Inside the New York Restaurant in Catskill, New York, on a recent Sunday afternoon, a jazz band whiled away the hours as the place filled up. Fresh into town, a friend and I marveled at unusual dishes like “cauliflower wings” and Brussels sprout chips, and at the sense that we’d stumbled into the clubhouse for local creatives. I’d last visited Catskill a couple of years before, and here was my first indication that since then, a new energy had taken hold in this small town of 4,000 set in the Hudson Valley, where Catskill Creek meets the Hudson River.
The buzz comes largely on the heels of the Catskill Mill, a mammoth project that provides woodworkers, ceramacists and other artisans with well-equipped spaces to practice their crafts. The Mill was opened in 2013 by Etsy founder Rob Kalin and his partner, Trevor Babb, after Kalin purchased three abandoned downtown buildings. In one, a former furniture store fronting Main Street, Kalin has already financed and built more than a dozen spare-no-expense workshops for craftspeople.
Catskill once harnessed its natural resources — clay for brickmaking in particular — and a location central to many trade routes to become a major supplier to the region and New York City. Another of the three downtown buildings, a former textile mill, is a relic of that time.
Kalin intends to cultivate a hands-on component where visitors can engage in what he calls “craft tourism.” As part of that goal, next spring the Mill will open a bed-and-breakfast in an early-1800s house. The furnishings, from the plates to the curtains, will be made at the Mill with locally sourced materials.
Since the arrival of the Mill, its ethos has been permeating Catskill, a town previously known as the pleasantly down-at-the-heels seat of Greene County, across the river from the design-saturated city of Hudson. Catskill’s biggest attraction until now was the house of Thomas Cole, founder of the Hudson River School of painting.
Now, Catskill boasts a number of reasons to visit.
After brunch, we wandered down Main Street and into House of Tuki, a new vintage shop run by Christina Paljusaj, a young Catskill native with an eclectic streak. Nearby, Magpie is a perfect used-books shop. The General Store of Catskill stocks artisanal toiletries and household goods. A ceramic studio and shop called L&M Studio showcases pieces that are inventive and functional, and 394 Main serves coffee by day and wine by night.
These new spots mingle with businesses that have anchored Catskill for a while. Of note are the Catskill Country Store and the Community Theater, a lovingly preserved 1920 movie house. We ate dinner at Tatiana’s, a four-decades-old Italian restaurant on the edge of town overlooking the creek, and then had a nightcap at Captain Kidd’s Inn, a bizarre spot featuring the owner’s collection of pirate paraphernalia in the onetime home of Samuel Wilson, a wealthy area meatpacker who supplied meat for the U.S. Army during the War of 1812 — and was reputedly the Uncle Sam.