On a bright afternoon in Darien Center, friends ambled around The Country Cottage Gift Shop and Gardens, passing the time in a place that became more interesting the longer they browsed.
At every turn, around every corner, something caught their eye, brought back a memory, sparked an idea for a fixing up a special space.
“You wander to your hearts’ content,” owner Peggy Tyrell told them.
“You guys poke around, OK? If you need anything, give us a holler.”
On five acres off Harper Road, not far from Route 20 in Darien Center, Peggy has created an enchanting wonderland chock-full of unique gifts and handmade decorative items.
“I like to think of us as a hidden gem,” says Peggy, noting that she started the business 26 years ago.
At last count, there were about 200 varieties of goods for sale from dozens of artisans. They range from exquisite, seasonal dried flower arrangements and gourds, to exotically scented soaps such as Thai-pear or wisteria, and lamps, candles, essential oils, garden décor, and more.
Plus, a light and flavorful menu — offered only on weekends in May through October — is another reason to stop by.
This haven of homey delights has become a destination spot for treasure hunters who like Colonial American crafts and urban warriors in need of a little respite and fresh air.
Walk off the gravel paths into any of the three rustic cottages on the property, and your senses are met with wonderful fragrances, soft ambient lighting, soothing instrumental music and an amazing array of things to browse in a wide range of prices.
“We have a lot of people who come in here and the first thing they say is ‘Oh, I needed this so bad. I needed to come in here,” says Peggy, adding that some of her regular customers joke about needing “a Peggy fix.”
And she’s always on hand to help you find just the right item. If she doesn’t stock what you want, she knows plenty of vendors so you can special order woven rugs, lighting, quilts, etc., with just the right colors, finish or design.
“We have a little bit of everything,” Peggy said. “And lots of white elephants, too.”
There’s a trove of ideas for home decorators and little vignettes of days gone by – old boxes from Schraff’s Candy Store, an ancient “Majestic” stove, toiletry bottles, vases, hand-painted signs.
For the garden and porch, you’ll find harmonic wind chimes, whimsical whatnots, lawn ornaments, and the like.
Peggy grows most of the flowers and plant materials she uses in her crafts. She has a potting shed, small greenhouse and flowers are hung up to dry in one of the cottages. Upstairs in the main cottage is the loft where she creates the arrangements.
For those who are not keen on browsing, or who need to rest a bit, there’s a little pond out back surrounded by a lovely landscape and seating. It’s a nice place to have a nosh and read.
A dozen years ago when the Tyrells opened their weekend grill, which is in an enclosed tent, the idea was to keep the men happy while the women browsed.
It’s worked out well and most of the credit goes to Bruce, who worked for more than 15 years at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center handling catering for special events and concerts.
These days he uses his professional culinary skills to create tasty lunches with fresh, seasonal produce and to make take-away goods like pies, muffins, cookies and such.
People rave about his scones, Louisiana chili, pumpkin praline cheesecake and soups.
In many cases, customers have become like family.
“Our customers have become our good friends, it’s amazing how close you can get,” Peggy said. “And I’m happy to say I’m their friend, too. It’s not about making a living, really, it’s about keeping people happy and making yourself happy.”