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Monday, December 31, 2012

Beacon Bits -- Out with the Old & In with the New

It has been two years since I moved to Beacon and just like the song, 'the times they are a-changing', I have borne witness to many changes along Main Street and have noted them with appreciation and pleasure in blog postings.  From my perspective, most of the changes have been very good in terms of economic development and environmental enhancement. So I thought I would end the year with a  small sense of closure and with great anticipation of some new beginnings by taking a brief look at a few of the recent transitions that are evident in our midst.
I'll start with the sad news that the art gallery Marion Royael closed.  Most businesses close when they are unsuccessful.  Rumor has it that Steve and Barbara (a true Beacon power couple) closed the gallery, which was prominently located across from the Howland Cultural Center and the The Beacon Theatre, because they were very successful and decided to pursue their dreams and riches in New York City.  While we wish them much luck in their venture, their presence and artistic flair and sensibility will be notably missed from Second Saturday openings and by the peripatetic residents and visitors who always stopped to take a long hard look at the traditional and avante garde artwork they exhibited.
Perhaps not so sad, but more ambiguous news, Dim Sum Vault has "temporarily" closed its doors. Whether the restaurateurs played it "safe" as a posting on BCN suggested, or read the cards and realized that their fare may not have been competitive with the established Asian cuisine in town (i.e., Isamu, Sukothai, and even the tiny and delicious upstart Korean Seoul Food), is unknown. But for those who may have become aficionados, it is not a good way to treat loyal customers who want to dine out in a favorite place and have the desire for new restaurants to succeed in town.  As for me, whether or not they re-open may be a moot point. I took an out-of-town guest to eat at Dim Sum in October. While I was not impressed with the variety or the flexibility  of the menu and wait staff (e.g., an equivocal response to my request for garlic string beans, which was not listed), I was very put off when I was chastised as I called to say that I was running late for my 6pm reservation and then noted empty tables upon arriving at 6:15pm. Common courtesy and responsiveness to customer requests are a hallmark of the food industry that sells more than the kitchen fare for repeat customers.
On the other hand, I eagerly anticipate getting a taste of the food and fare at Hop, which  I would award "Newcomer of the Year". Reports from friends and reviews that I have read are all glowing. I just haven't been lucky enough to stop by when it wasn't packed full house! So it is high on my list to visit and toast the new year with hopes of future fermentation of its congenial and tasteful presence on the East end of town.
High on my wish list when I moved to Beacon was a store, like Williams & Sonoma, to be in the center of town. I knew that the ordinance on the books precludes 'chain stores and franchises', but I felt that the upscale nature of a flagship business such as W&S would bring in business from other nearby locales (e.g., Cold Spring, Garrison) and match the interest of the foodies and the CIA grads who populate Beacon.  Homespun with its gourmet food offerings was a partial wish fulfilment. Now I can say there are two more "parts" to the wished for "whole": Scarborough Fare, an olive oil and vinegar tap room at 257 Main St.
and Utensil, a kitchenware supply store at 480 Main St. (Time to burn calories in between.)
Perhaps oil and vinegar sounds too specific and limiting for a new business to be hopeful as a newcomer to the streets of Beacon, but mother and daughter owners Corey and Donna Wirthman, who opened this outpost store as a branch of its successful New Paltz business, offer much more with gift baskets to order with Italian pasta, Harney & Sons tea, Italian meats, German meats, Caciocavallo cheese, natural dips and hummus and gluten free items. Stop in for a taste and remember that food gifts are always consumed with gusto.
Meanwhile, who doesn't like to peruse the aisles and shelves of a kitchenware store made easy with the expertise of Utensil's owner, Emily Burke, who opened in November and has the prescience to be open during Second Saturday hours. Just as Lowe's and Home Depot offer the chance to find items that you didn't know you needed, a good kitchenware store feels like heaven to anyone who chops, slices, mixes, stores and otherwise prepares good food with style and flair;  let's welcome Emily to our midst
So while I did not get my hoped for Williams & Sonoma, I now have multiple choices for gourmet food and cooking utensils without leaving Main Street in Beacon. Spices and herbs anyone?
Another wish that I feel I have received as the year comes to an end is a new facade on the Howland Public Library, with a uniform brick wall that has improved safety features with less
plate glass in the children's section and a parking lot at Key Food graced with tree plantings and enhanced signage for what was perceived as an eyesore by many in the center of
town.  This latter project fulfills the promise of the Main Street grant that Beacon received two years ago that allowed the town to work with store owners who wanted to improve the overall appearance of storefronts by returning them to architectural detailing reminiscent of an older era with uniform mill work and colorways that pull together a signature look for the street scape from West to East that bridges the unification of the two disparate towns, Fishkill Landing and Mattewan, that Beacon actually was 100 years ago. These improvements are welcome as we get ready for the Centennial Celebrations 1913-2013 that will begin  in January and last all year long. What a way to start the New Year!

Some food for thought:  New Year's always brings about the melancholic sense of loss for what did not occur in the preceding year and the eager anticipation of a fresh start for the coming year. Finding the balance between regrets and disappointments about the past and optimism and courage for the unknown and uncertain future is key in making the transition 'smooth' from one year to the next. May we all find the time to reflect in a meaningful way about what was and what might be while staying grounded in what is. May we all continue to find the strength for the changes we have endured and for those that are sure to come our way in the coming year.  Many blessings  to all for 2013!
Make a resolution to become a Friend of the Howland Library this year!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Beacon Bits -- Heart-and-Soul

One day last summer, while on Main Street in the vicinity of Global Home and Theo Ganz Studio, I saw a police officer checking out a license plate on a parked car with its door open and a dog lapping up water from  bowl placed by the side of the car by two women shopkeepers.  The officer had been called to the scene by the concerned women who noticed the dog in the car with the windows practically closed on a hot and sultry summer day.  The dog was being rescued from a potential tragedy; the shopkeepers' proactive response had been rewarded by the arrival of the officer and they were relieved as the officer pursued tracking down the owner of the car through a handheld device searching the Internet.  The outcome was whether or not a summons would be issued but the process was the kindheartedness of sensitive and compassionate bystanders who called upon this 'officer of the peace' who responded as you would hope for any local hero.
This is one of the precious heart-and-soul moments of the last year in Beacon.  When I recalled it recently. I thought I'd point out a few more instances where heart-and-soul moments exist along Main Street.
o     Have you ever noticed John's Shoe Repair? you may know it by the clutter and five-and-dime appearance of its large windows across the street from M&T Bank.  When you walk in the door you are transported back to the smell, sight and sound of the glue, sewing machine and rows of gently used shoes waiting to be repaired or retrieved--a remnant of childhood for some of us. I had the pleasure of meeting John and his wife, who travel to Beacon daily from Queens, when I brought a leather pocketbook into the shop in need of a secure strap.  Ten dollars and two days later, a totally wearable sack was back in my possession to my delight and for fond memories being stirred as much as the repair of my purse.
o     Did you notice the arrival of two storefront businesses last summer -- Roosevelt Vet on the Hudson and Orange Pediatrics? Things are really looking up for Beacon when the town pays attention to defenseless children and animals.  (We already know Beacon has ongoing outreach on Main Street for the indigent and addicted with the presence of the Salvation Army and the Lexington Treatment Center.) I recently had the chance to pay a pre-interview visit to Roosevelt Vet on the Hudson and spoke with Emilia, one of the staff, followed by an appointment for my new kitty, Thea, with Dr. Tamara McArdle, after several other
occasions for contact, including a crisis call when adopting Thea at the DCSPCA after being told she had a "cold." Dr. McArdle couldn't have been more understanding as she offered guidance and reassurance to tide me over until Thea could be poked and prodded and

probed thoroughly enough to determine that she's a keeper. Roosevelt Vet on the Hudson now participates in the DCSPCA initial examination program, but whether you're newly adopting a cat or dog or not, I'd say that you can trust your pet care to these newcomers who are professional, courteous and compassionate. Pay them a visit and see for yourself.
o     Did you ever wonder about all the activity that can be seen through the windows of the Yanarella Dance Studio located between Dance Bag and All You Knead off the corner of North Chestnut on Main? I heard there was actually a car dealership in that location years ago, but more recently it has been home for many of the 55 years that this Beacon-owned dance studio has seen kids grow up and become the teachers to their peers' children and even grandchildren. If you were curious enough or received an invitation, you may have even purchased a ticket to one of the two performances held at the Beacon High School in mid-November. If you went, you would see an age range from pre-school to retired (from 3 to 75), all sizes and shapes, and a healthy diversity of ethnicity, religion and race -- a true

equal opportunity venue where the philosophy is that everyone can dance! They can -- and for those who may want to start for the first time - registration was just held for the new classes that start in December and culminate in next November's recital, so there is still time to join in the fun. If you don't feel you have the courage to reveal your inner  dancer, at least remember to buy a ticket next year to support this terpsichorean, community-minded happening that puts all of Beacon on stage.  Kudos to the teachers and Angela, the owner, and especially for the energy of the high school age girls who burned thousands of calories across two days and a dozen performances ranging from hip hop to contemporary, ballet, tap and jazz.  What amazing girl power!
o     And how about our local 93 year old hero, Pete Seeger?  Need I say more.  Just look and listen for yourself. 
Some food for thought:  Reflecting on the day-to-day things we take for granted may reveal that there's more than meets the eye.  And when you do encounter some heart-and-soul in Beacon, whether by chance or by design, you will know that it is truly is a blessed and wonderful life in our town.