New hours, products and business neighbors
By Michael Turton
Local residents are sure to do a double-take when an event – that like clockwork has always signaled the beginning of winter – fails to take place this year. Vera’s Philipstown Market will not close for the season. The popular roadside produce-and-more stand, located on Route 9 south of Fishkill Road, will keep its doors open after Christmas instead of closing as it has in the past.
“We feel that if we’re going to try it for a year – this is the year to do it,” Dominic Giordano said of the decision to remain open. “We want to support the new businesses.” Giordano, who operates the market in tandem with his mother Vera, his sister Joanne, and his cousin Maria Hughes, was referring to the market’s new neighbors – Cold Spring Coffee Pantry and On the Fly Cycling Studio. Both are tenants of the Giordanos and located in the same building. Staying open is a move to change the mindset of their customers who are used to seeing the building close until spring. “Once we close, people don’t come around – and we really want them (the two new businesses) to succeed.” After Christmas, Vera’s will be open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The new winter hours will also signal new product lines. “We’ll add gift baskets with local, value-added products – and we’re looking into offering house plants as well,” Joanne Giordano said. “And we’ll add some winter hardware items such as salt, firewood, shovels and charcoal.”
Vera’s opened in June 1982, and operating the business is no soft touch. Asked what the most difficult aspect is, Joanne replied. “It’s hard work, hard labor – seven days a week,” to which Dominic added, “And it’s hard being away from the rest of our families so much.”
While it’s a challenge, they also see the bright side of the business. Joanne pointed to “Working together as a family” as one of the best aspects. Dominic complimented the quality of their customer base. “A lot of people come here because they really want to support local businesses.”
Joanne refers to those customers as, “The best in the Hudson Valley” – but is also willing to poke fun at them. “I love it when customers come in April and ask if all the produce is local!” But she was also quick to add that she’s seen a big improvement in people’s buying habits over the years. “People used to buy produce in bulk. There was a lot of waste. The 80s and 90s were very wasteful,” she said. “But now, people are much smarter with their shopping. They buy produce in smaller amounts, every two or three days. They’re very loyal – and they really like shopping locally.”
One thing that she said has not changed over the years is the dependability and quality of produce from regional farms that the market offers. “Wallkill View Farms, Soons Orchards, Four Winds Farm – they’re all so great,” she said. During winter months, when regional produce is unavailable, Vera’s brings in products from further afield and will continue to offer value-added food products such as Reggiano cheese, olive oil and pasta imported from Italy.
Sitting at a picnic table in the kitchen area, the three Giordanos grabbed a steaming bowl of Vera’s homemade lentil soup during a lunch break. Vera praised her grandchildren who often help at the market – including with Christmas tree sales this time of year. And while the market that bears her name will be staying open this winter, don’t look for Vera behind the counter. “I’m going down to Florida from the end of January until the end of March,” she said. When asked if Dominic and Joanne would be flying down to visit her, the three responded in near-perfect unison. “Are you kidding? We see each other seven days a week as it is!”
Cold Spring Coffee Pantry winter hours are: Monday through Wednesday, 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday-Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. For On the Fly classes call 845-265-2830.
Photos by M. Turton