The Beauty of Slowing Down
“How did you two meet?”
“On the internet” is always my dry response, meant to take the edge off the slightly awkward truth. Although I guess we really met for the first time on a chilly December night in Brooklyn, in a dark bar, when he handed me a candle made by a fellow shop mate. That was when we began to truly get to know each other, in a way you just can’t behind the fallacies of an online dating profile.
So that was my first impression of Patrick. He is someone who brings a gift to a first date, not knowing if we will hit it off or even see each other again. He is that kind of guy. And over a couple of old fashioneds, we began to share our personal histories. I spoke about my bucolic childhood growing up in Vermont, where cows once outnumbered people and billboards aren’t allowed. He began to tell me how he came to do what he loves…
“After quitting my job in sales and selling my house in Wisconsin, I moved to New York not knowing what I wanted to do next. So, I got a job as a bellman at Ace Hotel while I figured things out. In my spare time, I started fixing up my tiny Lower East Side apartment, making things that were functional yet had style. Friends and colleagues began showing interest in what I was making, and someone mentioned I should start selling my items on Etsy. So I stamped my own business cards and brought them to work. I spoke to anyone and everyone I met at the hotel."
“Everyday after work, I would take a new route home and stop at different boutiques and showrooms to introduce myself and my work. I would go to Chinatown to buy parts with my tip money, fill up a push cart with heavy wood and industrial metal materials, and trek all over the city. It was back-breaking work."
Two spots opened up near the fireplace in the back. Without even a pause in conversation, we slid off our barstools and made our way towards the flickering light and comfy armchairs.
“We had a lot of clothing racks coming in and out of the hotel for events and photoshoots, and I noticed they weren’t sturdy and couldn’t be easily disassembled. So I started fiddling around at home with different parts and came up with a clothing rack design that was visually appealing and did the job. A lot of homes in NY don’t have closets and people move often, so a mobile closet that is pleasing to the eye seemed like the answer."
“Slowly, I dropped my hours at the hotel down to part-time. It was around that time that Mo Mullen at West Elm reached out to me and introduced a new project called West Elm Local. I was one of the first makers they partnered with. Once I began working with West Elm, that was the tipping point. That was when I was able to leave my job as a bellman. The last year I was there I was awarded Employee of the Year, and used the money I won for a down payment on a studio."
“So, how about another round?”
Needless to say, the first date went very well. As did the second and third and so on. And then one hot summer afternoon, we found ourselves staring at a small, white plastic stick, waiting for the news that would change the course of our lives forever: a little blue plus.
It didn’t take us long to decide that we did not want to raise our daughter in NYC. Lots of people do it and I applaud them, but the hustle and bustle of city life with a little one in tow was not for us. Besides, we had both been craving a change but didn’t know quite what that change should be or how to make it happen. So life decided for us.
Raised in Vermont for most of my life, the Green Mountain State has always been a part of me. Of course, it wasn’t until I left Vermont after college that I really began to realize what a great place I had come from. And although I loved my time in NYC, it was only on the short trips back home that I would feel my muscles begin to loosen up and relax. I would breathe a little deeper, and check my email less often.
“Why don’t we move to Vermont?” It was Patrick who suggested it. And piece by piece, our future started to take shape. A few weeks after we decided to leave the city, Pat received a notice that all artists were being forced to vacate their studios, and had six weeks to do so. The building had been purchased by developers and would soon be turned into condos. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon story in Brooklyn these days. Artists are getting pushed to the far reaches of Brooklyn and beyond just to find affordable rent. Once again, life nudged us along.
Our move to Vermont wasn’t all cozy flannel shirts and warm apple pies. There were some challenges to be sure, but we both knew it was the right decision for us, even if our hearts had not quite let the city go just yet. After not too long, we found a house and settled in. Patrick began to pound the streets of Burlington in search of new clients and suppliers to keep this little boat of ours afloat. And much to our surprise, Monroe Trades began to take off in a way that neither of us had expected. Though Pat was doing very well for himself in NYC, he is flourishing in Vermont. I have been able to take a hiatus from my professional life and spend my days with Scarlett. We never take any of these successes for granted, and he continues to work hard as we both marvel at the beauty and surprising serendipity of slowing down that our new life in Vermont has afforded us.