Every season is delightful at Blue Raccoon, but spring, with its focus on hope, new beginnings, and transformation, is especially notable at this iconic store. With its 20th anniversary coming up next year — a rarity these days when stores come and go so quickly — Blue Raccoon truly can be designated as “iconic”.
Opened in 1993, it moved to its current location at 6 Coryell Street in Lambertville three years later. “When we moved to this location, our lives changed,” says co-owner Nicholas Bewsey. “It was a bigger space, and we could add upholstery. Everything just exploded.”
Mr. Bewsey and co-owner Nelson Zayas had previously worked in retail in New York, and decided to open their own business in a new setting. “We had looked in several places, including upstate New York and New England, and we came to Lambertville at the invitation of a friend,” reports Mr. Bewsey. “We knew right away that this was the place.”
“And in all these years, I have to say I have not lost my respect, regard, and appreciation for Lambertville. This is a small American town. The people who live here shop here. They have made an investment to maintain the town’s authentic charm.”
And Mr. Bewsey and Mr. Zayas have also made an important investment. With their remarkable taste and the ability to present it so engagingly, they have focused on a selection that is both practical and imaginative. Everything in the store is pleasing to the eye, and it is obvious that much care and attention has been given to every detail.
“The setting itself is important,” Mr. Bewsey explains. “There are windows on four sides, and the store is filled with light. It enhances the environment we created indoors. We have always spotlighted the sensory experience: light, color, sound, and scent.”
The store is indeed richly textured. Colors abound, whether from hooked rugs, featuring vintage designs, Portuguese multi-colored dish towels, the collection of “Juicy” glasses in bright and cheerful patterns, a colorful new jewelry line, or in the selection of fine upholstered furniture.
Furniture continues to be a big seller at Blue Raccoon, and the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams line is one of the highlights. “We also carry Vanguard Furniture, and we have added DwellStudio,” says Mr. Bewsey. “They are inspired by old Hollywood, with a contemporary twist. The collection includes couches, chairs, and a nifty grouping of tables, consoles, and case goods.
“All our furniture is American-made, and we are now carrying a new selection of farm tables from Lancaster, Pa. that are very popular,” he adds. “They are custom-sized with 20 different paint finishes. Made of reclaimed barn wood, mostly cypress, they are very sturdy. A 6-foot table is offered at $1470, a very good price.”
At the other end of the spectrum is a line of chrome cocktail tables with bleached stone tops. With their six irregular geometric shapes they can be puzzled together to form a surface for drinks, books, or bud vases — whatever your choice.
Clocks of all types and lamps (floor and table) are welcome accessories and always popular sellers. Kitchen items range from handsome wooden cutting, serving, and bread boards and salad bowls to tried and true flour sack dish towels (three for $12.50) and bar cloths — a good gift for a guy — to Stonewall Kitchen pancake and waffle mix and Maine maple syrup to cookbooks of all sorts, including Glorious Pasta from Italy.
Candles of every size and shape are in abundance, and they always make a welcome hostess gift. Elegant pear shapes in lovely colors and beeswax 9-inch tapers (sets of six) from Ohio that burn for 15 hours are on display, as are scented candles in attractive reusable glass jars in varied colorful designs.
Soap — Blue Raccoon has some of the best soaps in the world! Triple-milled, long-lasting, wonderfully fragrant, and beautifully packaged, they are irresistible. Cucumber and olive oil, rosewater, jasmine, lavender chamomile, all with shea butter, are unforgettable. And, then there is the enormously popular signature sea algae, with its refreshing, revitalizing scent.
“Originally, we had this in just for the summer, but it was so popular, people wanted it all the time,” reports Mr. Bewsey.
Photo frames, coasters, ceramic coffee mugs, CDs (the best pop and jazz), books, and artwork are other choices.
“We have the work of fine art painter and photographer William Sloan of Bucks County,” notes Mr. Bewsey. The black and white photographs on display are particularly intriguing.
Blue Raccoon always has an array of eye-catching items you don’t see everywhere else. A fun remembrance for Dad on Father’s Day is the “Corksicle”. As Mr. Bewsey explains, “You put it in the freezer overnight, and then place it in the wine bottle. It keeps the wine cool at the appropriate temperature.”
Along the same line is a set of nine “Whisky Stones”. These are also placed in the freezer, then added to the beverage of choice. They don’t melt, so there is no diluting of the drink. They are also available as a set with tumblers.
Gardeners will find items to help with springtime planting. High quality garden tools from England, special sturdy extra long cotton-lined rubber gloves, and gardener’s soap are all available.
Prices at Blue Raccoon cover a very wide range, from $1 and up. Many items are priced from $25 to $35. A furniture sale, including Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, is currently in progress through May 6.
Another important feature of Blue Raccoon is design. “Nelson does the design work, both in the store, and interior design in customers’ homes,” says Mr. Bewsey. “This has become a very big part of our business, and we have projects all over the area and beyond.”
After nearly 20 years in business in Lambertville, Mr. Bewsey and Mr. Zayas still look forward to the next collection and the next season. “You know that the next trip you take, you’ll find another good source and a great new item.
“We are so grateful to our loyal customers, many who have been with us since the beginning. We feel we always want to offer the best for them, and we want the store to look 100 percent every day. We find products that are different and priced properly. And always, we try to provide a welcoming environment that is fresh and engaging, and offers our customers a special touch of inspiration.”
Gift cards and complimentary signature gift wrapping are available, and hours are Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday noon to 5. (609) 397-5500. Website: www.blueraccoon.com. The website will soon offer a brand new look.