The Meadow in New York is open! Planning, searching, building, setting up, and opening have somehow resulted in an actual, physical incarnation of a dream. Finishing salt (100+ varieties), chocolate bars (300+ varieties), flowers (fresh cut), and a smattering of gourmet items for the kitchen (mills, odds and ends) and the bar (cocktail bitters). Here are some pictures—with a little back story—of our new shop in the West Village in New York City.
- The Meadow in New York : salt – chocolate – flowers – etc.
- 523 Hudson Street, New York NY 10014
- 212-645-4633 – www.themeadow.net - YELP!
Starting in the middle, with the mind reeling: Zeno of Elea proposed a series of irritating paradoxes that pit sensibility against reason the most famous of which was summarized by Aristotle: “That which is in locomotion must arrive at the half-way stage before it arrives at the goal.” In other words, before you get from point A to point B, you have to go half the distance between point A and B. Fair enough. But before you can get to that halfway point, you have to go half the distance to it, and so on and so on. Any distance you hope to traverse, you are first confronted with getting halfway to it before you can get there. Your original goal, whether it’s the eye-batting creature at the other end of the bar or a monkish mountaintop in Nepal, recedes like a hall of mirrors into infinity, with you unable to get anywhere farther than halfway on the path towards it…. forever.
The project of opening a new shop in New York alternated between stressful and exultant, alone and enthralled, flat-lined and explosive. The city’s bureaucracy, for those of you who have not experienced it, is amazing, a dark mantle that cloaks everything–ideas, plans, money, relationships–in suffocating indifference, or worse actually, in a mathematical quagmire of halfway points. We were getting there, we told ourselves, but how was not rationally explicable, and why we persisted in thinking we would actually arrive at our goal defied any rational explanation. The abundance of baffling abstractions and behind-the-scenes thwartings would have dazzled Kafka.
The physical stuff. Our New York store needed native bones, so we roamed the Pennsylvania countryside in search of wood. It was the chance encounter five years ago with a huge stack of Oregon’s old growth Douglas Fir that set so many things into motion when we were working out the construction of The Meadow in Portland. We wanted to make the New York store from local wood. Just outside of Allentown we met a man with a log cabin dating to the 1700s annexed to his house and a yard full of salvaged barn timbers. After settling on particularly enticing stacks of old growth hemlock and yellow pine planks milled sometime in the mid to late 1800s from an unspoiled America’s primordial forests, we spent the day power washing. Each stroke of the power washer’s wand transformed dull gray to a copper-straw color that made you unselfconsciously gnash your teeth like a beaver. The salt shelves, flower prep table, display for vintage vases, and sales counter would be made of rough 2.5-inch thick by 9-inch wide Hemlock floor joists. The chocolate shelves and artisan bitters display cases would be made from the yellow pine barn siding, lightly sanded.
The timbers were transported in the early dawn of the next day through the linguine maze of overpasses and tunnels to Manhattan, then stacked neatly in the basement of the shop to dry. For listless weeks I would go down there, beneath the din of trucks trundling up Hudson, flip the circuit breaker to illuminate the underbelly of the ancient building, and sit on the steps in the blinking fluorescent light. And just to look at them.
One day we got the green light to build, and in three weeks the space was gutted, fitted with fresh walls, floors, trim, paint, shelves, counters, lights, and all the juicy interstitial and superficial things that turn a musty desiccated shell into something aromatic and sprouty. Things happened. One day I called Jennifer: “Hon, I found a window.” Ten inches beneath plaster and plasterboard, a 60 inch by 40 inch rectangle in the middle of a brick wall, leading ultimately, as is the way with windows, to the sky. “Found?” says Jennifer. On another occasion, while rigging something electrical late into the night, a woman inexplicably brought me (1) a carrot cake, and then twenty minutes later (2) a salad of bitter greens and shaved Parmesan, grilled steak and chicken, and salmon with a basil-garlic dipping sauce, and then two weeks later (3) a tiramisu the size of a mattress. Jennifer spent several long seconds horizontal, three feet in the air, holding a door handle that was no longer attached to a door. Finally we painted the plate glass up front with “The Meadow” in leaves of copper and lemon gold, stacked all the inventory we could amass on the shelves, and opened our doors.
Meanwhile, the streets are electric with people–people of wild, vibrant, beautiful, and unexpected varieties. The ground thunders, hissing smells of oil, static, knishes. The skies glow hazel with the indecipherable freshness/fatigue of autumn. To say that we’re excited to open The Meadow in New York would be an understatement.