SHARON SPRINGS, N.Y. — A little town in the middle of nowhere named after water, a boutique shop run by a gay couple that cares about local artisans, a mayor who works in a motel, a quirky cafe where run-ins with a man with dramatically bushy eyebrows are part of the experience.
There’s a surprising amount of similarities between Schitt’s Creek and Sharon Springs, reports the New York State Team, which is part of the USA TODAY Network.
One exists solely in the fictional world of television as “Schitt’s Creek,” a Canadian sitcom created by father-and-son duo Eugene and Dan Levy about a family that loses their fortune and ends up relocating to a dumpy-but-lovable town.
The other is a very real place: Sharon Springs, a small hillside town in Schoharie County with all the charm and all the characters that make Schitt’s Creek so lovable.
Last month, Sharon Spring’s chic Beekman 1802 Mercantile store partnered with Schitt’s Creek to pull off an epic transformation.
By making a few changes to the building’s facade and rearranging some products inside the store — as well as placing a few Easter eggs for keen-eyed fans — Beekman 1802’s staff turned the shop into a real-life Rose Apothecary, the boutique store opened by character David Rose in the POP and CBC show’s third season.
While the popup shop has put Sharon Springs on the map, the folks who live and work in Sharon Springs argue that the similarities run much deeper — and make a visit to the town all the more worthwhile.
“The similarities are uncanny,” said Tony Daou, who lives in Sharon Springs and looks very similar to the show’s patriarch, Johnny Rose (played by showrunner Eugene Levy).
Daou owns the Black Cat Cafe, just three doors down from the Beekman 1802 store, and he said he’s become well aware of the resemblance (though he hasn’t transformed his eatery into Cafe Tropical — yet).
Visitors who have made the trip to Sharon Springs to see the popup store will stop in and ask him to take selfies with him (a request he obliges), and he made sure to get his bushy eyebrows trimmed by his hairdresser a couple of weeks ago.
He’s also started to tell customers he’ll respond to either “Tony” or “Johnny” if they need to ask for something during their meal.
“People just are drawn here,” Daou said on Thursday afternoon, walking away mid-sentence to greet two new customers. “There’s something like magic up here.”
The Rose Apothecary takeover
Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge founded Beekman 1802 in 2008 after they purchased a farmhouse in Sharon Springs and started creating goat milk soaps from the animals that live on the farm.
In 2013, they opened the Beekman 1802 Mercantile store at 187 Main St. in Sharon Springs. In the last few months, Beekman 1802’s employees started noticing parallels between Schitt’s Creek’s Rose Apothecary and the Beekman 1802 store, which they frequently refer to as the “Merc.”
Caitlin Scott, Beekman 1802’s visual merchandising manager, said the takeover had an organic process. About a year ago, Ridge encouraged her to watch the show, and then they soon reached out to the show’s producers to talk about a collaboration.
“It’s very similar,” Scott said. “It’s about a family who really lost everything and … without their neighbors, they really couldn’t become who they were. They create this world where everybody helps each other, and that’s kind of (true) with Beekman too.”
The Merc received the go-ahead and started using the same package design and storefront signage to create a real-life Rose Apothecary in early January.
Rose Apothecary soaps, perfumes, lip balms, body creams and candles now sit on the shelves, and the store’s interior has been rearranged to incorporate elements seen in the show.
Things like white pedestal bowls, ladders with green plants stacked on top, vertical scarf displays and ceramic crows now fill the store’s shelves and walls. There’s even a few plungers right at the front of the store.
“We just went through each part of the store to try and look those subtle moments that really made sense with our store,” Scott said. “We just tried to look at those little details … and just tried to match that.”
The Rose Apothecary installation will remain in place through the end of February, Scott said. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day.
Schitt’s Creek fans flock to Sharon Springs
An overwhelming number of fans have traveled to the store. More than 500 people visited the store last Saturday, and another 300 stopped in on Sunday, Scott said.
One woman flew out from Phoenix on an early-morning flight, drove from Albany to visit the Rose Apothecary popup shop and flew back home later that evening.
And with every fresh snowfall, Scott said, a new path appears from the sidewalk to the front of the store — tracks left from people walking through snow to take photos in front of the Rose Apothecary sign.
“We’ve seen people drive down the road and turn around and come back to take a photo of the exterior,” Scott said. “Just seeing the reaction of people who really only may have known just the show and not necessarily Beekman — it’s great to have them come in here and learn the Beekman story.”
On Thursday, Trevor Strader and Kelly Casey stopped at the store on their way to Glens Falls from New York City. They walked in the store, and their eyes lit up at the Rose Apothecary display by the register.
Then, Strader went into the restroom to change. He emerged wearing a black turtleneck sweater and pulled a neon pink wig and plastic gold sunglasses out of a canvas tote bag.
Doing his best to channel Moira Rose, he stood behind the built-in cabinets at the front of the store for a few moments as Casey and a few of the store’s employees gathered on the other side and waited.
He counted down and then walked out from behind the built-ins, reciting character Moira Rose’s nonsensical lines from the fruit wine commercial she shot in the show’s first season.
“In the lee of a picturesque ridge lies a small, unpretentious winery,” Strader began, his audience stifling laughter and pulling out their phones to record the performance.
“One that pampers its fruit like its own bebes,” he continued on, mimicking Moira Rose’s unmistakable accent and mannerisms as he finished the lines.
Strader’s not the first one to come in and perform “the wine commercial,” said store manager Emily Weise. She knows he won’t be the last, either.
Tony Daou has seen his fair share of Moira Rose lookalikes come through the Black Cat Cafe in the last few week, too. He’s seen a few people dressed as Alexis Rose, but said he’s yet to see a Johnny Rose.
“There’s nobody who dresses up as Eugene Levy, but I guess that’s probably my job,” he said.
Aside from stopping to take selfies with fans of the show, he’s also had to stop serving them food.
Two weeks ago, they ran out of half of their menu items on Saturday. Wait times have gone up, and there’s no such thing as an empty chair in the cafe on the weekends now.
But, thankfully, that hasn’t changed people’s positive attitudes about visiting Sharon Springs, he said.
“We had people sitting outside — in January,” Daou said, excitedly slapping his hand on the counter so hard the call bell dinged. “The Schitt’s Creek fans, they’re the nicest people.”
Sharon Springs finding popularity again
For centuries, Sharon Springs has enjoyed on-again, off-again blips in the national spotlight as it reinvents itself.
In the 1800s, the town served as an oasis for wealthy families from places like New York City, Boston and Connecticut, Daou said. The nearby waters were known for their natural sulfur and magnesium springs, and Sharon Springs became a hub for spas as a result.
At the time of the 2000 census, less than 600 people lived in Sharon Springs. But Daou thinks his special town is on the brink of another renaissance.
Ten years ago, Daou published a book titled “Sharon Springs Guide 2010: A Celebration of and a Guide to Sharon Springs, NY.”
The purpose, he said, was to document not Sharon Springs’ history but instead what it looked like in 2010. At the time, the physical Beekman 1802 Mercantile didn’t exist, and the company was still in its infancy.
A second Sharon Springs guide is coming soon, Daou said. Ten years later, a lot has changed — especially when it comes to Beekman 1802.
“Josh and Brent walked into something that completely fit their mindset and took it to the next level,” Daou said. “We’ve gone through iterations of being a household name in this country, and here we go again.”
Georgie Silvarole is a backpack reporter for the USA TODAY NETWORK New York State Team. You can email her at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @gsilvarole.
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