Young entrepreneurs put a fresh face on business
By Michael Turton
Main Street has reinvented itself many times since Cold Spring evolved from a small riverfront-trading hamlet into a thriving industrial village with the establishment of the West Point Foundry in 1818. Well into the 20th century, before the shopping mall and the Internet, residents found everything they needed without leaving Main Street — from banks, grocery and clothing stores to wine shops and drug stores.
When visitors began to discover Cold Spring in large numbers thanks to the advent of commuter rail service and improved highways, Main Street changed again. And in 2012 the Comprehensive Plan observed that the village now actually has two main streets. Main Street itself caters largely to visitors while Morris Avenue–Chestnut Street provides locals with everyday goods and services.
Three new shops in a row
The annual opening, closing or reshuffling of a few stores is practically a Cold Spring tradition, but the recent arrival of three new shops, back-to-back along Main Street, may signal a significant shift in the village’s commercial character. Young entrepreneurs who view Cold Spring as their home as much as a business venue have placed their stake at 61-63-65 Main Street, opening the Cold Spring General Store, Old Souls and Swing, respectively.
If the conspicuous cluster hints at a change in the nature of local business, that notion is supported by other fledgling ventures just up Main Street that include the Living Room’s Sunday Bazaar, Garden Cafe and the Buster Levi Gallery. A half- block off of lower Main, at 14 Market St., is less-than-a-month-old Hudson River Expeditions. Further afield, the Cold Spring Coffee Pantry, nestled next to Vera’s Philipstown Market on Route 9, is yet another example of the wave of young, creative business owners who have set up shop at 10516.
Most of the new faces behind their respective counters are in their 30s. The rumor mill has at times incorrectly lumped them together as “Brooklynites.” While some have moved up from New York City, they are just as likely to have called Westchester, Buffalo, Colorado, the Catskills or Rockland County home before landing in Philipstown.
Lifestyle and geography
Craig Muraszewski and his wife Deanna own and operate The Cold Spring General Store, with its wide variety of perishable and nonperishable goods — everything from cookbooks and cheese to pickles, craft beer growlers and their trademark market bag.
Their reason for moving to Cold Spring from Mamaroneck reflects a value shared by most if not all of their fellow newcomers — and it isn’t all about business. “It was more for the lifestyle,” Craig said. “The ability to live and work in a community we love — one that offers a better quality of life.”
Brian Grahn and his wife Maki Parsons are the driving force behind Hudson River Expeditions. The rationale for coming here couldn’t be more straightforward. “It was the Hudson River — and Cold Spring being located right on it,” Brian told The Paper. Their doors have only been open for three weeks and they’ve already learned to expect the unexpected. “We’re surprised by the number of international visitors,” Parsons said. “A family from Holland stopped by just last week.” While they rely heavily upon visitors to support their kayak rentals, excursions and paddling lessons, residents also play an important role. “Residents spread the word for us,” Parsons said. “The community has been a great help in getting the word out.”
Prices and a diverse customer base
The new owners see Cold Spring’s mix of long-time residents, recent and not-so-recent commuters and seasonal and weekend visitors as both a challenge and opportunity for their business. “It’s a great mix,” said Tara Caroll, who along with her husband James operates Old Souls, which features heritage home goods, outdoor gear and fly fishing equipment. “Most people who are from here, move here or visit here want to be outdoors — and we help them get outside.”
Rumblings in some corners that the new shops’ prices are high don’t bother Caroll. “Our intent is that you buy something once. It would be horrifying to me if someone brought back something that broke,” she said, adding that the quality of goods they offer means that items can be handed down. “That’s our ‘M.O.’”
Swing’s Evan Ross agrees that the market mix in Cold Spring is positive. “It gives us a broader customer base,” he said. He disagrees with comments that the new shops don’t appeal to locals as well as visitors. “Local residents have been great — they give us instant feedback.” Customer commentary has included requests for more men’s clothing. Currently, the shop caters mainly to women and children. “We want to be a staple for local residents who might not want to go to a mall,” he said. Cold Spring’s architectural heritage and historic Main Street are a big part of why visitors come to the village, Ross said. “Otherwise they could just go to Woodbury Commons.”
Varied locations, varied challenges
On the “challenge” side of doing business in Cold Spring, Caroll sees bad weather and the off-season as significant factors. “When traffic is down you have to be creative to keep things moving,” she said. As a result, she says her No. 1 priority is to expand their online presence by launching a new and improved website in July.
Route 9 is Philipstown’s Main Street. The Cold Spring Coffee Pantry, owned by Sam Lutzer and her husband Andrew, features artisan coffees, craft beer and wine. The steady flow of highway traffic means less dependence on tourists than Cold Spring’s Main Street but the basic challenge is the same — building a customer base. “A lot of people in this area really appreciate hand-crafted, artisan coffee,” Sam Lutzer said, adding that locating next to Vera’s Philipstown Market has helped a great deal. “We’ve been able to tap into Vera’s loyal customers … and we hope to build a joint following.” She said that her location also means that unlike village shops, parking is not a problem.
A fresh mindset
While Cold Spring has hemmed and hawed over installing Main Street parking meters for years, the new breed of business owner doesn’t hesitate. Stephanie Doucette, Evan Ross’ business partner at Swing, is typical. “Parking meters? Why not?” she asked. “They’ll generate income to fix the sidewalks.” Others said that meters would increase turnover — benefitting business while reducing the number of commuters who take up parking spaces on Main Street.
Another area of unanimity among new store owners is their view that the rejuvenated City of Beacon complements rather than competes with their businesses. “One hundred percent — it complements,” Caroll said. She feels that the proposed Fjord Trail slated to run from Cold Spring to Breakneck Ridge to Beacon will also be beneficial. “We have to make it easy for people to get back and forth” between communities. “We have to make that connection.”
Praise and a continuing evolution
Tom Rolston, owner of The Depot Restaurant for the past 29 years and not one to shy away from critical commentary, is impressed with Cold Spring’s new businesses.
“The new shops are excellent, unique,” he said. “They’re a bit pricey but that can be good if they attract customers willing to spend more.” Rolston added that the new shops offer merchandise appropriate to a Main Street that is moving away from a focus on antiques. “The antiques are great, but people coming up on the train want to buy smaller, lighter goods and the new stores do that.”
Debbi Milner, president of the Cold Spring Area Chamber of Commerce, praised the new store owners for their involvement in the business community. “These new owners, three of whom are now chamber board members, have brought a vitality back to business in Cold Spring. They are also working together to find ways to improve signage and public transportation for the area.”
The recent influx of new businesses does not mark the end of change. The former McGuire’s-on-Main will reopen soon with new ownership, a new name and a new look. The first floor of the Skybaby building is being refurbished in anticipation of welcoming a new enterprise. The shop at the corner of Main and Kemble will also soon boast a new tenant. On Cold Spring’s other main street, Foodtown is completing a major expansion. And on Route 9 next to The Cold Spring Coffee Pantry, the former Tony’s Market is also undergoing an extensive renovation. The Main Street evolution continues.
Photos by M. Turton