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Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge, partners in business and life, own the brand Beekman 1802. The fairytale story of Beekman involves both reality TV and goats. Goats! More on them in a second. The lifestyle site is a Pinterest-board worthy confection of country-chic housewares, gardening tools, and cheese wrapped in paper and twine. But beauty products are the biggest sellers and the heart of the brand.
The products range from beautiful soap (it’s total bar soap porn, if you are a soap-head like I am) to high-tech skincare products like moisturizer with SPF and eye cream. In January, the brand will launch a double-cleansing system and a peel. All of the products incorporate goat’s milk in some way. Goat milk has the same pH as human skin and is generally gentle, soothing, and hydrating. The line is all marketed to be unisex and contains no added fragrance. In the last year, Beekman has really upped the ante on natural beauty products, working with product formulators on two sophisticated skincare ranges priced from $22 for a mist to $60 for a serum.
Kilmer-Purcell and Ridge’s story is a tale of city slickers moving to the country, complete with a brief stint on reality TV documenting it all. Ridge was a doctor specializing in geriatrics at New York City’s Mount Sinai who Martha Stewart tapped to helm the health and wellness division at her company, and Kilmer-Purcell was a writer. One fall day, they drove to upstate New York for the weekend.
“We were those obnoxious Manhattanites who rented a car and put on our best plaid and went apple picking,” says Kilmer-Purcell.
They got lost in Sharon Springs, NY; population: 547. They were charmed by the former spa town and stayed overnight there. On the way out of town, they saw a property called Beekman Farm for sale and bought it as a weekend property.
After they moved in, they got a letter in their mailbox from “Farmer John” saying that he owned 80 goats and had just lost his farm, and could he move in there? (In hindsight, Farmer John was the fairy goat-mother in this tale.) The duo said yes, and then spent the weekends enjoying their built-in petting zoo with family and friends. Then came the recession of 2008, and both of them lost their jobs within a month of each other. They had a large mortgage on the farm, so they started madly Googling things they could do with goat milk to make a living.
Soap was the first thing that popped up. They met “Soapmaker Deb,” who lived down the road, and she taught them how to make soap and still makes some of it for Beekman to this day. Thus a brand was born. Ridge cold-called the beauty buyer at Henri Bendel in NYC, who said he could come sell the soap there during the holidays. After that, Anthropologie, where Beekman is still carried, picked it up. Then reality TV came calling, and they starred in a show called The Fabulous Beekman Boys for two seasons, documenting the early days of their business. That led to a stint on the The Amazing Race, which they improbably won. It was all incredible marketing for the brand, which now has a large fan base that it calls its “neighbors.” There is a mercantile store in Sharon Springs, and the brand throws a festival twice a year that brings 15,000 people to the tiny town.
Farmer John is still in charge of the goats, and he still lives on the farm under the same “handshake agreement” with Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell. There are 120 goats now, though they now provide the milk used to make artisanal goat cheese that sells out every season. (You can watch them on the goat cam.) Now that Beekman 1802 is bigger, the brand works with other goat farmers around the country that provide milk for its beauty products.
It’s refreshing to see a story of former reality stars who are not Kardashians succeed in beauty and still be so, well, real.
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