Birth of the cool

Van and Daisy Bolle. (Photo by Dion Ogust)

Six years ago, some wondered if quaint and friendly Saugerties was ready for a hip NYC-style clothing boutique with price tags quite a bit higher than Target. These days, no one wonders anymore, as Dig has clearly thrived in its Partition Street location, becoming a cornerstone of the village’s newfound “little Brooklyn” vibe.

While reporting for this story, I met a family from the Forest Hills section of Queens who came to the village with plans to eat a “Pilgrim Sandwich” (turkey, dressing, and cranberry sauce) at the Dutch Ale House and buy some sweets at Lucky Chocolates. Unexpectedly, they dished out $220 at Dig for “the perfect pair” of Citizens Of Humanity jeans — immensely flattering on the size 28 mom, who modeled the pair while three little girls wearing new candy necklaces and eating ice cream cones looked on. Expensive, yes, but the mother said the cost-per-wearing of the Dig purchase was “actually reasonable” since she’d worn her former best-fitting pair to tatters and she was rather picky.

Dig owners Van and Daisy Bolle opened their 2,500-square-foot store on a shoestring budget, but they’ve prospered since. The recently invested about $20,000 in LightSpeed, a retail software system that renders the cash register obsolete for credit card sales. This week, they’re launching an online boutique, which has required adding additional staff to produce over 600 photographs and unique descriptions of items. While Dig’s owners declined to release actual annual sales numbers, sources put the store’s annual revenue at between $500,000 and $1 million.

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Seasonal visitors – especially the H.I.T.S. crowd – stroll the village with spending in mind, and are not disappointed, as new stores such as Rock Star Rodeo join with Dig in creating an appetite for well-considered and impulse acquisitions alike. Beginning in mid-May, Dig will routinely remain open until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, capturing customers after they’ve enjoyed a good meal and perhaps a beverage or two, said Van.

Higher gas prices may in fact drive a sales boost for these local businesses as fewer locals and rural upstate customers find it neither necessary nor desirable to drive to New York when they can be treated “like rock stars” by the Partition Street purveyors.

“Once gas hits $6 a gallon, local is all we’ll know,” says Dig customer Martha Frankel, 61, author of “Hats & Glasses: A Memoir” and executive director of the Woodstock Writer’s Festival, who credits Daisy with “changing my life and making me love myself” by helping her pick out flattering clothing and get over negative body images.

Francine Lindstrom, the owner of Lux Hair Studio, across the street from Dig, sang a song of similar praise. “Daisy and Van were the very first people to walk through my doors on opening day, “ the hair stylist said. “In Saugerties you don’t have to relinquish your desire for culture. You can satisfy your longing for the latest trends and do it in a place where everyone knows your name and story!” said Lindstrom.

Van Bolle, 37, is fast-talking and tech-savvy. Originally from Los Angeles, his previous jobs include managing a top night club, directing music videos, and serving as director of photography for the Coachella Musica Festival. He met Daisy when they both lived in Hollywood. A Woodstock native, her parents own Woodstock Trading Company and Woodstock Design, two women’s apparel stores on Tinker Street.

Although he primarily handles the operational side of Dig, Van also loves to schmooze with Dig’s male visitors who usually park on the comfy black leather “guy couch” adjacent a wooden table made by Frankel’s husband Steve Heller, owner of Fabulous Furniture in Boiceville.

 

Strong spring sales

“We’ve been open three years now and this spring is the busiest start,” said Mark Grusell, owner of Love Bites Cafe, Dig’s neighbor. On weekends, shopping bags from Dig “line the floor” of the tiny restaurant, which emphasizes organic and locally-sourced foods cooked to order. “When people are waiting for a table, we send them over to Dig,” said Grusell. The Dig group also personally eats at Love Bites several times a week. There’s a “lot of love” between all the restaurants, stores and other businesses in the village, said Grusell, who observes that the business owners do not regard other operators in the same niche as competitors but rather team members helping to create an overall neighborhood atmosphere.

What’s hot for spring around here is anything with a seventies vibe, say the Bolles, adding that as much as half the store’s floor space is devoted to dresses, plus a 0-18 size-range of high-end jeans. While “jeggings,” i.e., jean leggings, dominated last Spring’s must-haves, this year you might consider a pair of “super-flare” jeans, Van suggested, which flatter the thighs with their slimming bell-bottoms.

What’s next for Dig? Van says he and Daisy expect to take over management of Daisy’s parents’ businesses in Woodstock in a few years. They’re also looking forward to the opening of the new hotel down the road. “It’s only going to help with the tax base and create jobs,” she said, adding that having grown up around retail, she’s always welcomed anything which brings traffic and money to a town. “I’ve never seen the downside of having restaurant wait staff with their pockets full of cash,” the Sarah Lawrence College graduate said.

“Our priority today is to raise our family happily,” said Van. (The couple has two young daughters.)

It does seem like Dig’s customer base is “getting really big,” said Daisy, who has “been shocked” to find the “level of clients” and their adamant loyalty to the Saugerties store.

While Dig as a brand has found a much wider customer base than the couple initially anticipated – they’ve been approached about opening franchises – the prospect of taking over two more businesses in Woodstock and managing Dig is enough, the admittedly ambitious couple said. “A fish grows to the size of its tank,” observed Daisy, confiding that while she and Van would often rather be lazy, the costs of raising and educating their daughters has given the couple – who thought they had stepped off the fast-track when they left the West Coast – a new financial priority.
“I’m going to send my girls to Sarah Lawrence, that’s half a million dollars right there,”  said Daisy.

 

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