Railroad Stop Shop

A manifested destination for crystals and collectibles

Inside a crimson 1978 Maine Central caboose lies a shop built from the foundation of miracles and magic. What started as a blind date between two free-spirited souls, Gail and Bill Borkowski, manifested into love and the creation of the holistic healing shop known as Crystal Caboose.

Falling In Love, Falling into Place 

 Gail Borkowski originally wanted to be an art teacher but found herself working various office jobs at insurance companies instead. Bill Borkowski worked as a sonar technician in the Navy for about four years and was responsible for navigating submarines. 

Al Portal, a mutual friend, set the couple up on a blind date. They married in 1982 and dove into their creative skills by taking classes in stained glass-making and wand-making before eventually selling their work at various craft fairs. They soon added stones due to their high demand. 

In the summer of 1987, Gail and Bill moved from their home state of Connecticut to West Chazy, New York. When exploring their new home, they ventured into the Trackside Depot bar, which was originally the West Chazy railroad station. The bar was small and painfully unsuccessful, only pulling in a crowd of six on most days. Gail purchased a picture of the last steam train to come through the station and gave it to Bill as a present. After they left, the couple asked their landlord to keep them posted if the bar was ever put up for sale.

Two weeks later, they received the news they were hoping for. They bought the bar and in October 1987, transformed the former train station into a home of their own. “We spent every spare dime we had fixing it up, as well as almost all of our spare time,” Gail says. 

The caboose was purchased spontaneously to compliment Bill’s love of trains and to use as storage for their growing collection of crafts. “We didn’t really think about having a store right away,” Gail explains. 

Laying Down the Tracks 

Just as the couple was settling into their new train station home, far away in Canaan, Connecticut, another train aficionado was trying to start a caboose motel. The town of Canaan originally gave him permission to proceed but later withdrew that permit. He was left with no option but to sell his cabooses and the Borkowksis were thrilled to snag one.

In November 1997, six months after sending a down payment check, the Borkowskis realized he had not cashed it. They called him in inquiry and were sad to learn he had sold all of his cabooses to another buyer. The news crushed the couple, as they had already laid down some tracks for the train car. 

Shortly after Christmas, neighbors showed their sympathy by placing a red, children’s-sized wagon decorated as a caboose on Gail and Bill’s tracks. 

In January 1998, the power of manifestation brought forth the real caboose.

Gail and Bill received a call from the caboose salesman, informing them that the other buyer’s check had bounced. He asked the Borkowskis if they still wanted the rail car. Ecstatic, they hired a trucking company that used cranes to relocate the railroading treasure. 

Originally, the caboose was orange and green. “We painted it red because cabooses are supposed to be red,” Gail says. The caboose cost about $5,000 and the trucking company cost about $10,000. However, the joy and impact this has brought to the North Country is priceless.

All Aboard 

The caboose opened its doors Memorial Day weekend 1998. The inspiration for opening Crystal Caboose was born from a combination of Gail and Bill’s love for stones, spiritual beliefs, and of course, trains. In this shop, guests are greeted by a variety of over 350 stones and crystals, as well as essential oils, candles, incense, smudge, and gorgeous, yet affordable, sterling silver jewelry. Gail is in contact with a network of healers, massage therapists, Reiki practitioners, seers, mediums, intuitives, shamans, astrologers and numerologists located in the North Country. She is able to book sessions for customers seeking the variety of services they offer.

A Lasting Impact

Joey Mahoney, a Plattsburgh native and longtime Crystal Caboose customer, recalls spending his allowance there and talking Gail’s ear off during his youth. He describes the aesthetic of the shop as what stands out to him most. “How she can fit so much stuff into a train caboose is amazing,” Mahoney says. He describes the shop as “tactfully” arranged so it’s “not overwhelming to walk in.” He feels nothing less than welcomed and at home as soon as he enters the caboose. 

Story by Haley Passino

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