It takes six years to recover from this type of disaster.
That was the consensus of people who had witnessed the kind of flooding devastation that swept through the Delaware County village of Margaretville on August 28, 2011. A foot of torrential rain, courtesy of Hurricane Irene, had swept through the region overnight. In the light of day, the stunning range of damage became distressingly clear.
The Freshtown Marketplace, an economic magnet for the village, took the brunt of the rushing waters. The supermarket’s windows were shattered, coolers and grocery items all destroyed. The adjacent CVS Pharmacy sustained even more structural damage and was eventually razed due to safety concerns.
Across Bridge Street, the sprawling Granary building that houses several commercial businesses and five upstairs apartments was similarly impacted as flood waters of historic levels smashed windows and wrecked equipment.
The impact on the village was startling. Less than a week later, Margaretville was hit with a second round of flooding as the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee drench the village.
As was the case with much of the country, Margaretville’s business community had been lagging from the recession and empty storefronts were glaringly prominent. The flooding stamped a soggy exclamation point on a village that had already been besieged by economic doldrums.
The outlook was bleak and few would have blamed the remaining business owners for throwing in the proverbial towel and seeking drier ground. Then, something extraordinary occurred.
The sheer force of human will burst through, and shop owners, volunteer firefighters, residents, and state-supplied aid workers began to pick up the pieces of the village—literally.
The cleanup for most businesses took months, but the determination was unrelenting. The village would rebound—there was no doubt. Newly fortified and redesigned to help withstand subsequent high waters, Freshtown was back in business by early 2012. Next door, CVS was rebuilt with similar flood-proofing methods. Like reverse dominoes, businesses were revamped and reopened.
There were still abundant open storefronts, but that slowly began to change. Over the past four years, Margaretville has been hit by another kind of torrent—a deluge of new businesses setting up shop.
A New TideThe list is impressive and growing: Home Goods of Margaretville, Catskill Candies and Confections, Bloom Fabric, Art & Retreat, The Happy Giraffe, Picnic!, Catskill Seasons Ltd., Northhill Outdoors, Catskill Perfection Barbershop, Honey Bee Herbs, La Pizza Nostra, Catskill Mountain Tattoo, Foothills Shoes, The Longyear Gallery, General Technical computer repairs, Barbara Alyn: Artwear, Luxury & Mercantile have all opened in the village during this span.
Chef Bryan Calvert’s Binnekill Tavern, set to debut in September, promises to be a community lynchpin on the dining scene. The Ark Bowl & BBQ, on the border of Margaretville and Arkville will also be a fall entry into the local commerce scene. Owner Paul Collyer is creating a multi-attraction venue that will include bowling, live music, movies, dining, and a bar.
It’s been a truly impressive and diverse influx of business commitment and optimism.
Jessica and Jake Olenych, both Catskill Region natives, logged countless hours volunteering with flood cleanup efforts and were inspired by camaraderie they witnessed.
After 10 years working in the watershed education field, Jessica was one of the first to commit to opening a business in the village. Home Goods of Margaretville (not to be confused with the TJ Maxx franchise) had operated in the community for 16 years, but had closed when the owner moved out of state. The business had been up for sale, with no takers. After much deliberation, Jessica and Jake purchased the kitchen store in May 2014 and relocated it to the corner of Main and Bridge streets. The investment was a gamble for the young couple, but they saw great promise for the community. Four years later, their enthusiasm remains high.
“We love seeing the growth and change Margaretville is going through. “There’s so much creative energy and so many dedicated people opening businesses in the community,” Jessica remarks. “Honestly, I see lots of continued economic revival. Margaretville has always been the ‘workhouse’ of the Catskills—with all of the amenities and little of the cachet afforded some other nearby communities. However, that’s changing with the types of stores and restaurants that are opening.”
A few hundred feet south on Main Street, Lori Rosa and her daughter, Katie, recently marked the first anniversary of their shop Bloom, Fabric, Art & Retreat.
Lori, who had retired after many years in the teaching profession, felt that the renewed energy in the village made it a perfect time for a new venture. She and Katie purchased the former Masonic building and began an extensive remodeling project that includes retail space for their fabric shop, as well as accommodations for quilters and other crafters who wish to enjoy a weekend immersed in workshops and social activities.
“It took a while for the village to come back, but now most of the stores are occupied, storefronts have been remodeled, and everything is looking good!” Lori observes. “We are once again on track toward being a prosperous little village.”
She adds,“We are very fortunate to have several groups and individuals in the Margaretville area who work hard to make the village attractive and organize community events. I applaud their promotional efforts. This really helps the business community.”
Looking ahead, Lori says, “If the economy continues on the current projection that started under the Obama administration, I foresee more business coming to Margaretville and bringing in more visitors spending money. I’m optimistic this will happen as long as current trade wars don’t lead to another recession.”
Around the corner on Bridge Street, Kari Blish is enjoying operating The Happy Giraffe gift shop, which she opened in February 2017. A Margaretville native, Blish has welcomed the opportunity to put down local roots and start two businesses.
“After already having a business in the village for 16 years prior [The Flour Patch restaurant], I have definitely seen how the area has changed,” Blish says. “The Catskills are a very hip place to be right now, and most everyone has adapted to the new influx of people that has brought to our area.” Blish notes that the rustic and barn wedding trend continues to bring huge business to the county, as well as visitors from all around the country.
“I think the Village of Margaretville is looking great for the future. It’s a place people want to visit,” she says. “Whether it’s second homeowners or people just passing through, the consensus is that people love the beauty and atmosphere of Margaretville.”
A number of shop owners touted the efforts of the Business Association of Margaretville (BAM) in playing a pivotal role in boosting the visibility of the village. The organization hosts at least half-a-dozen themed events throughout the year to shine a spotlight on the community. While the entire Catskill Region benefits from the support of second homeowners, a key to most Margaretville businesses has been maintaining a strong emphasis on providing goods and services essential to full-time residents.
Chocolate may not be vital to everyone (although it should be!), but Raelene Bond tapped into a winning formula with the opening of Catskill Candies and Confections on Main Street in May 2016. Bond had conducted extensive market research for several years before committing to opening up shop. Her chocolate creations and associated products have won rave reviews and the enterprise immediately took off.
We’re going to have something special for the street event tonight: chocolate covered bacon! 🥓🍫😍 . . Come celebrate the first day of summer tonight, 5pm to 8pm! It’s going to be a fun evening filled with music, food, and games! . . . . #catskillcandiesandconfections #mainstreetmargaretville #visitmargaretville #summeronmain #streetevent #itsfinallysummer #chocolatecoveredbacon
“There is so much excitement around Margaretville and surrounding communities,” Bond says. “People are really enjoying the small-town, country feel of our beautiful village. More and more activities are happening and our local specialty shops have become attractions. We’ve come a long way since Irene and the new businesses have created lots of good community spirit.”
Barbara Alyn is a longtime village resident and previously sold her artistic creations at specialty events and festivals. Witnessing the renaissance of Margaretville convinced her to set up a permanent location.
“We opened in January at 806 Main Street and by June we had such a big success, we took the shop next door and expanded to house Barbara Alyn Artwear, Luxury & Mercantile,” she recounts. “We felt that it was time to invest in our town and the resurgence of Main Street. If you look around, every shop in town is rented and BAM is part of the new Margaretville. We are a bunch of folks trying to get people to come walk our Main Street again.”
It’s a common sentiment in Margaretville these days. and the results are truly impressive as the village has become more vibrant than ever—one new shop at a time.