(Photo by Dion Ogust)

Kevin Pitcock, whose holding an all-day Grand Opening for Sheldon Hill Forestry Supplies in Shokan this Saturday, March 24, is happy about having bought the longstanding Olive business last autumn, and already feeling his move up Route 28 from where he used to be based in West Hurley is pitch perfect.

“It’s a little bit ‘cart before the horse,’ but when Brian O’Connor approached me to see if I’d be interested in taking his business over we jumped at it,” he said. “We’ve been supplying professional climbing equipment for some time now. This allows us to hook into the logging industry, landscaping, as well as a whole clientele reaching up into the Catskills.”

Like many running businesses along Route 28 these days, Pitcock’s new version of Sheldon Hill is largely Internet-based, and geared around the idea of “shopping where the pros shop.” As such, they bring a clientele that doesn’t mind an extra drive into rural areas.

Furthermore, they fit in with similar businesses such as the Door Jamb, where serious builders and savings-minded homeowners have shopped for windows and doors for years, as well as such newer entities as the now well-established Scandinavian Grace, started as an Upstate offshoot of a Brooklyn-based business until the economic downturn made its owner realize an Upstate move made sense…and that many of his clients now had second homes in the Catskills.

“Fredrik, at Scandinavian, has been very helpful for us from the start,” said Bryan Graham of the brand-new Fruition Chocolate, which opened quietly late last year and is planning its own Open House opening bash for the afternoon of April 4.

A longtime Woodstocker, married to a fellow Onteora graduate Dahlia Rissman, he talked about how he decided on starting his own “Beans to bar” chocolate making business after years cheffing at The Bear and other places, and a six month cross-country trek looking for the perfect place to base his future.

“The place we ended up in used to be Scoops, (in Shokan Square) and Dahlia and I used to come here when we were in high school,” Graham added. “I reached a point where I just wanted to get my business up and running and this place had a lot going for it…including air conditioning, a good kitchen, refrigerators already in place.”

Now, Fruition is open for retail on weekends, picking up a surprising flow of folks headed to and from the Catskills, as well as plenty of local, Woodstock- and Kingston-based customers through word of mouth from having grown up in the area.

“Dan Leader from Bread Alone stopped in, and now he’s selling our products,” Graham added. “All these boutiquey places here in town seem to have seen a little bit of themselves in what we’re doing.”

 

In that group are a number of key Olive businesses, including the manufacturing plant for Woodstock Percussion, Moose Crossing, and a host of smaller antique and arts shops up and down Route 28.

But countering them are the larger spaces that started closing even before the recession started during our last presidential election cycle.

Across the reservoir, in West Shokan, Olivebridge, Krumville and Samsonville, all that’s left, business-wise, are small home-based operations, the longstanding Tetta’s General Store and Tire Service, and the Country Inn.

What was the American General Store, then Good Stuff Café, in West Shokan is again empty, with locals saying the landlord raised the rent too high. Same goes for what was Angie’s in Olivebridge, as well as the old Ace Hardware, later Sands Salvage, in Boiceville.

The Boiceville Market there is back in business, as is Maverick Family Health, mostly, along with Stucki’s Embroidery and the Piano Hammer factory, following the major damage suffered by the community from the Irene and Lee tropical storms last August and September. But newer businesses in that hamlet, despite a new sewer system, aren’t emerging yet as expected. A chain store that inquired about planning permits failed to return. No one’s stepping forward for the old Trail Motel yet.

 

“This spot’s been pretty good for me, but it’s time to move on,” said Olive resident Fred Perry of his Reservoir Music, which he started seven years ago and has kept alive ever since…but is now packing up for an end-of-month to a new home farther down Route 28 in the vicinity of Hickory Barbecue. “I’ve just found that some of the landlords in this town are crazy. They never dropped rates to match the shift in the economy, or chose to keep places unrented and empty rather than take less than what they were originally asking.”

He mentioned one place, long-empty, that wanted $950 a month. Perry offered $800 and was turned down. The place is still empty.

He noted that in the Town of Kingston, where he’s moving to a small log cabin set back on a small rise above Route 28, he’ll have more room, a better flow of customers making their way to Woodstock, as well as those heading deeper into the Catskills (and Olive). Plus $400 less for rent each month, money he now wants to put into advertising and concerts.

“All up and down this stretch of 28 in Olive, as well as over where I live in Olivebridge, you see empty spaces. It doesn’t have to be that way,” he said.  “But I’ll still shop in Olive at Boiceville Market, eat at Winchell’s Pizza, get a sandwich at the Reservoir Deli, and pick up stuff at Olive’s Store.”

He agreed that those businesses succeeding, and staying, in Olive tend now to be internet-based — or at least not so reliant on everyday retail.

“I had a great run here,” Perry concluded. “I just felt it was time for a change. Sometimes the ingredients mix in such a way that they drive you away, other times they pull you in.”

A changing place, in other words. A shifting business climate…++