Bon Appétit magazine has a 10-page feature on Hudson eats and drinks in the current (August 2014) issue, with a ten-point sidebar of recommendations from Yours Truly. The issue is available at ShopRite near the checkout, and probably elsewhere.
An unusual aspect of living or working in a town with dozens of antiques stores is that from time to time, one encounters remnants of an earlier life in someone’s shop.
The other day my travels took me to see a building which houses an upholstery business. Passing through their garage storage space, I stopped in my tracks: Hey—my old wingbacks!
I bought the two chairs above in 1998, and sold them at a yard sale in 2006. The peculiar brick-patterned fabric leaves no doubt these were in my old place at 32 Warren for that entire time... But I’d also recognize those cat-scratched corners anywhere. Plus, the tags safety-pinned by the upholsterer to each chair refreshed my memory of which antiquer bought them off my sidewalk.
The pair came out of an odd, long-gone store in the 600 block of Warren Street, now occupied by Red Chair. It’s then-owner Ken used three floors of the cavernous building for retail, and his business model was baffling at first glance. Unlike pretty much every other Hudson merchant’s store, this one seemed to have absolutely no point of view or ruling aesthetic... One might find a mint-condition George Nelson desk next to a stained Rent-A-Center overstuffed couch, in front of an Ikea screen, illuminated by a beat-up lava lamp, atop a chipped faux-Colonial sideboard. Everything was priced low, almost at random, and anything decent tended to sell fast—then reappear in another shop’s window at 5-10 times the price.
One had to check in frequently to catch a deal, and as a new homeowner with little furniture to populate a large house, I stopped by regularly and got to know Ken a bit. A white-haired guy probably in his late 50s or early 60s, but with a youthful countenance, his politics were vaguely libertarian. He liked to tell rambling stories, often with an undercurrent of skepticism of political authority. Most days he sat in a small booth on the 2nd floor overlooking the main space, surfing the then-nascent web at a snail’s pace via dialup on an older computer. A stooped assistant with a slight stutter handled much of the hauling of Ken’s wares in via the alley entrance, and out via the front door.
Eventually, Ken explained the seeming randomness of his ever-shifting inventory: he was buying the contents of abandoned storage lockers, usually sight-unseen, and reselling anything of value contained therein... an original Storage Wars guy, long before the A&E show. Most of what he sold was true junk; otherwise it wouldn’t have been abandoned. But now and then one could pick up something of real value, typically for well under $100. Sometime around the turn of the century, he sold the building to Angelika Westerhoff, whose store has also since evaporated. I was told that Ken had a similar but even larger warehouse store in Poughkeepsie for a while, but I never could find it.
Anyway, these wingbacks were purchased with the intention of getting them recovered... I liked the shape, not the upholstery. But I never got around to it, and by letting the cats attack the eventually-to-be-recovered fabric, it seemed to spare the rest of my stuff from their claws. Below are two of them (one who died last Winter) enjoying a nap together by the fireplace. Apparently I only needed to buy one of these chairs, not the pair.
Germantown Variety opened this week at 212 Main Street; and for those who have been intensely curious to see it unveiled, the wait was well worth it.
Offering a utilitarian combination of hardware, cosmetics, gardening supplies, papergoods and other routine needs, the store occupies the place once held by stores like Newberry’s or Woolworth’s—before Wal-Mart pushed five-and-dimes off American main streets.
The design of the place is a good fit as well: at once unpretentious and upscale, tasteful but not fussy, old-timey but not cornball, plain without being bland... The location and timing also make a lot of sense. While Germantown is within a 25-minute drive of big box stores in Hudson and Kingston, the convenience of being able to get decent toothpaste, or wood screws, or squirt guns, or plant fertilizer, or potato mashers closer to home will appeal to those who live closer-by. Germantown Variety allows household errands (like picking up deli foods across the street at Otto’s) to be consolidated into a single trip.
Plus, Germantown Variety will likely attract a broader audience of people who want to keep their dollars circulating locally, rather than sending profits off to Bentonville, Arkansas. The only comparable place in the area is A.J. Stickle’s in Rhinebeck, and one can imagine many other semi-isolated main streets which could benefit from having such a store.
The topmost blocks of Warren Street in Hudson continue to blossom, most recently with the advent of Content at #722.
Jade-Snow Carroll, former managing director of Design Observer, quietly opened the ambiguously-monikered shop during Pride weekend. (Hint: the name is pronounced like the Information Age noun, though the adjective seems appropriate enough, too.)
The store, which will also double as a graphic design studio, features a winning mix of vintage and locally-made new accessories, clothing, furnishings, furniture and other objects.
Dennis McEvoy of Rogerson’s in Hudson is joining forces with Bart Slutsky, a collector and dealer of rare, vintage and antique hardware, fixtures and more. Slutsky is now in the process of moving a dozen or so vanloads of handles, locks, latches, lights, pulls, tools and more from his warehouse in Westchester.
Only a small fraction of Slutsky’s inventory is on display at this point, but each piece that’s been unboxed so far is impressive: durable, useful and refined treasures from the past century or more. It complements Rogerson’s own remaining stock, as well as the region’s remarkable building stock. Renovators should find many solid matches or upgrades for existing pieces in older homes, as well as new ideas for home improvements based upon the high-quality engineering of the past.
This really seems like an ideal fit for Hudson, and a fitting new chapter in Rogerson’s storied local history. (I’m going back for some heavy-duty chrome latches later today.)
Some tidbits gleaned during a recent visit to Germantown:
Otto’s Market is hiring for two positions beginning in April;
Stewart’s also has a position open;
Coming soon across the street from Otto’s: Germantown Variety, which sounds like it’ll be a Columbia County version of A.L. Stickle’s in Rhinebeck. The store is aiming to “be a revival of the variety store of mid-century America” where “you'll be able to get just about everything you need without stepping a foot into a big box store”—from housewares and hardware to cards and candy.
If you haven’t already, check out the Etsy page of Carole Clark (former proprietor of Charleston restaurant, and an early Hudson activist). In addition to her artwork, lately Carole’s been making jewelry—pins, head ornaments, earrings, vases and more—from elements found in nature such as preserved wild mushrooms, lichen, moss and bark.
I’ve added a bunch of new items to my annual Hudson Under $100 holiday shopping site... Click here to check ’em out. (Since there are now about 100 items, I’ve divided these into two batches; so be sure to click through to both Part 1 and Part 2.)
The 2011 installment of my annual Hudson Under $100 local shopping guide is now live at this link. Here is the 2009 description of the site’s purpose, besides the obvious:
A Thanksgiving-time stroll through the eclectic shops on and off Warren Street reveals a wide variety of goods priced from $1 to $99. ¶ When contemplating your holiday gift list, Hudson deserves serious consideration. With just a little looking, one-of-a-kind presents can be found at reasonable prices... Much more than dark-wood antiques, Hudson offers diverse items either decorative or practical, humorous or chic, old or new. ¶ While supporting main street merchants, you can do your holiday shopping all in one place without setting foot in a mall. Buying local also has the virtue of not contributing to the glut of plastic-and-foam packaging, nor to companies whose manufacturing has been moved off-shore, nor ennabling products whose shipping required thousands of miles worth of fossil fuels.
Does healthy, organic food cost more than “regular” food? And what’s a hamburger supposed to cost around here, anyway?
Ever since Grazin’ revitalized a formerly-empty restaurant space on Warren Street, one has heard more than a few hyperbolic discussions about prices, with little actual relationship to the reality of the 21st Century cost of delivering a decent meal.
The chart below collects some representative menu prices for burgers in the region. For the purposes of a fair comparison, the price of a side of fries was included if those don’t come automatically with the burger:
As the hard numbers above show, the price of a burger in these parts can range from a low of $5.50 to a high of $13. The average burger price of the 15 establishments list above is $9.98—precisely 3 cents higher than than that of the Grazin’ all-organic, Animal Welfare Certifed burger.
In short, getting a healthy, organic, responsibly-created, locally-sourced, farm-to-table burger is no more expensive than eating at most any other non-fastfood restaurant in the area... which just points up the irrationality of some of the anti-organic voices in our midst. Those who denounce $9-$10 for a burger as outrageous clearly haven’t been getting out much lately.
Now some Rush Limbaugh listeners may cry foul, noting that they could get a slider and fries at McDonald’s or Burger King for even less than any of the prices above. Yes, you could... except those aren’t hamburgers. Those are reprocessed sewage patties masquerading as food. If you eat them regularly, you will almost certainly die early. And the price of that to your family and society far exceeds anything that buying organic ever could.