For 71 years, Saperstein’s in Millerton NY was beloved by generations of tristate shoppers for its eclectic mix of everyday apparel. Its crowded aisles offered everything from women’s clothing to overalls, barn boots to umbrellas—the quintessential mom-and-pop department store.
But if Saperstein’s was “bread-and-butter,” its replacement, Westerlind, is champagne and caviar. “I love to seek out the most amazing things,” said company owner Andrea Westerlind, a native of Sweden now “living the American dream.”
As an example, she cited a cashmere scarf handknit by an Irish woman. “Sometimes it is hard to find the really great things but that is what makes it really fun,” she said. “It’s a challenge. The lady in Northern Ireland knits the bandanas from the highest-quality cashmere you can find.”
Westerlind’s space in Millerton is less crowded than Sapterstein’s but the offerings are just as eclectic. Westerlind, who opened her Millerton store July 4, focuses on “having all the basic outdoor equipment.” Her merchandize ranges from tents and sleeping bags to boots and gloves—and everything in between. She even sells a zero-emission electric bike.
“Our goal is to offer only one kind of tent, one motorcycle, one sleeping bag,” she said. “We try to make it as simple as possible. But we really select very carefully and I think we are capable of choosing the best. Very few outdoor retailers have this more elegant price point.”
Considered in that selection is not only the functionality of the items, but also style, the aspects of the items that make them beautiful.
While she is not traveling to as many trade shows in these days of COVID and is buying more online, she says her team assesses each item before it is ordered for the store. “We’re in the field product testing all the time,” she said. “We do a lot of activities ourselves, on the trail, biking, kayaking or skiing.”
All this attention to detail and quality produces an inventory primarily in the premium price point, but Westerlind said there are items with lower price tags. “The most-expensive is not always the best,” she explained. “If I find a better glove that is $20, that is what I will buy.”
She says other top-end retailers cannot do that because they fear a mixture of high and low prices confuses customers about the quality of the goods. “I kind of think very differently about it,” she said. “I think it lends credibility to my store, especially when come to outdoors stuff. People may not want things to be too expensive. I love that mix—that’s the way my own wardrobe looks. There is so much marketing around different brands, it is hard for people to know what they are paying for.”
Westerlind, whose stores dot the country—Powder Mountain, Utah, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, two in New York City and one Denver CO—said she has been amazed at the reception she found in Millerton.
“It has been going gangbusters since I opened,” she said. “Everyone was like, ‘What? Physical retail right now?’ If you are selling clothes for urban use, office clothes, no one needs that anymore. But people want the coolest hiking boots, the best rain jackets. It’s a very lucky time for us.”
She discovered Millerton as a result of visiting friends in Ancramdale. “I have a business mentor who lives up here,” she explained. “I would come up on the weekend to get business advice, eat their amazing food, drink wine and hang out.
“I would visit Millerton and I loved it so much. I decided to do a pop-up store and I was so amazed at the mount of foot traffic and the support from the local community. I had proof of concept before I opened and Saperstein’s was the ultimate retail location. And I am super lucky to have so much space to work with.”
She is using that space in creative ways. She has dedicated some of the store to a small food outlet, another section to an art gallery and wants to build out the furniture section. “I want to be a true department store for the outdoors,” she said. “I am one-hundred percent the owner and we can take advantage of opportunities in a way bigger companies can’t.”
She is from the third generation of a Swedish design family and grew up in the fashion business in Sweden. She came to the United States to study at Parsons in New York City in 2006 and in 2007 introduced the Fjallraven Kanken backpack to the U.S. market
In 2008 she opened her first store. “I was a young entrepreneur from Sweden and wanted to grow my own business. I became a distributor for Sweden’s largest outdoor brand and grew my store to a multi-million business in two years,” she related.
She sold the store and “was kind of ready to retire at 30,” when she decided “I had more ambition in me.” She opened a store on Spring Street in Soho under her own name and made it fashionable to wear outdoor gear and hiking boots in the city.
Simultaneously she established a wholesale business with exclusive distribution agreements with the international outdoor wear brands, such as Vuarnet and Armor Lux and set up relationships with retailers like J. Crew, Nordstrom and Barneys.
She has even started designing her own line of clothing for her stores. Vogue magazine featured the felt hat she designed and GQ magazine described Westerlind as the most stylish outdoor store in America.
“It is so much fun living here,” she said she said of the United States. “Being an immigrant here is fantastic—which is different from what we hear today. There is so much negativity out there, it is nice to point out the good things. Americans are so open and awesome.
Westerlind is located at 41 Main Street in Millerton and online at the link below.