A few years back our kids had a Spring day off from school and Heather and I decided to take a rare mid-week day off from working on Mercantile. We made a spur of the moment decision to take a road trip to the Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. As a family we enjoy visiting historic sites, especially those that preserve as closely as possible snap shots of the basic but fulfilling lifestyles of days gone by; a glimpse of the indomitable spirits that formed the legacies of past societies. Hancock Shaker Village is one such site within driving distance of us here in the Hudson Valley.
We enjoyed the day together as a family, immersing ourselves in a rapid-fire tour of the communal buildings of the village – each with its tales of yore; each conveying vividly a hand-to-mouth existence that was successfully achieved in no small part through collective effort and spirituality, personal accountability, and a shared commitment to the betterment of the group.
While we have been generally loathe over our 6-year run publishing Mercantile to promote destinations outside of our modest sphere of influence here in the valley, that particular day trip several years ago has been on my mind for the past few weeks as we put together Mercantile’s annual “Gratitude” issue.
This year, our annual attempt at pausing to give thanks, marks a turning point in the history of our magazine. We have entered into an agreement with Columbia-Greene Media – publishers of the Register-Star and the Daily Mail – to enhance the reach and content of Mercantile going forward. To this end I have joined CGM as the company’s director of new business development, a role through which we will enable the growth of Mercantile along with many other print and on-line publications already in the pipeline at CGM.
Back to that trip to the Shaker village. At the time, we had a few years of publishing Mercantile under our belts. We had long passed the point of viability – that proving milestone for new businesses realized after a sufficient duration of positive cash-flow – but we had reached the ceiling for what we could produce without hiring more staff or partnering with another publisher to increase Mercantile’s size and reach. In all candor we were paralyzed in a crossroad at which we were contemplating various scenarios for the future of our magazine. As it turns out we stayed in that crossroad for several years. Today I find myself extraordinarily blessed that we have sustained Mercantile since that chance visit to a historic village on that spectacular Spring day. I recall very clearly that on that day I equated our struggles building Mercantile to those of the settlers of Hancock Village. There was something gratifying and informative in the comparisons.
While we had no idea what the future had in store for us, the journey to that crossroad on that day had already been extremely fulfilling. We had created Mercantile through our conviction and hard work and built it to a place where it could sustain us; enable us to ride out the storms – economic and otherwise – until such time as we would add greater numbers to our cause to ensure the magazine’s growth in reach and influence. I remember having an overwhelming sense of pride that day for what we had created of our own vision and toil, and the potential that it represented for us going forward. That pride swells as we finally move on from the crossroad.
We have a postcard souvenir from that trip that captures my recollection of the serenity of purpose that I felt that day. The card included text from a Shaker work song that simply defines gratitude for me this year:
‘Tis the gift to be simple, ‘tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ‘round right.