Germantown entrepreneur opens variety store that mixes old ideas and new technology
GERMANTOWN–Just a week after Otto Leuschel, proprietor of Otto’s Market, 215 Main Street, won a Columbia County Chamber of Commerce award as Business Person of the Year on June 21, Mr. Leuschel opened a new store in his community, Germantown Variety across from his market at 212 Main Street.
About 100 people stood in the street under a bright sun, applauding often and enthusiastically as Mr. Leuschel addressed them for half an hour. There was an official ribbon cutting, with every employee of both stores present. There was cake.
Why does one man try to create a small retail empire in a town of 12.5 square miles and 2,000 people, in the southern reaches of a county of 648 square miles and 63,000 people?
Probably so that he can do it his way.
“Made in the USA” was and is most important to him as he attends seven trade shows a year seeking stock for Germantown Variety, Mr. Leuschel told the crowd. This goal can be a challenge. Ninety-five percent of the toys sold in the United States are made in China, he said. He has the other 5%, with all of the toys he sells made in the USA.
Toys are just a small part of the store. One-third of the stock is hardware, the most frequently requested item, and much of it isn’t immediately visible, stashed in 170 neatly labeled drawers of an antique cabinet built for… storing hardware.
“But we go way beyond screws and nails,” said Mr. Leuschel. What’s not in stock can easily be ordered online by staff. Items like lawn mowers and barbecues ordered on a Monday will be ready for pick-up on Thursday.
Mr. Leuschel said that he had got the idea for Germantown Variety on the day he opened Otto’s Market, three years before, and had his eye on 212 Main Street for the store. His long list of thanks began with his sister Molly, whom he credited for all decisions on finishes, colors, floors, walls and logo, among much other help, and included Supervisor Roy Brown and Deputy Supervisor Austin Sullivan, “who make doing business here very easy.”
Of all the many items in the store–housewares, stationery, body care and beauty aids (including those from Face Stockholm, whose owner lives in Germantown), books, magazines, wrapping paper and ribbon, household cleaning and maintenance, candy, sewing supplies and seasonal items–Mr. Leuschel told The Columbia Paper that he expects hardware, body care and stationery to sustain the store.
As for customers, Mr. Leuschel didn’t have numbers, but those who shop at Otto’s Market have come most often from Germantown, Clermont and Tivoli, he said, with Livingston, Hudson and Red Hook next and denizens of Rhinebeck and points farther afield making occasional forays for hunting and gathering.
Both stores are open daily. Germantown Variety: Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Otto’s Market: Monday-Saturday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.