“I had a woman once tell me, ‘You know, Sunrise, you’ll always get a second chance at your career, but you’ll never get a second chance with your children,’” Sunrise Ruffalo says over the phone on a recent morning, having driven back into Manhattan late the previous night. “And now is the right time for me to dive back into that world. Putting my creative energy into more places besides being a mother.”
The 45-year-old former model and shop owner, who is married to actor Mark Ruffalo, is embracing that next step with a summer boutique in Callicoon, N.Y., called Sunny’s Callicoon Pop. The store, which opens May 28 and will operate through August, will be stocked with a selection of artisan items all hand-selected by Ruffalo over many years.
“I always knew I’d sort of find my way to retail — it’s where I find my joy: being surrounded by beautiful things,” says Ruffalo, who owned a store called Kaviar and Kind in Los Angeles 10 years ago. “There are things that people can find scary or sad that I find quite beautiful. I can appreciate a cobweb.”
The mother of three is a natural explorer, and has culminated a collection of curiosities for the boutique. “I meet people and wander into studios and little nooks and crannies in different little towns that I visit, and I’ve just discovered so many different people,” she says. “I really am drawn to an artist. There’s something vulnerable about them at times, and at times innocent, and maybe a little damaged even. But it’s that vulnerability I think that I’m drawn to, and that I find beautiful. Being around that creativity feeds me. [The pop-up is] a collection of things from people in my life that have just titillated me along the way.”
The key to her selection is a personal love, she stresses. “I wouldn’t put one thing in my store that I wouldn’t want for myself. I have to love things — and I do have enough love in my heart for a lot of things. My taste is pretty wide-ranging and eclectic, but I also know how to bring everything together so it’s cohesive.”
Goods stocked include hostess gifts, things like pumice stones, art, antique furniture and ceramics; games like dominoes and dart boards, and clothing pieces by Gary Graham, part of a custom collection he did for Ruffalo called the Ophelia collection.
“I have to be honest, my ceramists right now are blowing my mind,” Ruffalo says of a favorite artisan she carries. “I’m working with a young girl named Bridget Ann Clark, who is based in Kentucky. I met her when she was a young shop girl in Manhattan. [Another one is] Kelli Cain — a timid little thing, she lives in the middle of the Catskills in the most incredible home I’ve ever seen, and makes beautiful day-to-day stoneware.”
The Ruffalos have been homeowners in upstate New York since 1999. “Mark and I met in ’97, so we pretty much bought a home there right away,” she says. “We were young, Mark was doing theater, we had no money. Mark’s from Wisconsin, I’m from New Orleans, we both grew up around a lot of trees — mine were big oak trees, his were more like forests.”
When their kids were young, they abandoned L.A. to live in Callicoon full-time. “When we lived up there, Michelle Williams came to visit us and ended up buying a house up there. Matilda [Williams’ daughter] and our kids all went to the Montessori school.”
The initial appeal of Callicoon was the affordability, but they’ve stayed for the community. “I’ve traveled all around the world — by the time I was 18 I’d been around the world three times — and when I got to Callicoon it ticked off all the boxes for me,” Ruffalo says. “The community of people — people mean a lot to me. If you want to get there, you have to really want to get there — there’s no train, it definitely keeps it very pristine. It’s a more primal way to live, which is to enjoy, I guess. To be enjoyed. To be looking for joy, to be attune with nature.”