Anyone who has ever visited Edinburgh, Scotland, will know that the city perfectly straddles the line between bustling metropolis and small town. As Scotland’s capital city, it’s certainly a major business center and political hub, with a foreboding castle overlooking it, just to drive home the point. But unlike some nearby cities’ people (cough, cough…the Big Apple), Edinburgh’s are über-friendly. That, and the pubs are open late and the food scene is outstanding, a true melting pot of the best of what the UK has to offer.
Until recently, Capital Region residents could only experience the gem of the Scottish city by boarding a plane or two and flying the requisite 13 hours across the Atlantic. But that rather expensive divide will close up considerably on January 12, 2022, when the Edinburgh-based ScotlandShop, a clothing and home décor retailer that specializes in all things plaid, will open its first shop in the US in Albany.
The ScotlandShop’s products are very much a function of its home country, from which its wool tartan products are sourced, woven and produced. The store has a little bit of everything for everyone. Case in point: Gentlemen can pick up one of the 500 varieties of clan-tartan kilts for next year’s Scottish Games, a summer racing season soirée or a Scottish-themed wedding, while area ladies will be able to find a plethora of fashion-forward skirts, dresses, jackets/vests, sweaters/cardigans and the like, truly for any season. Did we mention the ScotlandShop even has tartan-wear for your furry friend? The ScotlandShop also offers a number of specialty clothing items such as tartan sneakers and bomber-style flight jackets.
Besides clothing, the ScotlandShop also offers a range of home décor items, including blankets, pillows, drapes and even doorstops. And of course, with all of that fabric for sale, the shop offers its speciality tailoring skills for customers of all shapes and sizes. (i.e. you don’t have to be ripped like William Wallace to be fitted for a comfortable kilt.)
If you’re wondering why of all places the business decided on Albany, the ScotlandShop’s Founding Director and Owner Anna White is obliged to offer up the yarn. “We are all about community and people,” says White. “We come from a rural community where traditions and history are really important and we wanted to find a city in America where we could become part of a community, somewhere not so big we would be lost and somewhere with Scottish history and heritage that we can tie into.” According to White, the Capital Region Chamber of Commerce offered her and her company nothing but support in executing on that vision—but it runs a bit deeper than just good vibes all around. “When we delved into the history of Albany and the surrounding area, there is so much history and Scottish connection, it just started to feel like home and to be honest, emotion took over the decision.”
That’s right: Besides being the site of the historic governor’s mansion and historic homes like the Schuyler Mansion, Albany also has a particularly close connection to Scotland. For one, the Gaelic word for Scotland is “Alba,” from which the name “Albany” was derived. The oldest continuous settlement of the original colonies, Albany got its name way back in 1664 as part of a land-gifting deal fit for a future king. The territory was given by England’s King Charles II to his younger brother, James, who named it after his Scottish title, the “Duke of Albany.” The English version of the title, the “Duke of York,” has been bestowed upon only eight men, all of whom have a direct line to the British crown (the current Duke of Albany, for those keeping track, is Prince Andrew). As it were, James would later be crowned king of England.
Given ScotlandShop’s vested interest in the regal history of the area, it makes sense that the company would show up to its new home with a bit of royal pomp and circumstance. To that end, the ScotlandShop has created a signature tartan for Albany County, one that draws from a number of inspirational sources and color palettes, including that of the Albany County Seal, The Town of Colonie’s seal and the City of Albany’s flag. “As soon as we settled on Albany as our new US home, we knew we had to design a tartan to represent the Scottish Community within Albany County,” says Emily Redman, ScotlandShop’s UK marketing manager, who designed the tartan and will be moving to the Capital Region to manage the new store next year. “The tartan is currently being registered, awaiting final approval from the Scottish Register of Tartans, which was established by an act of the Scottish Parliament in November 2008. The register is administered by the National Records of Scotland with advice from the Court of the Lord Lyon and representatives of the Scottish tartan industry and contains information on thousands of tartans which can all be found online.” In other words, this isn’t some semi-official, off-kilter job.
It turns out that the design (or “sett”) comes armed to the teeth with history, too. That tartan’s colors lead back to the ancestral tartan of the Duke of Albany, who was part of Clan Stewart, with a white stripe added in to produce a Saint Andrew’s Cross for good measure (that, to honor the patron saint of Scotland). “We can’t wait to show off the design in the coming weeks and will share the journey of the new tartan being woven on all of our social media channels,” says Redman.
The ScotlandShop is planning a few pop-ups in New York City this November to build buzz for the big Capital City opening, and would-be customers will be able to purchase clothing and other merchandise at them. (Stick to the ScotlandShop’s social media for updates.) And although the ScotlandShop doesn’t have any current plans to stock its Albany shelves with anything other than its bread-and-butter items, White does say that her company has strong ties to fellow Scottish brands such as Macsween, which sells branded haggis, as well as a number of whiskey and gin distilleries, so there’s the possibility of ScotlandShop serving up some joint events stateside, once it’s settled in the Capital Region. “Our new premises have plenty of space [for events], which is another reason we chose Albany,” says White.