The Next Chapter for The Village Market
By José Moreno-Lacalle
From Issue 45: Winter 2020
On October 19 of last year, the following message appeared on the Facebook page of the Village Market and Eatery on Main Street:
To Our Most Excellent Customers: Five years in business, the end of the 20teens, a looming milestone birthday, and a glorious retirement – it’s time to announce that the Village Market and Eatery will fly its ‘open’ flag for the last time on November 3. Visions and values have taken a hit since we opened our doors in 2014. The world has changed completely: global events are pondered from our small perch in Gardiner. At the same time, our staff has been fortunate to have met and served our wonderful regulars, . . . [including] four graduating classes of the West Point Black Knights X-Country team that packed our tables every Sunday. Go Army.
Carl Zatz, the market’s owner, who posted the message, added, “Counting the days down … transition is already beginning … New folks with lots of restaurant experience on their way. Stay tuned.”
As it turned out, the “new folks” weren’t yet a commitment, and as of January 2020 negotiations are ongoing with several interested parties.
The owners of the building, Ralph and Gable Erenzo (father and son, respectively), are working closely with Zatz, a longtime friend, to help sell the business. An on-line advertisement by TBC Business Brokers reaches out to those “Looking for a more relaxed life style,” and offers “a 3,100 Square Foot, turnkey business with fully equipped kitchen and deli counter.” It goes on to say that “This town is like a small Woodstock. Good traffic on Main Street with ample parking.”
Meantime, Zatz is continuing to pay the rent on his three-year lease. It is entirely conceivable that the next occupant will not be a restaurateur at all. Nevertheless, given its physical prominence and prime location, the building and its occupant, whoever that may be, are at the core of Main Street business and it will benefit the town to have an anchoring business will move in.
The Village Market was originally a turn-of-the-century coach house for visitors who came and went from the Wallkill Valley Railroad station nearby. The building has also served as a deli or grocery store since at least 1944, when in the hands of the Schiro family, and later the Ogno, Solcberg, and Coddington families.
In 2006, after owning and running the grocery for only about a year, Robert Lutz sold the business and building to business partners Laurie Willow, Robin Hayes, and Susan Eckhardt, who then made a major effort to repair, refurbish, and renovate the structure. They hired local architect Matthew Bialecki, AIA, to return the façade to an authentic 19th-Century mercantile storefront. As Eckhardt said, “We want to bring it back to what it was in its glory days.”
It took a few years to get it done, with obstacles to overcome, but the end result was a very attractive, renovated structure with a brand-new, colorful façade. The upstairs veranda was removed, the side building was better-integrated, a street-facing clock was installed at the attic level, and a handsome sign was put up.
While the upstairs has long been home to residential apartments, the downstairs commercial space was rented to the Gagnes, owners of the former Red Rooster (where Café Mio is located now), and Dietrichs, who owned the Catskill Bake Company. These two couples ran it as the Village Market & Bakery until 2010, when the business was sold to John Reilly, a professional chef, and Karen Schneck, a CIA-trained baker, who, between them, had forty years of experience in restaurants and catering.
In an interview for the Hudson Valley magazine, Schneck explained that “we catered to everyone, from kids to sophisticated palates. We started every dish with very high-quality products, but we cooked what we like to eat.” The café attracted hungry locals, weekenders, and climbers of the Gunks, among others.
One popular item of theirs was the “Yes, Dear” panini, based on their Waldorf chicken salad. They came up with the name because, as Schneck explained, “that’s how you stay in business together when you’re married— it’s a lot of ‘Yes, dear! Yes, dear.’” They also ran a catering service from the Market that served weddings and events in the region, including the Mohonk Preserve annual fundraiser.
In 2014 other possibilities beckoned the couple, and they wanted more time to spend with their son, Jordan. They sold the business to Carl Zatz, formerly a Gardiner Town Supervisor and owner, for a few years, of Enthusiastic Wines, on a nearby corner (now the Hudson Valley Wine Market).
Zatz changed the name of the shop to Village Market and Eatery; the bakery in the back was closed; and new products were introduced, including fair-trade coffee and lobster on the menu on a daily basis. The “Yes, Dear” panini went the way of the bakery.
However, new crowds came, the atmosphere remained much the same, and the fare offered was good enough to please its clientele.
Finally, it came time for Zatz to move on as well. Or perhaps not. It is possible that he will continue to be involved in whatever business exists there.
The question remains, who will buy the business? The word is out that members of the Millenial generation are transforming and revitalizing small towns around the country. It may well be time for this generation to bring Gardiner to life by taking over the Village Market, and attracting other young visitors to come, perhaps to stay, and participate in the community. After all, just now Gardiner is a “small Woodstock.”
If you are interested in the business, or know someone who is, please contact TBC Business Brokers at email@example.com, or talk to Gable Erenzo, who also owns Liquid Mercantile across the street.