Lovable Retriever Profit Center
For Cooperstown’s Muskrat Hill
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – Most downtown stores were having a pretty soft Induction Weekend 2019, including Muskrat Hill, proprietor Neil Weiller reported the other day.
Henry to the rescue!
The first three boxes of new Henry T-shirts, based on Weiller’s loveable Golden retriever/shop mascot, arrived in the nick of time.
“I sold four pieces as I was taking them out of the box,” the merchant reported. “I had a great Induction Weekend: because of Henry T-shirts.”
By weekend’s end, the first shipment – 144 shirts, ranging from $18 for short-sleeve youth to $28 for long-sleeve adult – had sold out.
“Henry’s become my Number One shirt,” said Weiller, who since then has reordered three times.
Muskrat Hill, at 139 Main St., is also selling Henry stickers. And Weiller is in conversations with illustrators and authors to create a book, perhaps “A Day In Henry’s Life.”
Weiller was raised in California, but his family had a summer home on Otsego Lake – he’s related to Wyckoffs, Hokes, Rathbuns, Thayers – and he spent many boyhood vacations locally.
After a career in finance in New York City – he held key financial positions with Wedgewood and Fred Joaillier, the high-end French jeweler – he moved to Cooperstown in 1991 and opened Muskrat Hill, originally a ladies’ gift shop.
On a visit to Carmel, Calif., he happened on “Life is Good” T-shirts, had some designed with Cooperstown motifs, and soon that line made up 60 percent of his business – 90 percent, one Christmas. He found another best-seller in Crocs.
Today, the store’s branched out to include such private-labels additions as “Relief Pitcher,” bearing a pitcher of beer; “Untapped Potential, with a baseball motif, and “Just Another Beer Drinker with A Baseball Problem – Cooperstown, NY.”
All shirts are of the same high-quality as “Life is Good” products.
Weiller’s mother, Virginia, who retired from a successful business career of her own, helped her son staff the store for years, and it was she who first raised the question of Henry’s profit-making possibilities – and Ginger’s, who preceded Henry.
After Ginger passed away in 2016, friends of the family who were in the dog-breeding business out West thought Neil would benefit from getting another dog. “I wasn’t looking for a champion; I wanted a companion,” said Weiller, who’s mom passed away in February 2018.
As it turns out, Henry has “a pretty good pedigree” – but his size, thick coat, sweet face and mild temperament that makes him such an attraction.
During the summer, a Dreams Park visitor often stops to pet Henry, buys a shirt and return with the shirt on to snap a picture with the photogenic dog. Often, the whole team and their families will return to buy shirts and get photos.
While Weiller is being interviewed, as if on cue, an aunt and two twin girls from the Hudson Valley come in the door. “Can we pet him?” the aunt asks.
“I thought the T-shirts would be popular with girls,” said Neil, since they often stop in. “It ended up being everybody.”