so many diverse talented professionals - they bring something to the table and we bring something to the table and the mix is always unique, trying to capture the elusive essence of design, history, style, flow and restraint.

Susan chose a dark stain, and it's a big decision because it turns the house towards a cottage cabin, standing proud on top of the hill. Stone being applied at the left, siding on the right. Great lines. This 960 sq ft cottage on 6 acres is also spoken for. She should be closing in February or so.

And here is the beginning of Richard's barn house over on Tuthill Road. Richard found us via the NY Post article that highlighted our homes, and now here we are - under construction and under contract.

And here are some quick snaps of our new barn garage going up at our offices - a pantie red with white trim 5-bay garage! Good for truck storage, tractor storage, full court basketball, street hockey or drag races. It's going to be huge.

And ol' Daniel's house on Tuthill Road - a micro baby - all 800 sq ft of lovin', set sort of on a cliff, on a real nice piece of land. This Micro should be real macro in it's good-lookinness.

So, there is all the construction - actually, it's not nearly all of it - we started building farmhouse #12 (just the driveway so far) and every week we have a handful of warranty and punchlist items to address.

As it happens every so often, I get publicly accosted every now again. Once it was with some women at Town Hall who felt a public airing of their grievances was the most high class approach to communication, another time it was with the loser owner of Fred Du Shed in Callicoon (which finally closed it's doors after offering good products but a torturous approach to main street coalition building) and now it was with Mike Strohmeier, the owner of a small (real small) real estate brokerage firm in Barryville NY. Here I was getting coffee at the River Mart, a cool store selling fresh stuff, be it produce, baked goods or antiques. But Mike cornered me at the coffee area where I loiter a couple of times a day and tells me loudly (picture a guy in full camouflage) that I 'have some set of balls on me' and then continues to berate me for ripping everyone off in town, and beware, because what comes around goes around, including the doozy "Everyone knows you go around ripping everyone off - and I'm going to say it to your face." Then, with froth foaming, he kept saying 'your blog, your blog, your blog' like it was some sort of beating heart pounding ominously under the floor boards, Edgar Allen Poe like. It's true the blog does get a little outrageous on occasion, but hey, it's my blog, and I'll be outrageous if I want to be - much better than being bland, boring, trite and common-place.

I simply looked at him - with the camo, anger, and rudeness, - and agreed completely with his thought that you reap what you sow.

Now, being a pretty level headed fellow who many times a week finds myself backtracking and rethinking my approach to a problem or issue in order to get past it, was wondering on my drive away what he meant when he said I 'rip every one off in town' - first, I was wondering who I employ or use that works in town, and since the answer is 'not many people' I immediately got to wondering who these victims were. My homeowners? My employees and subcontractors? The local deli because I ask for an extra pickle or put too much sugar in my coffee? The local gas station where I won't buy gas because they are always 10% higher than everyone else? Now, it's important to realize ol' Mike was saying this in the most expensive convenience store in Sullivan County, whose sandwiches cost more than in Manhattan - so value is definitely subjective, since they are quite busy and so are we.

Then I wondered some more - we employ 12 people, we keep another 25 companies busy on a more or less full time basis, we pay a town of real estate taxes, a ton of money to local suppliers of tile, wood, stone, roofing, plumbing, etc.... - in fact, we've grown so fast we are many companies' largest customer -which is amazing consider where we started. So, I don't think we go around 'ripping people off', in fact up here in the sticks it's nearly impossible to go around 'ripping off your vendors and team' because anyone who does anything up here nows how hard it is to put together and keep a good team - so you definitely don't around screwing them - you actually cater to them, reward them and encourage them. I think half the time these rebukes - public, private, or anonymous - are just because they are not sitting at the table with what I consider to be the best team in the region - and a lot of round of cuts have been made to get here.

I actually hope, in the end, we all reap what we sow - get what's coming to us- because I think I'll fair just fine.


  1. Unbelievable. Clearly, camo guy isn't aware that the premise of the entire blog concept is that it provides a place for the blog's owner to voice their OPINION. Further, if he's so annoyed, why doesn't he just stop reading?

  2. Yo - Nest Dweller - thanks for flying in. I wondered the same question about his consistent reading (same with the 'one who calls me asshole' - his native american name) - why keep reading unless it's a weird backhanded compliment to my dexterity as a writer and my free-thinking ways. _ It's complimentry, if you know what I mean.

    But yo seriously, the boys at Cottage 23 buy tomorrow so be sure to bring them some vino and say hello. It's definitely great to have Pedro and David moving in as neighbors. This here Crawford Road thing is really working out great now that it's playing out in entirety.

  3. Theres as much drama up there as there is on the new MTV show called the Jersey Shore (which I'm kinda watching now)

  4. Do you think he wears full camo gear while having open houses?

  5. Drama galore. One part money, one part power, one part entitlement. It's always the one's who say " I hate drama' that cause the most.

  6. Charles, what's the deal with the "torturous approach to main street coalition building" by Michelle at Shed du Fred? I've been there many a time, and herself and her husband have always been friendly to me, trying to make a nice little store work. I have seen the opposite at work, so I could understand if it was not the case for others.Not knowing the background, I'd like to know some more, as the store is now closed. I go to the wine merchant whenever I'm in town. Great guy. Destination shopping in the michelin style of the word. And we go to River Brook farm to get produce from Neil and Alice Fitzgerald in Cochecton on 97. Really nice people and fantastic produce.

  7. Karlusmagnus - OMG, you don't the reputation of that lady michelle who ran the joint? Once a month some unsuspecting person would walk into her store and for some varied but always absurd reason Michelle would kick them out.

    Picture it - your walking around with your family, go into her store and she humiliates you by escorting you out the door for some imaginary greviance. She did it to me when I had a 3 month old in my arms with a couple of friends.

    Her words - "I'm not comfortable with you in my store, etc..."

    Her reputation among the other shopkeepers was about as bad as it comes.

    My wife and I often commented that she had a great store, and it was impressive that she was open for 5 years (most businesses don't last nearly as long up here), and that was the day she kicked me out of her store for something or another. It was absurd, and I'm glad she's gone, although the area will miss her store, as she had good taste.

    The wine merchant is the best around, and hopefully they will stick around because we just don't have enough tasty little niche boutiques.

    I've said for years that well-run niche small businesses up here have a chance of making a decent living - for some reason, though, the majority of persons who invest in a business up here are missing a key component - money, biz experience, focus, business plan - and fail relatively quickly.

    So, as a business who loves to see good ideas executed and succeed, it's always painful to watch an good idea badly executed.

  8. Charles, no, I did not know the scoop. Pretty wacky behaviour indeed. They only time I saw her weird out was when a bunch of 13 year old kids came in touching stuff which is a logical response to a little wolf pack like that. I went in to get some olive oil usually, and the odd little gifty. Style was a little shabby chic for my taste, but the husband seemed to be a talented wood worker. He has some nice pieces. You're right though ... some nice ideas arrive from time to time, but they sadly do seem to lack a key component for success. Whatever happened to people keeping hidden vices, hidden? If they felt the urge to scold/rebuke/embarrass someone, could they not just hold it in and take a quick hit of their favorite substance instead?
    The antique guy below the wine store is quite nice, and he has nice jewelry if anyone likes to purchase pieces as gifts for themselves or loved ones. I just come through to get supplies sometimes, as its a nice town. The chili and crabcakes at Matthews on Main are also good. Charles, maybe you need to start a separate drama blog, as its very entertaining. Its like you are slowly pealing back the layers, like David Lynch in Lumberton.

  9. Thanks KM - you're input is appreciated. You really can't imagine what we go through up here trying to run a real business in the face of resistance from all angles - anytime someone new pops up taking our ideas and running, I am fully consoled by the knowledge that it's not just our ability to build pretty great houses quickly and affordably, but also our ability to navigate situations that I'm sure 90% of our readers have never encountered or considered - and the situations happen three times a week.

    It's nearly impossible to run a real growing biz up here - obstacles and hurdles everywhere. And our true competitive advantage - when it's all said and done - it is our ability to withstand great amounts of torture - to eat a lot of shit - and still stay focused on the goal. Eating shit with a smile, because the day to day distractions are only that - immense distractions and insults that most people would never cousider ignoring or overlooking. That's the trick to what we do.

  10. Charles, its like an episode of "As The Delaware Turns". Shed du Fred will reopen on Wed Dec 16th as Barn Verde. I am on their mailing list, and I got an email yesterday saying that "Well after realizing how exhausted we were ... going for 8 years, 12 months a year, 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, we got some much needed rest, and after doing a lot of thinking, we decided that our hearts are in the country and we are coming back. Our new name will be "Barne Verde". We missed Callicoon and all our friends.... We signed a 5 year lease ... and we're not going anywhere."
    I was in town on Saturday, and we got some wonderful locally produced pork rillettes (with a cool label that says simply "ingredients = our pigs, their fat, spices")from wine store. I was thinking at the time that it was a pity that Shed was closed as we needed some nice cards to send for Xmas/NY/Hanukkah. Well returning home that evening i got the email and see that a sequel is in order. So perhaps you will get another chance to be ejected? I reckon that bi-polar disorder is perhaps the correct diagnosis, and my wife concurs. It's so jekyll and hyde to treat some people as you were treated, yet run a normal, functioning, and welcoming store to others.

  11. Oh shit - I'm sure many people will be relieved since she was the go to store for many occasions.

    I was pretty offended by the boot she gave my ass until I realized how large of a club I had just entered, and then it was just sad that this is how low the bar is businesses in Sullivan County. My wife says that people who land up here often really seem to stretch out their freaky side, and since there is little to check and balance it, it can go too far.

    In a normal place, the most successful builder in the region would be welcome by a successful retail store focusing on home goods since there are obviously synergies. But the same could be said, for say, The Barryville Chamber of Commerce where Catskill Farms was ostracized years ago for being too successful.

    As Chris Noth said in a Law and Order episode last night - "Envy, now there's a small town trait".