The colorful and ever-shifting landscape of Uptown’s restaurant and retail scene is becoming noticeably swelled with a boom in new shops and eateries. Just within the past few months, Duo filled in the space formerly occupied by Gabriel’s Café on John Street and Yum Yum Noodle Bar opened their doors in the former Mizuna Café space and, just this week, Sissy’s opened up a smoothies-and-panini concern in the storefront once occupied by Oo Gallery. More are on the way.
Since the winter, Gabriel’s Café owner Gabriel Vasquez has been lovingly restoring the Wall Street building which housed Kimm’s Market for years for an international food market with a café and bakery. He hopes will it will be running in July.
Right next door, the space which until recently housed the Beahive collaborative work space is being revamped into an antique store with another café and bakery. A few blocks away at 11 Main St., the former Ugly Gus’ Café and 11 Main will host the cross-river expansion of Tivoli’s Santa Fe Mexican restaurant. Maria Philippis, owner of Boitson’s (which just celebrated its two-year anniversary) has bought the building next to her to increase her deck size from 14 feet to 40. She added she is contemplating a second restaurant as well. Stella’s and Fleisher’s Grass-Fed and Organic Meats have also recently expanded their capacity to boot.
On the retail scene, Edelweiss Soap Company went from a booth at the Kingston Farmers’ Market on John Street to a permanent addy on John Street, next to Lucy’s Tacos. The Art Riot arts and crafts shop opened next door, catty-corner to Carole Shiber Designs’ new studio store, in a corner location formerly occupied by a hair salon. Thou Art Gallery, Just Alan and Michael Francis Creations (hand-painted vintage furniture) all are, or will imminently be, opening.
But with so many complaints of limited parking, inconsistent shop hours and limited visibility, can Uptown sustain all of these new businesses?
Art Riot owner Matthew Pleva is thinking yes. Artist Pleva and his partner Heidi Abrams set up shop selling fine art, jewelry and crafts from 30 Hudson Valley artists on John Street last month, citing “good visibility and a fair amount of foot traffic” as the reason for choosing the slender location. Pleva disagrees with the inadequate-parking argument. “People complain too much about parking. These people need to acquaint themselves with parking,” said Pleva, who feels that dinnertime is more a parking conundrum than daytime. “You can always find a spot within two blocks to park. If you’re going to the mall, you’re going to walk at least one city block, right? Christmas time you can walk [the equivalent of] three to four blocks from the parking lot into the mall. What’s the difference? If you’re worried about parking, then come on Sundays when there’s plenty.”
Pleva said he draws from Lucy’s Tacos eclectic crowd, and added that better signage and sandwich boards is the ticket for success.
Next door neighbor Edelweiss Soap Company owner Julie Wehmeyer said she recognizes her customer base as people who work in the neighborhood, as well as visitors from the weekend farmers’ market, sprinkled with some tourists. She feels businesses would improve if they chose longer and later hours of operation, to cater to people on the way out of work or coming into the neighborhood for dinner. “You would be surprised how many people are walking by between 6 and 8 p.m. Sometimes I do more business during those hours than I do all day.”
A finite number of stomachs
Gabriel Constantine of New Paltz, who is busy setting-up his “antique café” called outdated (note the intentional lowercase “o”) with partner Tarah Gay in the former Beahive space, said they chose Uptown Kingston as they thought they could fill in several holes they see in Uptown’s fabric. “There’s no antiques here,” he said. “There’s only Deising’s [bakery] and the farmers’ market. There is a need for an eclectic and homemade bakery.”