Town of the Week: Stone Ridge

  |  December 12, 2011

From time to time we have guest posters who write about upstate New York towns in a way we never could (since we’re part-timers and free-floaters). And before you get on us about the lack of impartiality of this week’s guest poster, who happens to be a real estate broker in the area, let me point out this: he’s also a native of Stone Ridge. He’s almost got as much reason to protect it as promote it! (By the way, if you’d like to write about your town, drop us a line!)

We happen to love Stone Ridge. While it’s downtown isn’t the most walkable or picturesque — head to nearby Rosendale if you want a real walkable downtown — it does have a range of services, from a decent grocery store to any number of healing arts/massage places. Perhaps a tad on the ritzy side, but that’s the case with most of these sweet little towns close to the river.

Don’t take my word for it. Here’s what local and real estate agent Dylan Taft has to say about it:

Stone Ridge is the quaint, colorful, and quiet little upstate NY community that wants to keep it that way. Which may be why even the esteemed New York Times couldn’t get it quite right a few years ago when they “discovered” this historic little hamlet in a travel article, and gushed about the picturesque and unspoiled upstate haven called Marbletown. (Well, stone . . .  marble . . . maybe they were just in a hurry. But for the record, Marbletown is a town. It just happens to include the hamlet of Stone Ridge.)

Quiet, yes. Both the natives and the people who move here want it that way. But just beneath the serene surface of picturesque stone homes and that postcard-perfect “downtown” beats the heart of an active, sophisticated, and remote-feeling settlement that is paradoxically as convenient as you’ll find in all of Ulster County. As close to the center of rural Ulster as it gets.

Cradled in the majestic Rondout Valley and backdropped with jaw-dropping views of the jagged limestone cliffs of the towering Shawangunk Mountains, Mecca for rock climbers, Stone Ridge is often overshadowed by nearby bigger and brassier brethren—household names like the university town of New Paltz, NY or the tie-died nostalgia festival called Woodstock. Stone Ridge stands proudly apart from all that, in fact, feeling no need to compete with places that are famous for being famous. Look all you want, you’ll find no front-lawn peace signs, 60’s rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia, or that large strip of bars on every university town’s Main Street where students flock in large and boisterous numbers when they should be at the library. What you will find is a community rich in venerable and well-maintained stone homes and farmhouses, and very nice people.  A well-managed, well-tended, well-preserved haven.

Leafy and agricultural-feeling. Yet a quick 15-minute drive north brings you to the metropolitan conveniences of Kingston, NY.  And roughly the same drive southeast brings you to bustling New Paltz, both destinations having NYS I87 Thruway exits.  Hospitals are nearby, shopping and dining choices abundant, and anything you can’t get here and simply can’t live without is just that 15-minute drive away.

If there’s one word of caution, it’s that this is not the ideal place for couch potatoes. Miles of trails offer some of the best hiking in the Northeast, mountain and road bikes spin up and down the scenic main and back roads, and there is no finer rock climbing in the world than the “Gunks,” according to those who feel entitled to judge such things. If you prefer to fill your lungs and flex your muscles and be pampered all at the same time, world-famous Mohonk Mountain House offers its well-heeled visitors a vast menu of outdoor activities and a stately home to return to at the end of the day. Or you can do much the same hiking nearby in the spectacular Minnewaska State Park and spend next to nothing.

A list of the Stone Ridge “hotspots” (and no one in a gentile place like this would willingly use the term) isn’t long. But it does include everything a reasonable person would want. First, there is the well-established supermarket call Emmanuel’s.  For almost 15 years now this friendly and sophisticated emporium has brought the freshest food to the dinner table—much of it local, just like those who shop here, with an urban flair. Within the same country plaza is a pharmacy, a wine store, the local pizza joint, a computer repair store, a fresh flower shop, and even a boutique pet supply store. Stone Ridge, of course, has its own post office, town hall, community center, and courthouse.  Also contained in this small hamlet are various local eateries, like Jack & Luna’s (one of several WiFi havens) and MaMa’s. The Nibble Nook Diner serves plain down-home meals, Bodacious Bagels concedes nothing to the legendary bagels of Manhattan, and Momiji Japanese restaurant adds a cozy Eastern flare.

Need to fill up after running all these errands? Stone Ridge, NY boasts two competing gas station and convenience stores.  And though Main Street doesn’t look big enough for all this, the list of amenities goes on. The Ridge Fitness Center is where you can stay in shape when weather drives you indoors, and to satisfy the post-workout need for fresh and nourishing local produce, you’ll take a ride down to the renowned Davenport’s Farm Stand (and probably meet some customers who drove all the way up from the city just to shop here).  Service businesses? That too. Stone Ridge Insurance will protect you, your home, and your vehicle, and Royal King dry cleaners will keep you looking good. Two local financial institutions, Key Bank and Ulster Savings Bank, are both very well thought of and service oriented, as you’d expect in the country. And when the house, or something in it, breaks, no one would think of going anywhere else but to the Stone Ridge True Value hardware store where they probably know your name.

What’s missing? Well, McDonald’s. And Burger King.  Plus, the nearest Wal-Marts and Lowe’s are a comfortable distance away. And that’s just how it will stay. Controlled growth that respects history and culture, and sound economic planning, have given Stone Ridge something to be proud of.  Something that will endure. Just like stone.

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