It took humans 100,000 years to invent the scientific method. Prior to this discovery, people lived by telling their stories and expressing themselves through examples and the urgent. Human behavior has not changed that much. We all have a need to feel and be a part of something. We all want to belong and be understood.
Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, and in that moment you find yourself. Dr. Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell bought the Beekman Farm in 2007 and named it Beekman 1802 thinking it would be their weekend getaway and stress reliever from the big city. With their idealist spirit, they cashed in their savings and purchased their dream getaway - an amazing beautiful property in Sharon Springs, NY; with breathtaking views, an apple orchard, a wooden swing stamped with the Beekman logo and so much opportunity and potential ahead!
Dr. Ridge who goes by "Brent" graduated and received a medical degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MBA from New York University. Josh Kilmer-Purcell is an American writer, businessperson, and television personality. In addition to his New York Times and National Bestselling memoirs, his life has been documented in the television reality show "The Fabulous Beekman Boys" with his husband, Brent Ridge. He has written articles for NPR, Huffington Post, Publishers Weekly, AdWeek, OUT Magazine & others
While visiting one weekend, they noticed a hand-written note in their mailbox with the following message:
"My name is John Hall. I grew up in the area on a dairy farm, and I now have a herd of 80 goats. I am losing the place where I am farming. Could I please bring my goats to your property to graze? Otherwise, I will have to sell them."
A hand-written letter written by Farmer John who was needing help became an amazing miracle. Both Brent and Josh lost their jobs due to the recession of 2008 and were very close to losing their farm. What held them together was their community and tenacity which brought Beekman 1802 to life. The adage goes, "When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade."
This incredible new friendship with Farmer John and the Sharon Springs community brought opportunity and connection to another new level through the act of kindness. "When life gives you goats, you make anything you can with milk."
Goat milk? This favorable elixir is among the "Who’s Who" in beauty history. It has been reported that Cleopatra soaked in goat’s milk baths to soften her skin. Today, goat’s milk can be found in a vast selection of beauty products to perk up tight skin, in everything from facial creams, cleansers, soaps, body lotions, balms, and foot creams–to foaming bubble baths, baby care, hair repair, and much more.
It's exceptional! I had to try it and experience the place for myself. I'm absolutely sold on the product, its brand and most importantly, mission: Using kindness as your guide. Beekman 1802 was built, neighbor by neighbor, on the foundation that a community that works together is also happier, healthier, and stronger together. Using kindness transfers from one neighbor to the other and so on and so on....
This type of neighborly concept goes even deeper in the town of Sharon Springs, NY. How? I was curious and needed to find out. The population was 558 at the 2010 census. Its name derives from the hometown of the first Colonial settlers, Sharon, Connecticut, and the important springs in the village. The sulfur springs in the area are considered to have natural healing powers. Like many other places in New York State, Sharon Springs is home to potent mineral water. The village saw visitors from all over, including the Vanderbilts and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who would come to bathe in the waters. FDR even spoke about the natural springs during a speech in Georgia in 1929.
I was told by many of the Beekman employees that the NASH would be a wonderful hotel to try out. I went online and the website looked beautiful! I arrived on a Thursday afternoon after flying into Albany. Apparently I was lucky to catch a Lyft all the way to Sharon Springs as the community is truly a hidden gem with limited transportation options. I wasn't worried because if Sharon Springs was claiming to be the neighborly town it is, I knew I would find a way and be in good neighborly hands.
Sure enough I was greeted by Norm, one of the owners of the NASH. He was making fresh potato chips and asked if I would like one as he was unlocking the door to the upstairs living quarters. He was friendly, polite and very humble.
He definitely possesses a green thumb as the flowers were absolutely stunning, vibrant and complimented the beautiful dark gray brick building that has an art deco mid-century modern feel. The inside of the building is beautifully showcased with impeccable design work, eye-catching artwork, lighting, gold tile mosaic walls and inspirational wall paper that is exceptional! The attention to detail builds and ties in every piece of the energy of the town so beautifully together. Jim, Norm's husband, certainly had a hand in this collective creation.
After unpacking we decided to go for a walk. There was an older gentleman that greeted us and offered to take a picture of the "city girls." He was kind, curious and said he sits on this bench every day enjoying his town. He told us where he lives in the event we would need anything during our stay. After a little photo session we walked up Main street (footnote: do NOT wear wedges when walking up a nice steep hill).
There were many super cute artisan shops with people excited to greet us. The town was getting back to life after Covid and people were extremely happy to hear we came all the way from the Midwest! There were many pieces of beautiful art, soap, jewelry, clothing and more to see. Each piece unique with character and is one of a kind.
After talking to a few of the shop owners we were getting advice on what to do and see. We decided to have dinner at The American Hotel which was built in 1842 by Nicholas LaRue and is absolutely haunted. The hotel catered to the glitz and glamour of the time, including hosting Oscar Wilde. The meal was very good complimented with neighborly service. Our waiter, Austin, is a theatre performer who used to work in the city and now purchased a home of his own along; with a store front "Austintatious". He considers himself a singing chocolatier; with having quite an artistic repertoire! He performed at National Tours and in Europe. Shows include are "Cats" in The USA and Canada, "Starlight Express" in Germany and "Showboat" in The USA, Canada and London! He greeted us as a front desk agent who later turned into a fine dining server in the evening. The show must go on!
The more and more we started to talk with people, the more we noticed there are many incredible and talented artists coming together to find a town to belong in, utilize and share their beautiful talents; while loving nature and promoting kindness.
My favorite question was, "What brought you here?"
Practically every answer centered around an animal! The owners of the NASH fell in-love with a specific dog breed they saw on TV from their hometown in Boston. It took one weekend getaway to see the charm and beauty of Sharon Springs. Eva, their dog, along with Jim and Norm became new neighbors to Sharon Springs and transitioned their life from Boston to Sharon Springs by creating modern accommodations in a vintage village. They now own their own hotel and restaurant, "Main 204," which was absolutely by far the best food I experienced in a very long time! Norm remembers spending time with his mother in the kitchen learning to cook. These are some of his fondest memories. It was during these times that he developed a passion for cooking while grooming himself to become a German linguistic teacher. His appreciation of freshly made food using simple ingredients are clearly present in all of his presentations. No wonder Travel & Leisure highlighted this precious gem in their travel and exploration!
Every piece of artwork and story behind it brought a warm and vibrant energy that felt good to experience. It felt familiar with an extra energy of life. From the self-made table tops to how a specific piece of artwork was chosen and placed in the restaurant - each little piece highlights a story, a connection, and compliments the remarkable hospitality and spirit both Norm and Jim place in their space.
I was curious how Covid impacted the town. For Jim and Norm, Covid allowed them to persevere and business stayed constant. They changed their business model from being open all week to Thursday - Saturday. They are now more successful than they were in the past! Who doesn't want to experience a weekend retreat in serenity? Did I mention absolutely remarkable food?
All farm fresh food fusions with twists and colors that create unforgettable dinner experiences. Not to mention breakfast is absolutely amazing too! Fresh farm eggs any way you want them (I chose sunny side up which tasted like heaven). The opportunity to have coffee and have conversations that were face to face were meaningful and added to the whole community and ambiance of the town.
It wasn't just the building and the impeccable decor and style - it is the energy of the building that brings people together from near and far. Sharon Springs is a place that welcomes many warm moments shared together and allows people to stop and think about life and about community. Norm and Jim are proud owners who share their kindness in a building that once was a post-office, pizzeria and general store. They now are renting the place next door to a new business owner who will be opening her own "Farmacy."
After having a delectable breakfast and many great conversations with the owners and our new neighbors, we walked up Main Street again - this time with comfortable shoes and to do some small talk and figure out how the heck we were going to get to Cooperstown. We went to the "Black Cat" Cafe and were greeted by another unforgettable owner. Think of a mix of Kramer meets Eugene Levy personality. The owner had a great sense of humor and was very direct and funny. I asked him why he named his cafe "Black Cat" and it was quite simple and direct. He had a black cat!
We asked his thoughts about transportation and he said we just needed to talk to people. He said neighbors would have no problem with taking us around, we just needed to ask. Sure enough, we found a cab service that was quite an unforgettable ride. We had the scenic tour and we were exposed to more history and beauty that was very near to Sharon Springs.
I learned that Cooperstown not only has the Baseball Hall of Fame, but this is the town where hockey was invented and where James Fenimore Cooper lived. The Fenimore Museum is definitely a must see and we were there at the right time. The Keith Haring Exhibit was there and the messaging fit perfectly with what Sharon Springs definitely breathes and promotes: acceptance. Not to mention James Fenimore Cooper's story about the Last of the Mohicans is quite telling too!
We used the same cab service to get back to Sharon Springs that evening. We had a new driver this time. I had to ask again, "What brought you here?" He said he used to be a plumber from New York City. He lived on Staten Island and worked only a block away from the 911 tragedy. He was responsible for cleaning up many of the areas as a plumber and got to the point where he couldn't take it anymore. He needed a new place to recharge and find himself again. He has lived outside of Sharon Springs for over 20 years now together with his family and couldn't be happier. He dropped us off at the NASH just in time for dinner at Main 204.
The dinner was absolutely amazing the night before. We had no other choice but to go again! We were greeted by Jim and a welcoming staff. Norm was in the kitchen while Jim was taking orders and being an incredible host. Saturday night was a full house! What's fascinating about these two men is that they never owned a hotel before. Norm is a German teacher by trade and Jim is a designer. They brought their passions together and created NASH and Main 204. I was curious about the name of course. And this was my absolutely favorite answer. Do you know what NASH stands for? "Not another shitty hotel!" I couldn't agree more! I absolutely love Jim and Norm's spirit and very acute design style as it brings everything together! The lighting and wall coverings are truly one of a kind! I had to smile when Jim said, "We live on the island of misfits" with a very sweet yet mischievous smile. I loved everything about Norm and Jim. They even unintentionally gave me a few tips with a resource book that was left atop a David Bowie book on their coffee table at the restaurant! :)
So where am I going with all of this? The finale is coming soon! It was time to experience Beekman Farm and learn about the brand and products Beekman has created since 2009. In 2012, Josh and Brent competed and won the grand prize in CBS’s The Amazing Race. Over 10M viewers watched for 12 weeks as Josh and Brent beat 20 other competitors in a 45,000-mile race around the world through 12 cities in 9 different countries. This spirit, tenacity and focus certainly transfers in the products and presentations of their products. Brent is a certified internal medicine physician. He returned to school to get his MBA and then went to work at Martha Stewart Omnimedia.
Beekman 1802 has proven that a farm can be much bigger than its fences. The farm is just one place on a map, but the neighbors and community are the essential ingredients in making an impact locally and now globally. The Beekman 1802 Farm covers 60 acres. The farm is primarily a goat dairy. Farmer John expertly manages his herd of approximately 80 goats.
During our ride to Beekman 1802, we had the pleasure of meeting Alan, who is the chief event planner and kindness ambassador extraordinaire. He drove us to where all the magic began. His drive and passion to ensure people feel how important kindness transfers through the mission of Beekman 1802 is very authentic and evident. Not to mention, we are both Cardinals fans and he wore a little pin on his shirt that day to build upon the connection. Every attention to detail does not go unnoticed!
We had the opportunity to talk a little bit and learn and exchange thoughts on what kindness means and how we've gotten into the positions we have. With a backbone in event management and a keen sense to truly listening to people, paying attention, and creating an experience that delivers the goal of the client makes the magic become a reality. In this reality, kindness is the key ingredient and how the magic begins.
Kindness is the scientific method behind all the successful creativity and passion people display that transfers through from one person to the other and from one neighbor to the other. If you have a chance, check out Leon Logothetis coined as the "Kindness guy" and the science of kindness and what happens to a human brain or animal when authentic kindness is exchanged. Did you hear about the kindness bunny experiment? I didn't until Alan brought this to my attention and science has shown that if you act a little kinder, you may actually live a longer life. This is Alan below in super kindness mode during his workshop:
Josh and Brent started with a single act of kindness that transferred into so many beautiful outcomes. That set the course for their whole company. They never set out to become a large beauty company, but it’s just the way it took them. “It’s about making people feel better, not just look better,” Ridge says. “That’s the kindest thing we can do for our neighbors,” which is what the company calls its customers.
Probiotics and their effects on the skin have been a major research focus for Brent as he translates his medical training and experience into skincare products.
“We learned 12 years ago that goat milk soap preserves the acid mantle of the skin because it has the same PH as skin. Now our research keeps progressing and we are funneling more resources into research in terms of nourishing the microbiome of the skin,” Brent has shared.
“This is the future of skincare. Before clean beauty was about eliminating things from the skin, but now it is about nourishing the microbiome ecosystem of the skin,” he continues.
“We look at kindness as a mission and as an approach to wellness,” Brent believes. “We believe that just a little kindness to the skin creates a ripple effect in self-care. A little act of kindness in our communities and neighborhoods does the same thing.”
A whole body of research shows how kindness plays a role in health and wellness. It helps systemically with stress management, cortisol levels and inflammation. Kindness is good for you and good for those you are kind to. Imagine how this can transfer from one community to the other.
"I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privelege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I've lived." - George Bernard Shaw
There is beauty in kindness.