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Magazine

OUT-OF-OFFICE | Mountaindale: No, It’s Not a Dream

OUT-OF-OFFICE | Mountaindale: No, It’s Not a Dream

Mountaindale is the Maya Ray Thurman Hawke of New York towns. Stunning, with a fascinating backstory, heaps cooler than anything you’re used to, adored by critics and yet only a select few are aware of its existence...so far. 

That’s changing though, thanks to Nhi Mundy and Stranger Things, respectively. 

For readers who have not yet trod the wee streets of Mountaindale (known to some of us as “Mountain Dale” as well — either spelling works!) in person or virtually in one of the breathless portraits of the hamlet, here’s a brief grounding: 869 current inhabitants with a median household income of $54,321.

Mountaindale is so teeny, it’s not even a town; it’s a hamlet within the town of Fallsburg in Sullivan County. For many years a farm-town with an active, thriving community of Orthodox Jews filling bungalows and resorts, particularly in summer months, Mountaindale suffered along with the rest of the Catskills in recent decades.

Fallsburg town supervisor Steven Vegliante has spent most of his life there, having moved upstate from Queens with his father, trading city living for farm living. Fondly remembering the Mountaindale and Sullivan County region of his youth, Vegliante tells us, “There were ice cream parlors, candy stores, dairies, bars and restaurants, a bakery, convenience store, basketball courts, a tailor...it was a great place to hang out.” When he and his family relocated to the area (around 1980), there were approximately 30 operating resorts within the county, down from about 50 in the 1960s - 1970s. Vegliante notes that “As each resort closed, it had a terrible effect on the overall economy. The shops catered to the resorts. The businesses depended on tourism for sales, as well as the employees of the resorts.” 

But in 2012, Butch Resnick, a resident who grew up in the area and also a longtime friend of Vegliante, purchased 31 buildings in town, many of them vacant, with the dream of turning this once thriving, then largely abandoned subsection of the Catskill’s celebrated Borscht Belt (these days, Vegliante calls it the “Gourmet Belt” and we love it), into the kind of place urbane hipsters want to flock to on the weekends.

“I wanted to bring back the sense of community and the art that made Mountaindale such an interesting place to be back in the day,” Resnick tells us. 

He had his work cut out for him. Mountaindale’s Main Street, a standard rural T-road perched at 1,010 feet above sea level, was lined with the kinds of neglected, once-charming early-1900s homes and storefronts too familiar across economically challenged portions of the Northeast. 

Flash forward seven years, and Mountaindale has indeed found new life by attracting a roster of well-known businesses and entrepreneurs, with a hopping Vietnamese eatery ( & Me), two art galleries (Gingras Studio and A Guide to the Field), a funky, yet upscale boutique (Ambika), a New Age apothecary (Witchey Handmade), a Polish-inspired restaurant and coffee shop (High Voltage Café), a pizza and craft brew hotspot coming soon (The Dale) and, now, a cooperative business emporium called Forage and Gather, featuring a used book booth, antiques and other salvaged accessories and decor, soft serve ice cream, an array of grab-and-go food, coffee, and an outpost of New York Makers.

Outside of Forage and Gather

“Phase One is done,” Resnick says. “I go downtown now and there are visitors milling around, enjoying the food, and the art. It’s great for everyone! Who doesn’t want to see a thriving downtown in their small town?”

And Resnick’s fellow locals love it, as well.

Phoenicia Flea pop up market this August in front of the vacant school on Main Street

As for Phase Two, Resnick is working on it. “I’m renovating a 19th-century school and turning it into something else entirely,” he says, preferring to stay mum on the details. Stay tuned. We’ll let you know how it develops. 

To achieve Resnick’s vision for reviving Mountaindale, Resnick has been savvy enough to hire Nhi Mundy, the editor-in-chief of DVEight, a regional magazine named for eight rural-chic towns the Delaware Valley and proprietor of a happening Vietnamese restaurant in Callicoon, NY, and Honesdale, PA.  

He has tasked her with turning Mountaindale’s Main Street into the type of moveable, creative feast her urbane, stylish readers would gobble up. 

Mundy has approached Mountaindale as an editor would a layout of a glossy magazine, aiming for a heterogeneous and heady mix of haute culture, middle-brow basics and unexpected pops of joy. Though still a work in progress, her vision has begun to become reality and the air is seductive, full of creative frisson as new rises from and reshapes old. 

We trekked out to Mountaindale for the first time a few months ago to visit friends. We fell in love with its charm and devoted local community so when we were invited to open a New York Makers pop up in Forage and Gather, we had to say, “Yes!”.

New York Makers team building out our retail space in Forage and Gather

“Once you experience Mountaindale, you want to go back. It can seem empty, but then you meet the most interesting people and stumble upon the most delightful surprises. Nhi Mundy’s  & Me Soy Glazed Mushroom Vietnamese Tacos cast quite a spell on me! I craved them so much that I returned two weeks later.” shares Silda Wall Spitzer, New York Makers co-founder. “It has been a fun, collaborative effort to get our Mountaindale pop up outpost ready and are excited to have folks discover it as a part of this re-emerging community.”

Intrigued?

Here’s what a perfect weekend would look like:

Grab a group of friends, and reserve this phenomenal Airbnb. It’s a 300-acre estate, with a stunning home, private lake, and overflow barn. It sleeps 16. Or explore nearby farms and tiny homes for rent in the area. If you must stay at a hotel, consider Yo1, a holistic hotel on 1,300 acres of lakes and pine forests in Sullivan County offering wellness treatments, holistic healing therapies, and spas. Or check out Outlier Inn, a 12-acre retreat (with a really unique Geo Dome you can rent) that also hosts a fiber and vegetable farm, or The Glen Wilde, an adorable updated bungalow compound just down the road. Everyday supplies for your adventurous stay (like bandaids, batteries, etc.) can be found at Sandburg Trading on Main.

Sleep tight in the complete and utter silence, and darkness, one rarely finds anywhere outside of remote mountain towns. 

Wake up, and head over to High Voltage. Grab whatever esoteric coffee or tea drink concoction suits your artisanal needs. Our favorite breakfast is the blue egg sandwich with blueberry vanilla goat cheese, fig preserves, and fried eggs on sourdough bread.

High Voltage

Amble over to Ambika, a quirky antique and clothing boutique owned by Ambika Conroy, featuring both vintage finds and her own line of hats, gloves. and bikinis. Conroy also happens to raise Angora rabbits on her 103-acre Mama Mountain Farm on which there is a Winnebago that sleeps four available for rent (or you can bring a tent).

Ambika Boutique 

Then stop by A Guide to the Field, a “downtown” project gallery that creates and exhibits a genre-free confection of textiles, sculptures, conceptual creations, furniture, “fine art,” clothing and ceramics in topic-driven installations. The current topic is Phallacies (now through November 30), exploring the relationship between art practice and sexual practice.

Get moving with a rental from Cinder Track Bicycles, opened in 2009 and the only bike shop in the county, and explore a few miles, Mountaindale to Hurleyville, of the O&W (Old and Weary) Rail Trail, a historic transportation route for the region.

If you’re feeling peckish, time to hit up & Me. Get the Vietnamese Tacos and Lemongrass Pork, even if you don’t think you can finish it. Trust us, you will. 

Now it’s time for one of our favorite venues, Witchey Handmade, run by model Hollie Witchey. She believes nature is skin’s most efficient balm. While that may sound too good to be true, just try her sustainable, ethical skincare line, made from all organic ingredients. Your skin may not glow like Hollie’s, but it will glow like your best face day several moons ago. 

Come and say “hi” to our New York Makers collection of handmade creations inside Forage and Gather Catskills. New York Makers Editor in Chief Amanda DiRobella says, “In our Catskills Outpost, you can shop for everything from balsam and cedar soaps made in the Adirondacks and beard oil from Cohoes, to hand-crafted marshmallows and graham crackers made in the Hudson Valley to delicious toffee from NYC.” You will also find seed sack totes, dopp kits, prints and posters and more.

New York Makers Outpost in Forage and Gather (and our dog friend!)

Speaking of marshmallows, be sure to join us for Hudson Valley Marshmallow’s S’mores Pop Up at Forage and Gather on Saturday, October 12.

Not to be missed going into the early fall season, nearby Majestic Farm has opened their U-Pick operation for organic apples.

At the end of the day, unwind at High Voltage with one (or more) of their delightful artisanal cocktails or local wines or brews. 

You’ll return to your regularly scheduled life full, inspired and brimming with ideas about the possibilities and adventures that await, if only you, like Mountaindale, have the chutzpah to make them reality.

On the porch of Forage and Gather