“If you ever plan to motor North, travel my way, take the highway that is best. Get Your Kicks Off Exit 19” – improvised Version of Route 66
Suddenly the hippest New York State address is in the not-so-sleepy town of Kingston, NY, just off exit 19 in the heart of the Hudson Valley. Similar to the long recognized ditty about Route 66, Kingston (off of exit 19) has found its vibe. Long languishing storefronts, residential space and sundry commercial/industrial spaces are finding a new definition. Properties of all types no longer bemoan the departure of the mega-conglomerate IBM in the 1980s. Former storefronts, warehouse spaces, and historical homes are finding a rebirth. The terms, hip, cool, chic, and maybe a bit wonky, are defining the reemergence of a sleepy historic town kissed by the Hudson, embraced by numerous tributaries. Not along ago unwelcoming, shuttered, brown-papered store fronts, politely interspersed with steadfast successful merchants defined the mercantile dynamic, a dynamic no longer in play. Today former determined anchors of success are being recognized as the precursors of a rebirth. Tenacity does in the end lead to a manifestation of reward.
Irony of ironies, Small Business Saturday on November 28 was the national celebration of independent merchants. A type of continual celebration of Thanksgiving for those who appreciate and support the progression of their local communities. Once not long ago America was singularly defined by regional department stores, diverse mom-and-pop shops, and a collection of merchants who offered a diverse array of items. Suddenly, in the 1970s the dynamic shifted, stellar small local businesses began to succumb to the draw of larger conglomerates. During this period independent shops with rare finds, curated with a distinct eye, hustled to maintain their existence. As the world shifted the singular merits of the individual home based retailer began to prevail yet again. What was once a rarity became the desired. The power of the box store began to weaken. The singular merits of the individual home-based retailer began to prevail. Certain savvy retailers and purveyors of quality items slowly began descending upon historic areas of commerce. Individuals well versed in design sought the challenges of creating their own brand in long recognized hubs of creative and industrial production. Individuals who achieved dual residency in towns like Accord, Hurley, Kingston, Stone Ridge, High Falls, Woodstock, Kerhonksen and varied other locales in the multiple counties of the Hudson Valley. Individuals with a recognized design sense, who casually blended into the local landscape. These purveyors offered a diversity of offerings whose price points were not mandated by the commercial rental markets in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Williamsburg.
Thus—as we have previously discussed in Practicing What They Preach—was born Spruce Design and Decor. But as a rather well healed friend recently stated, “enough about Rhinebeck. Yes, while Spruce does have a successful design business littered with clients, let’s focus upon design in Kingston.” Like a thunder of clouds the skies parted and voila! Spruce Design and Decor created a prodigy: Exit Nineteen in the heart of Kingston, NY’s Stockade District. Somehow I suspect a few unacknowledged glasses of rosé may have played into this dynamic. But who am I to tell stories, of how successful weekenders occasionally converge to discuss future endeavors in the Hudson Valley. In the end a brand originally conceived in High Falls, NY, ventured further past High Falls\Manhattan into the Duchess County Market of Rhinbeck, NY, only to expand its brand as Exit Nineteen, in the hub of an Ulster County Town, known as Kingston, NY.
To step into Exit Nineteen is to journey into the wearied shoes of a traveler. A traveler who enjoys the exotic, yearns for the comfort of hearth and home – a person who embraces the rugged mid-century pulse of Steve McQueen, yet an individual like Bond, James Bond, who likes their Martinis shaken, not stirred. Per chance a daring analogy on my part, though in truth not actually. In a recent conversation with the founders of Exit Nineteen—John Krenek and Jamie Niblock—my rather eccentric perceptions found root, “the shop is a mixture of old and new. Our 2,200 square foot space is defined by four distinct vignettes, Asian Modern, Country Cabin, Mid-Century Modern and Dinner Party,” explains the enthused John.” Dinner Party!,” I exclaimed, as the pitch of my voice readily achieved an unacceptable falsetto. True to form from napkins to sleek martini glasses to bone styled serving utensils, the successful dinner party from A to Z literally lie within the grasp of my steely hands. I know, when I say these things people always question the price points. Subtly, almost perceiving your pending questions, the ever so engaging Jamie underscored one of Exit Nineteen’s prevailing points, “our merchandise offerings cover the entire game of price points; from the four dollar hostess gift to the multiple thousand dollar anniversary/celebration gift.” The prevailing mantra of Exit Nineteen is not the price point, the antique or the new, instead the mantra according to Krenek and Niblock is “how our thoughtfully selected items may enhance your home decor, your life or warm the heart of a friend.” To expand upon this point Krenek stated, “everyone who walks into our store can find something, old or new.”
Exit Nineteen’ s retail venue with its casual, compelling appeal embodies the design philosophy of recognized interior designer Nate Berkus: “The recognized art of interior design… Or is it a science?! When it is done well is pure magic, yet the industry’s top experts don’t elevate interior design to an unattainable level. They bring it down to earth, making it accessible to everyone who has a desire to beautify their homes…” Exit Nineteen, and Spruce Decor And Design are the personification of this design philosophy. To walk into Exit Nineteen is to walk into a feast for the senses. The cool sounds of playing music, the enchanting smells of wafting candles, and the textured quality of the textiles and furnishings are intoxicating to both the eye as well as to the touch. The sense of taste is conveyed through the tasteful arrangement of the shop’s vignettes, defined by character and style.
This week after the dinner napkins have been folded, why not take a road trip to the Hudson Valley. Join local residents as we salute our local economies. You might just see a few familiar faces from the design worlds of fashion, beauty and decorating. Who knows, you might just turn a corner and spy a renowned celebrity. For in recent years celebrities have begun dotting the Hudson Valley landscape. Not dotting the landscape in the bravado style of the Hampton’s; instead celebrities shop/mingle with area locals in a casual nondescript manner.
Throughout the month of December I will be featuring Kingston’s small businesses, restaurants and watering holes. As I work alongside Upstater and the Friends of the Senate House to host Holiday Design House, I will provide my own insight into a few of my favored Kingston offerings. Think of a personal shopper, who readily reveals their resources. For everyone knows, dining, shopping and parties are the mainstay of my life in my Hudson Valley Home (#myhudsonvalleyhome).