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The Magic of Pergola

by Joseph Montebello

David Whitman and Peter Stiglin, owners of Pergola, have created a mecca for design and inspiration. To walk into their New Preston shop is to be transported to a world full of beautiful and unexpected treasures.

While both men were in creative fields - Whitman in marketing and Stiglin in theater and music production - neither one had ever thought of opening a shop.

“Having a shop takes over your life,” said Whitman, “and it was something I definitely did not want to do.” But then, of course, he did.

In 1999 Whitman had been helping Joanna Seitz with marketing and merchandising for J Seitz. At the time the shop was transitioning from a southwest theme into a more traditional lifestyle sensibility.

“While I was working with Joanna, the space next door to her shop became available,” Whitman explained. “She was hoping that someone would open a beautiful complementary shop and decided that the only way to guarantee that was to take over the space herself. She invited me to be a part of it and we decided to do something with gardening and plants.” Thus a new shop was born.

Pergola officially opened on Memorial Day in 2005. The shop was tiny and was contained on the first floor. Whitman and Stiglin filled the shop with topiaries, planters and other curiosities related to nature and the outdoors.

“Opening weekend was a big success,” said Stiglin. “We sold out of everything in the shop and realized that we had hit upon something that people wanted.”

Even though it focused on pots and plants, it was never conceived as just a garden shop and the concept extended beyond pots and plants.

“Pergolas are traditionally placed in gardens and represent space that serves as a transition from inside to outdoors,” said Whitman.

The two men, who met in New Mexico, have been together eighteen years. Originally they lived on a farm in Cornwall and eventually moved further north to the Berkshires. Both have extraordinary taste and style and an innate sense of what appeals to their customers.

Over the years Pergola has evolved from that first layer of topiaries and pots. Next came books on subjects and themes that related to outdoors and nature and flora and fauna. Whitman and Stiglin then began to bring in pieces of furniture, originally as fixtures and shop décor, but then they began selling them, which added yet another level to Pergola’s appeal.

In 2012 the space next door became available and Pergola expanded further. At about the same time the owners began traveling to Japan. Stiglin had gone to school there and speaks fluent Japanese. Here they discovered an entire world of new treasures - things like exquisite pottery that would enhance the world of Pergola.

“We go to Japan often and are exposed to so many wonderful things,” said Whitman. “But we have a really defined lens that things have to go through to be appropriate for Pergola and the environment we have created. We see things that we love but they just don’t have a place in the shop.”

In addition to their shopping expeditions Whitman and Stiglin work closely with a number of makers and artisans who create specific items for the shop.

“Our typical customer is well-traveled and has a pretty keen eye, so we are always trying to keep something new in the mix and to offer a fresh point of view.”

In addition to the excitement created by Pergola, Whitman and Stiglin are very involved in helping to create the magic that exists within the group of shops. Stiglin has created a website that publicizes all that is going on in the town and has helped maintain the buzz surrounding the strip of stores.

“It’s really a collaborative effort,” Whitman said. “Here is this little village, a little elbow in the road coming off the lake with a waterfall that flows behind the shops. That sets the stage. We have a focused group of merchants and everyone works together to maintain the magic.”

And as the holidays approach, the magic will be enhanced by the windows of New Preston. “All of the buildings have large display windows,” Stiglin said, “every one of which will be trimmed with fresh balsam and consistent white twinkle lights, making New Preston a single cohesive unit, perfect for walking and shopping.”