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Sugar Loaf Guild : The Hidden History of Sugar Loaf, NY


       Sugar Loaf, NY 10981

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  Updated Oct 09, 2019 | By Bob Fugett

    The Cutting Room Floor

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[  That Town  |  Candle Maker  |  Breakers  |  Four Step  |  Jon Baugh  |  Too Much   |  Startup   |  Cut   |  Art   |  Community   ]

"Welcome to the land of barter!"
- John O'Brien, 1977

I need to mention, probably should shout, that the story of our time in Scott's Meadow is not just about Mary and me alone.

Particular details recounted in the Sugar Loaf stories (starting with It Was That Kind of Town) may seem to touch on us alone, but everybody else here at the time (the true artisans) had almost the exact same story, and our shop at the end of the Meadow was merely the next to the last space to be renovated as people were self-altering one space after another all the way through the buildings.

It was the seminal and now famous gold standard of what has come to be called place making.

Everybody did work and taught others how to do similar work.

When Mary and I arrived in the Meadow, John O'Brien (Zothique Vintage Books) shook my hand enthusiastically saying, "Welcome to the land of barter," and he immediately taught us how to pull electric cable and install fixtures.

Gary Tanner was the Meadow's rental agent: a carpenter, electrician, and partner/worker in the kite shop and soft-sculpture studio, Imagination Warehouse, owned by him and his wife Susan Slater Tanner (who went on to teach college level Art History).

Gary showed us the county dump, told us about Rickles, and Orange County Lumber, and how to find books about various construction problems, and he pointed out our construction mistakes when we made them.

Susan was a rock goddess, and Scott's Meadow culture revolved around her parties. 

Susan and Gary: what a team.

As much as anything Sugar Loaf was a story of couples, and the per capita number of college degrees was astonishing; though that fact was not well understood by the surrounding communities who mostly thought we were just a bunch of drugged out hippies.

The local small lumber yards and hardware stores in Chester, Florida, Goshen, and Warwick were a wealth of information in which the owner/operators had already seen any problem you were having at least a dozen times, and they knew the exact item, tool, and procedures to provide the solution.

It was before big-box stores tried to emulate (poorly) small local community hardware information and tool centers.

Also in the Meadow were the Klines who owned Serendipity (a dried flower arrangement and wicker shop) while also being Regional Buyers for Sears and Roebuck.

I showed them how well their own arrangements and wicker assemblies sold even on a Tuesday morning, and they were planning to extend the hours of their shop, but Sears transferred them west before they could see for themselves the potential that Sugar Loaf provided if making it themselves, opening their studio to the public, and maintaining fulltime hours.

Bob (I'm Depressed) Wills always made a large announcement as soon as he had made enough to cover his monthly rent (selling his own authentic Native American style items), and he would close for the rest of the weekend and go home.

There was that guy Ferrara in the little extension building by the power boxes, and he made the strangest dipped-in-polyurethane fantastic surrealist mini-display installation somethings or others (plus cubist paintings), and he was nuts, totally stark raving mad.

He fit right in.

Roy and Karen Beaudelaire had been doing the craft show circuit but decided to settle in Sugar Loaf; and, since they happened to land where a leather shop had been, they learned the craft and developed a following that survived to be serviced by others for years to come.

The last couple to take their spot ran the business for 27 years before retiring.

We called Roy the Anti-Santa because of his physical proportions with black shaggy mane and beard ... wasn't terribly tall of course.

Roy was giggly proud of the vintage Indian motorcycle he had hidden in the tall weeds behind the south coop of the Meadow, waiting for somebody to find it and offer him a lot of money.

Karen was the last Guild President to aggressively advertise handmade one of a kind resident artisan items; she did it successfully for years while she and Roy moved their shop and living quarters (separately) into various spaces around town.

She knew ZZ Top from her barmaid days in Texas which sort of explained Roy's look.

But Karen was the last advertising organizational president to formally and aggressively focus on items handmade by resident Sugar Loaf artists while supporting the idea that festivals should be run (by volunteers) only for the benefit of the visiting vendors who also made it themselves, maintained the highest standards, and were juried into the show.

After Karen, the deluge of Beanie Babies.

Good thing Mary's and my own business of original art and music was already going gang-busters.

The roots of that success began with our do-it-yourself construction projects starting in Scott's Meadow.

The Scott's Meadow buildings had been chicken barns before, and I have to tell you, old timey wood-pulp insulation soaked in decades of chicken shit can make an airtight Jøtul wood burning stove heat up till you see the damper floating like a ghostly shadow in its translucent scarlet glowing stove pipe.

Did I mention we also put in our own double insulated chimney flue with our own bare hands right after we laid the new roll roofing?

Later, on main street, we all worked together extending the wooden boardwalk which for Mary and me was merely a repeat of work we already did in Scott's Meadow.

If something needed doing, nobody hesitated, we got together and did it, case closed.

I am amazed the boardwalk is still here nearly half a century later, functioning with only minor maintenance.

Our wooden sidewalks are as iconic as Atlantic City boardwalks despite the steady stream of new people who want to apply for grants to replace them while hoping to stuff a large portion of the grant money diverted into their own pockets.

Take note that heavy freight trains with tons of shipments carried in hundreds of violently rocking laden cars still roll over beds of easily replaced wooden planks.

Please do not tell the local malls and retail stores outside of Sugar Loaf about the significant advantage Sugar Loaf wins over them by not paying for planned obsolescence high-maintenance sidewalks.

We like to pretend the boardwalk is just rustic, but it is really a gold mine.

That reminds me, here is something else about Sugar Loaf practicality.

Margolis's once threw down an old wooden door at the front of their shop in the Meadow to help customers step over mud puddles.

Yes, people will come here even if they have to tramp through mud puddles, if your focus is on making something worth coming here to getsmooth passage or not.

And yes, you do know the name Margolis, as in the name of Margolis Park at the north entrance to Sugar Loaf, and as in SYMS Jewelry (Sylvia and Milt's).

That little park as you come into town is a true historic marker with actual cultural significance, not at all like the things people will throw up on a whim and laud as significant using illegal faux historic signage.

During early Sugar Loaf times, at parties in Westchester, Mary and I would laugh when people said, "We renovated our house," when they actually meant, "We borrowed money to pay people (who do know something) to work on our house."

I say we laughed, but at first we would get excited to be talking to others who we thought were handling similar life changing projects the same as us.

Then we cried from the sadness of seeing how many people thought they were doing something but were really doing nothing.

They did not play music, or paint, or build, or anything.

Finally we laughed to relieve our anguish at having almost fallen for their mindless chatter again.

Little did we know that soon the same sort of people would be attracted by our success into our special little out of the way town (which nobody had wanted to be part of: you couldn't even get reliable phone service), and they would be doing things like choosing to sell collectables (such as Beanie Babies) over making their own truly collectable one-of-a-kind items, and they would be changing the name of the Guild (apparently for tax and grant grabbing purposes) to the Chamber of Commerce in order to take over advertising and stop letting people know what true artisans are like.

That way they could pretend to be artists themselves.

People started showing up who found it acceptable to tear down carefully preserved historic buildings, replace them with cheap copies, over think and overwork their presentation, then brand themselves into a corner and out of business by retailing easy to order massed produced trinkets.

Just like those sad Westchester people we had to laugh at because they thought they were "doing a renovation" a new breed in Sugar Loaf pretends that they are "running a business".

Those types always prefer blaming their failures on the economy, or the rust belt, or the political climate, instead of owning up to their hopelessly misguided and mangled business plan. [see also: Four Step Process]

The true artisans continue keeping their heads doing the good work that has always provided their livings and still does.

There is a particular mind set to what we do.

If the kids ask, I will tell them about our volunteer emergency crew that would go around to all the buildings in Sugar Loaf where water pipes would freeze if weather dipped cold for more than a couple days.

Lots of late night episodes where we would all grab our heat guns and stand at our posts.

Right now I could point out what parts of what shops in town are vulnerable to freezing.

Except that would be starting a whole different story, and I have so many.

I wager that if Sugar Loaf was still like it was in the early days, most of the current "business" owners would misinterpret it and run off to Burning Man just to get a break from the weird.

But plenty of people misinterpreted Sugar Loaf in the past as well.

Lots of Sugar Loaf inhabitants commuted to work daily, far away, but still thought they were in touch with what was going on here.

Some have even written books about it.


Fortunately there is this book, the one you are reading now, so the record has been set straight.

In any case, you can still immerse yourself in the classic old Sugar Loaf.

One way is by visiting the long standing artist studios to shop, take a class, or just say hi.

Plus if you want the full surround vintage Sugar Loaf, the wallowing immersion, you only have to attend one of the events held at the The Crossing.

Take it from me, gatherings at The Crossing are the real deal classic Sugar Loaf, being held by the two very same oldtimers who built the theater. 

As an aside, in case you are wondering about the definition of a true artisan: it is a person who makes something.

And if you are further wondering about the difference between artisan and artist, here is the little known secret.

An artisan is the hired help; an artist is actually one of us (like say, my daughter); otherwise they are exactly the same thing.

Think about it.

early Endico gallery (Fantasy Factory), 1977 CE
Scott's Meadow, Sugar Loaf, NY

2 of these for gallery lighting
Mary's paintings were selling


Flipbook History of Fantasy Factory > Endico Watercolor Originals







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Sugar Loaf, New York  10981