Pink Olive whimsy

Those in search of paper goods and gifts with artistry – and attitude – head to Pink Olive in Cold Spring.

The warm welcome to Pink Olive in Cold Spring begins before you even step inside the paper goods and gift boutique.

Simply glance down at the front stoop where tiles spell out the company’s signature phrase, “You Are Loved.” 

Inside the airy, artistic space, those words come to life in a decidedly thoughtful — and often playful — manner.

And it’s with good reason, since Pink Olive founder and chief buyer Grace Kang is no newbie to the field. This bright corner shop is the latest entry in Kang’s mini empire, joining sister shops in Manhattan’s West and East villages along with Park Slope and Williamsburg in Brooklyn. 

Expanding into the Hudson Valley with an early-March opening at 80 Main St. seemed a fitting way to commemorate the company’s 10th anniversary.

“It’s not like ‘OK, the city thing isn’t working, so I wanted to go upstate,’” Kang assures with a laugh.

Instead, it was a natural outgrowth of time spent in the region to complement life in the city — and she and her husband purchasing an Orange County weekend home a few years ago. The search for a Hudson Valley retail space led her back to the Putnam County village she had often visited.

“This town just resonated,” she says.

As in all Pink Olives, this is the place to dip into whimsy, to find a greeting card that will make you (and your recipient) laugh out loud, to sniff uniquely scented candles, to debate over the cutest baby gift or simply treat yourself when you need a little pick-me-up.

That could range from a tote bag shaped like a lemon slice to “The Carry On Cocktail Kit” — or maybe one of those namesake Pink Olive soy candles in an ever-expanding range that already includes apple clover and fig and rosemary.

“I always say as a retailer it’s good to start building your brand with your own collection of things,” Kang says.

Goods here represent a few national brands, but there is an emphasis throughout on sourcing unique work by often-regional designers and artists. For example, Kang came across Ciaran Tully at a fair years ago, began carrying his work in Pink Olive and asked the East Village photographer to expand his portfolio to include Cold Spring images. A cross section of his work is prominently displayed here over a mantel, one of many old-fashioned touches.

From the first Pink Olive, in the East Village, Kang knew she would have multiple locations, a reflection of the drive she has had throughout her life.

She was especially encouraged by her father’s reminder — to go after her dreams. “What he always said was, ‘Pick one thing and go all the way.’”

It’s advice she has taken to heart.

She tailored her courses at Cornell University to fit her needs, with studies on her way to a bachelor of science degree touching on subjects ranging from hotels and hospitality to business to fashion.

Kang credits her first professional experience with setting her on a successful path.

“I was very fortunate that after college I learned about Bloomingdale’s, and I learned about the buying program.”

Teaching her the nuts and bolts of retail, the program would lead to future work as a buyer for Barneys New York and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Along the way, Kang has been aware of balance.

She says that her early days in California — the family moved to New Jersey when Kang was in eighth grade —  shaped her outlook, allowing her to know, “when to take a step back and enjoy.”

Observing Kang interact with a steady stream of customers on an early June morning, it’s clear she loves what she does. 

“I always say, ‘I’m not one way in business and another way in life.’”

She’s warm and genuine whether chatting away with day-trippers or helping a local select a last-minute gift.

Kang says it all goes back to that “You Are Loved” theme, those reassuring words that appear many times within Pink Olive, on mugs, key chains, gift bags and more — by design.

“It’s a message we want to spread in a bigger way,” Kang says. “Obviously, ‘You Are Loved’ is the heart of what we do here.”

Her goal was to create a “space of calm, to rest, to inspire yourself… be inspired by all the creativity” and leave everyday stress behind.

That extends to the secret garden, a special-event space behind the boutique that Kang was to unveil formally with a mid-June celebration.

Looking over the shop, Kang seems happy with the way Pink Olive has progressed.

“I think people really appreciate our picks and our curation.”

As for the name, it’s a spin on Kang’s favorite colors back then, pink and green … and something green she loves.

She says the words combine to be “all about the energy, the inspiration and mixing things you might not have imagined.”

Sounds like Pink Olive indeed.

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