Hometown: Toms River, New Jersey (Tracy), and Rochester, New York (Jamie)
Live in: The rural area between Kingston and Woodstock
Work in: Kingston and New York City
Lived here since: 2006 as weekenders; full-time since 2014
Moved to HV from: Sunnyside, Queens
High school sweethearts Jamie and Tracy Kennard never realized how well their talents could dovetail—or how much fun they could have as business partners—until they moved to the Hudson Valley, where they opened Brunette, a wine bar in a former barbershop in Kingston’s Rondout waterfront district, in 2015.
Why did they choose downtown Kingston for their venture? “Beautiful architecture, the waterfront, the history,” says Tracy. “But the one reason we hadn’t considered was all the wonderful people who live there. In such a short time, downtown Kingston has come to feel like home.”
After spending a decade upstate as weekenders, the Kennards began putting down roots two years ago in a house located directly on the Kingston/Woodstock border. And despite the long hours they spend most nights a week at Brunette, they both still hold down independent city gigs. Jamie’s graphic design business is going strong after 15 years, and Tracy’s consulting firm, Kennard & Daughters, serves independent creatives, both up- and downstate. “I help them with things like brand strategy, business development, HR, and operations,” she says. “It’s super holistic, because that’s really how business is these days—everything is intertwined.”
“Keep the core simple, but sweat the details” is the Kennards’ shared philosophy, and it’s expressed in Brunette’s décor, a combination of elegance, fun, and coziness. There are painted white brick walls; bentwood stools and chairs; a curved marble bar; pale pink paper doilies; a fun, chatty, retro-style menu; thrift-store porcelain swans as accents; a collection of framed photos of famous brunettes in the restroom (check out the young Charlotte Rampling); and light gourmet snacks that pair perfectly with each featured wine.
Tracy, whose sartorial choices are often observed by patrons to be as flawless as the wine bar’s décor, is surprised whenever anyone remarks on her style, which she describes as “colorful nun on her day off.” Although she insists she’s “not much of a shopper,” she also admits, “I have a lot of clothes. And I worked in fashion for 15 years, and still have a lot of clients who work in fashion, so I benefit from that access.”
In the rare stints of free time that the Kennards manage to carve out, Jamie likes to head outdoors for “fly-fishing, hiking, skiing, motorcycle riding, and exploring,” Tracy says. “My fun tends to revolve around food and friends: dinner parties; swimming hole picnics; quick trips to Albany for soup dumplings; hanging out at friends’ upstate businesses, like Brushland Eating House, Gaskins, and the Spruceton Inn.” The couple’s closest friends are Michael and Teresa Drapkin, who own the Kingston Wine Company just up the street, and with whom the Kennards have long shared a love of sampling “the finest natural libations from everywhere,” a continuing adventure that helped bring about the opening of Brunette.
But what really keeps Brunette alive is the Kennards’ happy discovery of just how much they love hospitality. “That anticipation, before the doors open, is something I hadn’t expected,” says Tracy. “Every day it’s so much fun to see who’s going to walk through the door, what fun people we’ll meet. I don’t think that new-day excitement will grow old.”