Spring has officially arrived with the vernal equinox but it has been in the air for a couple of weeks. In the midst of all this balmy weather in Beacon, with the earliest arrival of daffodils, forsythia, magnolias and cherry blossoms that I've ever witnessed, there are several venues worthy of checking out: Hop, the new brew-oriented foodie hot spot across from the Howland Cultural Center and Gallery 508, where the featured artist, Christine Hartman, opened on 2nd Saturday in March. Both destinations are conveniently located on the East End of town with another new store, La Bella Rosa, in Russ Cusick's old gallery location. La Bella Rosa has the old feel of a traditional florist and knick-knack gift shop. Janette, the proprietor, is a friendly and knowledgeable, veteran florist who seems happy to have arrived in Beacon. The juxtaposition of La Bella Rosa amidst the row of funky and forward fashions found at Echo, Jacqueline, and Lauren & Riley, the good eats at Beacon Falls Cafe and the Beacon Bagel, and the health-oriented Beacon Yoga, creates a time warp in the Beacon we all expect and love.
Hop -- aptly named since anyone trying to gain access at a pub crawl pace would be out-of-luck since it has had packed-to-capacity seating since its opening on March 1st. (Hop apparently will have an official opening on April 7th, so like spring, it seems to have arrived a month early!) Hop has a variety of local brews on tap, as well as bottled, international craft beers and food that can be eaten "in" (soups, cheese plates, beef jerky, pates) or items featuring Hemlock Hill Farm products and vinegars from a local monastery to be taken "out". The overall feel of the establishment is upbeat, casual and depending on when you arrive, a bit frenetic, even bordering on chaotic. It's definitely a meeting place for the younger (or young-at-heart) set in town.
For a more sedate excursion, be sure to stop by Gallery 508, owned by Jens Bille, who hails from Denmark and worked as a designer for Georg Jensen. The collection of his own artwork and jewelry designs, as well as, antique collectibles, black-and-white photographs, and Japanese wood prints, is showcased with a featured artist who is local Beacon artist, Christine Hartman through the end of April. Hartman's still life oil paintings bring traditional and carefully placed household objects and even a cat or two on practically full-size canvases that make her art a tromp l'oeil of all that you stand before in the midst of in this well-appointed gallery. The color palate is soothing and inviting so you'll just have to pull up a chair (before it is sold) and gain your composure from all the activity that is ready to burst into being with upcoming spring and summer festivities in this soon-to-be Roundhouse section of town. Check out the progress of the Roundhouse, recently noted in Hudson Valley Magazine to be the second best thing for Beacon's development after the Dia's opening in 2003.
Some food for thought: For perspective, one has to acknowledge that Beacon has had many more seminal events in its recent history other than the conversion of two factories into a world-renowned art museum and a restaurant/conference center/loft space on either end of town respectively. It's all of Beacon's past, present and future that one finds along the full extent of Main Street -- from Bank Square to Hudson Beach Glass to Artisan Wine Shop to Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries to Seed to Fruit...and everything sandwiched in between. All of Beacon is getting ready to 'hop' to it as this glorious spring leads to summer surprises along the way. With the arrival of Hop, it is a reminder that 'imitation is the best form of flattery' since the food and gourmet local goodies-to-go will remind Beaconites of the popular Homespun and the fact that it became the forerunner of Frost & Justice, the local Kingston brewery that has been in partnership with the Beacon Theatre across the street. Good ideas are easily replicated. When a community can hold more than one venue featuring the same goods or services, it is a sign that demand is dictating supply; friendly competition never hurts anyone. It just offers more choices for the consumer who wants to buy and stay local.