COPAKE—Many think the old Copake General Store is the heart of the hamlet and they are about to resuscitate it.
About 20 interested citizens of Copake and vicinity gathered at the Methodist Church House Saturday, January 4 to talk about a plan to re-open the general store “with a new business plan, a new name and a new outlook.”
The store was closed for several years before it was reopened in the spring 2012 by Chris and Ruth Thomas, who operated the business for about a year and a half before closing it this past November.
A small group of local people, some who have ties to Copake boards or committees, but all of whom are acting as private citizens, decided they needed to do something about it.
They met around Councilwoman Jeanne Mettler’s kitchen table, according to Roberta Roll, who along with Ms. Mettler and 16 others are on the steering committee of the new business called, the Copake Front Porch Market.
They mulled proposals, budgets and business plans and decided, “We can do this,” said Ms. Roll, who read aloud the mission statement: “The Copake Front Porch Market is about community and commerce. Its primary mission is to establish an anchor for the development of downtown Copake by providing an accessible retail outlet for healthy fresh food and other pantry staples at affordable prices to the people living in Copake and to people throughout the Roe Jan area.”
The new store will sell “a good, solid line” of pantry staples, offer prepared foods—sandwiches, soups, salads and dinner entrees, all at affordable prices, said Ms. Roll.
Locally produced products: meat, cheeses, baked goods and produce will also line the shelves. The market will offer an online service, where customers can go online in the middle of the week, check out this week’s specials, pay by credit card and order Friday night’s dinner for pickup.
A small selection of gift items will be available along with maps and information about upcoming events.
While the market provides general store basics, it also will serve as an outlet for the products of local farmers, explained one of them, Ejay Eisen, who along with his wife, Kim, operate R’Eisen Shine Farm on Under Mountain Road, where they grow and sell more than 100 varieties of vegetables, plus eggs and meat from their chickens, rabbits and turkeys during the holidays.
He said the market will allow him to sell products in Copake that he now has to “schlep” to Albany or New York City, giving local residents access they didn’t have before. Facilities at the store also include a commercial kitchen, cold and frozen food display cases, two walk-in coolers and a walk-in freezer.
Mr. Eisen talked about how having access to a commercial kitchen at the market will allow him and other farmers to make the most of years when they produce bumper crops. It will be a place where they can turn their excess into pickled beets, applesauce or muffins instead of taking a loss.
Another benefit for area farmers will be the ability to sell their products without having to devote the time to staffing a farm stand or a table at a farmers’ market. They can bring their goods to the market and market staff will sell it, saving the farmer additional labor costs and thereby keeping prices manageable, Mr. Eisen explained.
Farmers will also have the option of buying back unsold produce to feed to their hogs, resulting in less waste and bringing the process full circle.
Ms. Roll told those gathered that the market will be operated by an limited liability corporation (LLC), which she will set up this week. The LLC will have a board of managers that will hire a store manager to handle day-to-day store operations. Market staff will be hired for selling and cooking.
The market group believes it needs to raise $90,000 to get the store open. They already have $50,000 in hand, with another $20,000 expected in the next several days. They plan to enter into a lease agreement with the building owner later this month, get into the building to set things up by February 1 and are shooting for a March opening.
Ultimately the group seeks investors to purchase 220 shares at $500/share.
The group will designate money for marketing and plans to use print media, social media and install signs on Route 22 to draw people in. The group will look for grant funding, though not immediately, said Ms. Roll, noting, “it takes months and months.”
The Copake Front Porch Market movement “at a fundamental level is about the revitalization of this town,” said Ms. Mettler, remembering the “vibrant” hamlet of her youth, with three working farms, a doctor’s office, an undertaker, restaurants, an insurance agency, a coffee shop, the general store, a deli, and a pharmacy. It was “a moment in time” when the hamlet was thriving and one many people are working to make happen again, she said.
Steering committee members are: Ms. Roll, Ms. Mettler, Pat Placona, Len Barham, Shelley Barham, the Eisens, John Pollok, Gary and Peggy Lewis, Ned and Margrit Schneier, Cecele and Gerry Kraus, Meredith Kane, Eric Martin and Julie Gardinier and Kellie Nardin.
Anyone who would like to be part of the Copake Front Porch Market or wants further information should call Ms. Roll at 518 329-0384 or Ms. Mettler at 518 329-2206.
To contact Diane Valden email .