Catskill Outpost is Celebrating the Traditions of Upstate NY Through Quality Goods

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Courtesy of Claire Zhu / Sal Fabbella

“It’s where the outdoors meets the pavement,” Sal Fabbella describes his brand Catskill Outpost to me. It seems to potentially be the first time he's uttered the phrase, as he follows it with an eager, “Fuck, I should probably coin that term.” He and I caught up for an afternoon to hear about what has made his brand such a genuine homage to a culture he—and his family—have been embedded in for two generations. A graphic designer from South Brooklyn, Sal’s silk screen studio, Brooklyn Print House, eventually blossomed into his current brand. Since the pandemic, Sal has been running the shop in Stamford, NY, where he has made a life that is centered around an authentic connection with the small town.

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The Genesis of Catskill Outpost

Sal’s grandfather, “a country guy from Sicily,” bought a farmhouse and five acres in Stamford, NY for 12 grand in the ‘70s. Growing up in South Brooklyn, Sal frequented the family home throughout his childhood, fostering a nascent love of the lifestyle his grandfather lived—and how different it was from his experience in Brooklyn. 

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Four generations in one photo. Sal and his great grandfather, grandfather and father in front of the brick oven they built in 1985 in Stamford, NY—the current home of Catskill Outpost. / Sal Fabella

“He had lambs, he had chickens. They were making their own ricotta salata. They were wild people. I used to bring Brooklyn heads up with me from the neighborhood and they'd be like, ‘Yo, your grandfather is slaughtering a chicken right now,’” he tells me of growing up watching his grandfather live off the land, adding:  “They'd be making cheese, and then come October they're making wine and jarring sauces. Totally self sufficient. Just a different way of living.”

Everything we do in this brand, we live. Whether it be hunting, fishing, riding, motocross, or camping and foraging.

- Sal Fabbella

Sal ultimately became a graphic designer and started a silk screen studio called Brooklyn Print House about ten years ago. “We were printing for top brands, whether it's small clothing lines that exploded into bigger lines, micro breweries that are now the talk of the town—like Other Half Brewing in Brooklyn.”

Sal screen-printing for Catskill Outpost in the present day / Claire Zhu

While doing this work, this love of the Catskills remained in the back of Sal’s mind. “I always had this folder on my computer that was sort of inspired by the Catskills, and old places I used to visit. These beautiful state lands with great names and town signage, sort of inspired by the outdoor world, whether it be hiking, fishing.

“So in that folder, every once in a while I would dive in and do a design and put it on my site online. And it would sell. And that became this collection that I had called Catskill Outpost."

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Claire Zhu

From these little one-off sales on his site, Sal started to get interest from people who felt he should start doing local markets up in the Castkills. “Then I started getting asked by other sort of hiking or camping specialty stores, ‘Hey, would you wholesale us those products? And I was like, ‘Sure, let's give it a shot.’ Whether it was a little shop in Brooklyn or a shop in Hudson, I started spreading the brand like that, sort of seeding it into these other shops.” And then naturally, “I kept getting the same reoccurring theme at these markets, people saying, ‘Hey Sal, why don't you open a store?’”

I started to see people outdoors more and people communicating. And people weren't as scared.

- Sal Fabbella

Sal was hesitant at first and didn’t want to get into retail, but once the pandemic hit and he found himself spending far more time upstate, his love of the environment was rekindled and he decided to give it a shot. “I started to see that, up here, because of being connected to nature and way more space—it's not like in Brooklyn where we're all packed in—I started to see people outdoors more and people communicating. And people weren't as scared.”

On one of these trips upstate, he saw a woman on the street touring a small shop to be a yoga studio. He immediately recognized that it was too small of a location for that, and made a handshake deal on the spot to open up the first Catskill Outpost store instead: “We opened a brick and mortar in the town my family had a childhood home in.”

Claire Zhu

After settling into the location, Sal decided to move full time into his grandfather’s home, a choice that has seeped into everything about his lifestyle and how it relates to the brand.

I'm bringing back the traditions of my grandfather.

- Sal Fabbella

"I took the house over, and I live there now. And I'm bringing back the traditions of my grandfather. I resurrected his gardens, I'm jarring stuff, I'm going to start doing wine this fall. I just wanna make those guys proud, because the way they lived was very inspiring to me. These guys would go in the woods and come out with greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens. These guys would pick dandelions to make pasta. I'm just trying to do what they were doing."

This practice has been a major part of what has made the brand so genuine to the culture it is inspired by. “I see a lot of brands that are contemporaries of mine, and it just doesn't seem real. They're portraying things that they don't even do themselves. Everything we do in this brand, we live. Whether it be hunting, fishing, riding, motocross, or camping and foraging.”

Claire Zhu

Stamford is beginning to become a bit of a hub for creatives upstate. Designer Jim Zivic, artist David Ortiz, and photographer Mark Greenberg, are just a few of the artists who live in the small town—all of which have collaborated with Catskill Outpost. The Warhol photo featured on Mark's website is actually for sale right now at Catskill Outpost, right next to a beeswax candle made by a local who's been in the area for 35 years. All of these people are part of what make the location so interesting and such an amalgam of influences that are ever-changing in the face of fashion's constant evolution.

“I grew up in New York where kids were dressing really fly. They were changing colors of laces and customizing backpacks and spray painting skate decks. Especially in the late eighties, it was rampant with stuff like that,” Sal tells me of how the brand invokes both his upbringing in the city and the bucolic nature of upstate. “So I'm bringing that approach to this outdoors-streetwear lane.”

We turn to the brand vision, and Sal tells me: “There are brands that I love that just do it right. We're gonna try to take like an LL Bean and give it a twist, you know what I mean? Pushing the boundary a little. It's not reinventing the wheel. We're just gonna give it a little edge. We're gonna give it a little funk.”

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Claire Zhu

When I ask Sal about the future, he’s most excited about creating new products. And when he speaks about them, he is most proud of the quality with which they are produced:

“I designed a log holder with thick saddle leather straps that wrap all the way beneath it and around it. And duck canvas, super thick canvas. You can load this thing up with 20 logs—as much as you can carry—for years to come. We're creating products like that. We want people to say, ‘I got that at Catskill Outpost.' Yes, it was a hundred bucks. It was more expensive than the Amazon one, but this thing is gonna last. This is a log holder that lasts you your whole life.”

For any creative, Sal's journey is a refreshing lesson in the importance of bringing your own unique life perspective into your artistic pursuits. His brand is the result of his Brooklyn upbringing, the influence of his grandfather, and his own experience and infatuation with the Catskills. All of these myriad factors result in a brand that is neither tied to the present nor padlocked to a nostalgia for the past. Catskill Outpost is not static; it is an ever-changing representation of the Catskills—which, too, are always evolving.

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