One Designer’s Quest to Open the Perfect Store

One Designer’s Quest to Open the Perfect Store

One Designer’s Quest to Open the Perfect Store


Designer Amy Row shares how she and her husband opened their dream store, Say Collie, from the initial, serendipitous find, to deep DIYs to how she curates the perfect mix.

Photos by Matt Johnson.

When Homepolish designer Amy Row and her photographer husband Matthew Johnson decided to open a store, we were all thrilled. Amy’s signature minimalist meets cooly cutting-edge style is incredibly enviable, so we knew the space would be much the same. Now open in Rhinecliff, NY, Say Collie embodies not just her aesthetics, but her entire ethos. We asked her to explain how the process went and what makes her store so special.

What inspired you to open this store?
My husband Matthew (a fine art photographer) and I have always dreamed of having a space where we could serve coffee, sell some of my found treasures, and hang his work. We imagined a place where people would gather, share ideas, shop, and relax. The idea started probably seven years ago—I have a vivid memory of sitting in a cafe in Oakland, California, where Matt and I lived at the time and talking about doing this.

The move to New York really changed everything. All of a sudden, anything was possible. I was surrounded by all of these incredible design showrooms (BDDW, ABC Carpet & Home, Apparatus Studio) and boutiques (Nalata Nalata, Sincerely Tommy, The Apartment by The Line). New York fashion has also had a huge influence over my style, and shops and designers like Apiece Apart, Rachel Comey, and Ryan Roche have all trickled into my style in one way or another.

Then we found ourselves in Hudson, NY, (which is a whole other story). For the first time, we could breathe and reflect on what we really wanted to do.

We wanted to create a space where Matt could edit, shoot product, and host clients for on-location photo shoots. I love treasure hunting more than anything and really wanted to set up vignettes of all of my finds. I also wanted to create a space for design meetings where clients could physically see my style. Ultimately we wanted Say Collie to feel like an extension of our home—music playing, coffee and provisions on hand, inviting scents in the air (I’m a sucker for Palo Santo) and the door always open for gatherings and good conversation.

How did you find the space?
Serendipitously! Matt was getting one of his photographs printed large scale at an independent printer in this tiny town called Rhinecliff. There was a lovely brick building across the street with a “For Rent” sign. I was on the train coming back from the city and he suggested I get off at Rhinecliff (one stop before Hudson where we live) and check it out. I did and fell in love immediately. It’s right on the water, quiet, and so charming. The space definitely needed some work, but the narrow window in the back with the original shutters took my breath away. It really felt right.

A before shot of the store

How did the shop come together from there?
With the help of good friends and Youtube tutorials, Matt and I did pretty much everything. It was a lot of work but also a lot of fun. Every day for the first two months we painted non-stop—the walls, the ceiling, and the trim in the main room, the hallway, back office, and bathroom. We sanded the pillars, ripped up the terrible linoleum in the back, switched out all of the light fixtures, built a closet into the bathroom, and swapped out all the outlet covers. The backyard was a big project as well. It was muddy and overgrown. We cleared probably 30 bags of leaves and brush, laid gravel, built up a stone wall around an existing well using loose brick pavers that were piled up in the back, painted the fence, exposed the incredible rock face that serves as the backdrop to our garden, hung lights,and set up a dining table and seating area. We have paint remnants on most of our clothes and know all of the employees by name at the local Williams Lumber, but it feels so good to have made the space our own, together. It was definitely a labor of love.

Where does the name Say Collie come from?
The name is a phonetic break up of the word “Secale” which is the genus for the grass, rye. Our sweet puppy dog’s name is Rye so we basically found a sneaky way to name the shop after her. And Rye is also the bar in San Francisco where Matt and I met, so it’s all very personal to us—like every piece of the shop.

What are you looking for when you pick pieces to carry in the shop? What makes you decide something is worth including?
Say Collie is truly a collection of items we have hand-selected with care and intention and curated works from our absolute favorite artists. It represents everything we love about the art world, as well as a place where we can express our own art. Our goal is to house and facilitate beauty, and to create an environment where our guests feel at home.

We feature Matt’s work in large scale, giving the space a gallery feel and outfitting the interior with my found furniture and home goods. We’ve had the pleasure of working with and befriending a handful of insanely talented artists and have collaborated with them on special additions to the shop—Rachel Cope of Calico Wallpaper, designer and woodworker Christopher Kurtz, artist Nicole Patel, Danish design house Frama, ceramicist Arc Objects, carpenter Fern-handcrafted, jewelry maker Mary MacGill, sculptor Elizabeth Parker, and a collection of vintage clothing by New York stylist Shelley Young, to name a few.

The selection process is a bit ephemeral—it’s just the reaction or feeling I get when I see something beautiful or interesting. I’m drawn to different organic materials like wood, marble, ceramic, leather. Tactile objects really get me, too, like a plush velvet, soft wool, smooth stone, woven rattan. I like pieces that are weighty—brass, glass, concrete, petrified wood. It helps a lot when objects are not only beautiful, but functional as well. I really love interesting lighting and giant mirrors that bounce light because light has such an impact on the feeling of a space. Every piece I bring into the space could stand alone as a work of art. And I always ask myself if I would want to have the piece in my own home and if the answer is yes, that’s a good start!

What were some of the most challenging parts of the process of opening the store?
Creating something out of nothing, that was the heart of the challenge. Say Collie was built from pure intention. We had to really ask ourselves what it was that we wanted. I made a list of all of my favorite artists and shops and what about them inspired me. Every decision we made along the way was guided by our gut, and that’s scary. But I love what we’ve created, I love spending time in the space and I look forward to experiencing it grow and evolve.

You’ve been open almost a month now? What have you learned so far? Any stories to share?
Every day we meet someone new. I didn’t fully realize how much you become part of the community when you own a business. We want to continue exploring our role in that community. Say Collie is our heart and soul, so to share that with the people who visit the space is such an intimate experience. When somebody comes into the shop and the atmosphere resonates with them, it cultivates an environment where fast friends are made.

Visit Amy’s store in Rhinecliff, NY or shop online here. If you’re visiting the Hudson area, you can also read her guide to the perfect weekend—or if you want more than shopping tips you can sign up for Homepolish today.