- Mekina Saylor
- Shellie Schoellkopf and Robert Callaway at the Catskill Mountain House in Roxbury on October 1.
Stories of generosity in difficult times are part of the glue that holds our collective sanity together. And no one loves a good story of generosity more than NBC Emmy award-winning television personality and Catskill Mountain House owner Cat Greenleaf.
Greenleaf developed and hosts "Talk Stoop," an unleashed interview show in which she invites various boldface names to sit with her on the steps of her Brooklyn brownstone. Browsing the headlines, her eye was caught by a story from hurricane-ravaged Houston and she knew she had an invitation to send out—this time to the family homestead she's reimagined as an event venue.
Houston lovebirds Shellie Schoellkopf and Robert Callaway had already postponed their nuptials twice, and had everything set up for October 7 when Hurricane Harvey hit. They were lucky, their home unscathed. But many of their friends and family took heavy hits from the storm, and the couple decided that there were more important things than one big fancy meal. They cancelled their reception plans, put the $5,000 they'd saved into helping loved ones rebuild, and set about tearing out ruined sheetrock and clearing debris. They held their wedding day photo shoot against a backdrop of hurricane devastation, and it was the story of this that struck Greenleaf.
"I just thought, 'Wow, they're doing it exactly right!" says Greenleaf. "Even as a venue owner, I firmly believe people should focus on the marriage, not the wedding. It struck me that they absolutely deserved a honeymoon."
So Greenleaf put her head together with her friend, photographer Jill Ribich, and a plan began to form. Schoellkopf says the phone call came as a bit of a shock. "I thought, 'How nice, a woman out in New York is inviting us to her place for a weekend,'" she says. But Callaway had caught a few episodes of "Talk Soup," and a quick Google search let them know who was inviting them.
"At first Shellie had no clue who I might be or what I did," says Greenleaf, "She said, 'Let me call my guy,' and they called me back and accepted in five minutes. Totally my kind of people, game for anything."
"Anything," in this instance, meant an all-expenses-paid New York honeymoon with three days of Manhattan and a long weekend of Catskills hospitality. Greenleaf had a pile of frequent flier miles, she and Ribich had a pile of friends and ideas, and the plan came together rapidly. "Every business or person who was asked said 'of course' immediately," says Ribich. "No one hesitated to pitch in. This little village of Roxbury is a pretty special place."
Indeed. The couple's upstate saga began with spa treatments, dinner, and a room at the Emerson, then moved up to Roxbury, where their room was ready—along with a pile of local treats. There were generous gift certificates for meals at Table on Ten up in Bloomville, Cassie's Cafe, the Phoenicia Diner, and the Public Lounge, and fine libations from Roxbury Wine and Spirits and the Union Grove Distillery in Arkville. The Cheese Barrel in Margaretville sent gourmet snacks, and Roxbury General provided them with bikes to tour the countryside as well as hats and T-shirts. Ribich contributed a photo shoot, after which the pair sat down to a catered dinner courtesy of Mary Todd of Mary's Cookin' Again.
"It was fantastic," says Schoellkopf. "We couldn't possibly have asked for anything better. The mountains, the village of Roxbury, the people—just phenomenal."
"We were meant to be friends," says Greenleaf. "They have a bulldog too, we both have sons from previous marriages, we love weird tattoos and frugality. My friend Jo Myer hooked them up all over the city and they sent me funny pictures from all over town. They're a very special pair. They say yes to life."
The honeymoon concluded with some true Catskills chill. "We rolled up Saturday afternoon two kids, a mutt and two Great Danes deep to meet them," says Greenleaf's husband, investigative news producer Michael Bey. "With all the love and celebration that had happened at the house for the last few days it was like we were seeing old friends or family. We hit it off instantly. They jumped in with the kids and we played all the way through sunset to a late night couch session of Netflix and a fire in the fireplace."