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Like Coming Home
Although tourists are an integral part of Phoenicia’s community, full-time residents are also necessary for the vibrancy and vitality of the hamlet. Pillard says that he tries to cater to weekenders and full-timers alike.
“You need to take care of everyone,” he says. “I couldn’t run on just weekenders.”
Josh Quick, a bartender at The Sportsman’s Alamo Cantina agrees. Quick says his clientele is a mixture of “locals, tourists, transplants and lots of second-home owners.” He also considers his customers to be a “nice cross-section” with regard to age. “I have regulars who are 21 and I have regulars who are in their 70s,” he says.
“Here comes one of my regulars now,” he says as he spots a man approaching the restaurant. Quick begins pouring the man’s drink before he reaches the door.
The small town atmosphere seems infectious in Phoenicia. Natives seldom relocate and tourists convert to transplants. Town clerk Fraiser has lived in Phoenicia for 22 years. She raised a family in Phoenicia and two of her children still live in Shandaken.
Pillard grew up in a small town in western New York. He then moved to Manhattan where he “fatigued” of city life over the years. He says he moved to Phoenicia because “it wasn’t a totally foreign environment to me. In some ways it was like coming home.”
Restaurateurs Ricciardella and Taylor were raised in the area—Ricciardella since 1964. Both are currently raising children in the area and in their restaurants.
Twenty-year-old Samantha Taylor, Sue Taylor’s daughter, waits tables at Sweet Sue’s. She jokes about the affable competition between her mother’s restaurant and Ricciardella’s restaurants. “It’s a friendly rivalry,” she said. “It’s sort of like the restaurant monopoly of Phoenicia.”
Artist and owner of Homer and Langley’s Mystery Spot Antiques, Laura Levine adds that “people come from miles away to go fishing, camping, hiking, tubing…” She goes on to describe the hamlet’s scenery: “The village is only two blocks long, surrounded by gorgeous mountains, and the Esopus Creek runs right through town. The buildings go back to the 1800s, and it’s still a real village… there’s a real sense of community.”
Another aspect that keeps visitors and second home owners coming back is the abundance of unique specialty stores like Levine’s. She says that her store started as an antique and collectables store. Over the years it has evolved into a multi-room all-encompassing vintage store featuring everything from kitchenware to vinyl records.
“Though the place is packed to the rafters, it’s actually quite carefully curated; I only bring in things that appeal to my eye, so there’s a look that ties it all together,” she says. “Eight years later, we’re still going strong. As long it continues to amuse me and my friends and customers, we’ll keep going.”
Levine also began hosting a concert series that extends from July until October. Musical acts perform on the front porch of The Mystery Spot and entertain Main Street in its entirety. Last year Laura Cantrell, Tommy Ramone’s indie-acoustic outfit Uncle Monk, Gail Ann Dorsey, and Ambrosia Parsley were just a few acts to grace the porch.
Like Levine, Alan Fliegel also owns quite the unique boutique. A transplant from Manhattan, Fliegel moved to Phoenicia to rear his children. While living in Soho, Fliegel and his wife Lynn sold hand-painted clothing on the street—they call their line Babytoes. Upon moving to Phoenicia, Fliegel opened 60 Main with a few friends to sell their respective wares—Babytoes clothes are all made in Phoenicia. Now, 60 Main features clothes, art, music, and literature from friends and family members in his store.
Fliegel has also taken strides toward cultivating an all-encompassing community art center directly above 60 Main. The Arts Upstairs is a gallery, music venue, and movie theater. Fliegel hosts art shows every month, live music once a month, and shows independent films twice a month. The back room is also studio space that is available for rent to artists for $50 per month.
Every wall is decked with works from a plethora of media: paintings, pencil drawings, and photos were all represented in a recent show. Some artists even drew directly on the walls—Fleigel refuses to wash them off.
Fliegel and his partners will hang anybody’s art. “It’s a non juried gallery,” says Fliegel. “We didn’t want anyone to tell us what to paint. We have novice kids with no experience hung next to full-time working artists.” When pieces are sold, artists receive 70 percent profit for their pieces. Fliegel says his gallery is by artists and for artists. “We’re just entertaining ourselves here,” he says.