Whole lotta lunch

The colorful and ever-shifting landscape of Uptown’s restaurant and retail scene is becoming noticeably swelled with a boom in new shops and eateries. Just within the past few months, Duo filled in the space formerly occupied by Gabriel’s Café on John Street and Yum Yum Noodle Bar opened their doors in the former Mizuna Café space and, just this week, Sissy’s opened up a smoothies-and-panini concern in the storefront once occupied by Oo Gallery. More are on the way.

Since the winter, Gabriel’s Café owner Gabriel Vasquez has been lovingly restoring the Wall Street building which housed Kimm’s Market for years for an international food market with a café and bakery. He hopes will it will be running in July.

Right next door, the space which until recently housed the Beahive collaborative work space is being revamped into an antique store with another café and bakery. A few blocks away at 11 Main St., the former Ugly Gus’ Café and 11 Main will host the cross-river expansion of Tivoli’s Santa Fe Mexican restaurant. Maria Philippis, owner of Boitson’s (which just celebrated its two-year anniversary) has bought the building next to her to increase her deck size from 14 feet to 40. She added she is contemplating a second restaurant as well. Stella’s and Fleisher’s Grass-Fed and Organic Meats have also recently expanded their capacity to boot.


On the retail scene, Edelweiss Soap Company went from a booth at the Kingston Farmers’ Market on John Street to a permanent addy on John Street, next to Lucy’s Tacos. The Art Riot arts and crafts shop opened next door, catty-corner to Carole Shiber Designs’ new studio store, in a corner location formerly occupied by a hair salon. Thou Art Gallery, Just Alan and Michael Francis Creations (hand-painted vintage furniture) all are, or will imminently be, opening.

Too much?

But with so many complaints of limited parking, inconsistent shop hours and limited visibility, can Uptown sustain all of these new businesses?

Art Riot owner Matthew Pleva is thinking yes. Artist Pleva and his partner Heidi Abrams set up shop selling fine art, jewelry and crafts from 30 Hudson Valley artists on John Street last month, citing “good visibility and a fair amount of foot traffic” as the reason for choosing the slender location. Pleva disagrees with the inadequate-parking argument. “People complain too much about parking. These people need to acquaint themselves with parking,” said Pleva, who feels that dinnertime is more a parking conundrum than daytime. “You can always find a spot within two blocks to park. If you’re going to the mall, you’re going to walk at least one city block, right? Christmas time you can walk [the equivalent of] three to four blocks from the parking lot into the mall. What’s the difference?  If you’re worried about parking, then come on Sundays when there’s plenty.”

Pleva said he draws from Lucy’s Tacos eclectic crowd, and added that better signage and sandwich boards is the ticket for success.

Next door neighbor Edelweiss Soap Company owner Julie Wehmeyer said she recognizes her customer base as people who work in the neighborhood, as well as visitors from the weekend farmers’ market, sprinkled with some tourists. She feels businesses would improve if they chose longer and later hours of operation, to cater to people on the way out of work or coming into the neighborhood for dinner. “You would be surprised how many people are walking by between 6 and 8 p.m. Sometimes I do more business during those hours than I do all day.”

A finite number of stomachs

Gabriel Constantine of New Paltz, who is busy setting-up his “antique café” called outdated (note the intentional lowercase “o”) with partner Tarah Gay in the former Beahive space, said they chose Uptown Kingston as they thought they could fill in several holes they see in Uptown’s fabric. “There’s no antiques here,” he said. “There’s only Deising’s [bakery] and the farmers’ market. There is a need for an eclectic and homemade bakery.”

There are 5 comments

  1. Geezer Guy

    Uptown parking is surely a problem that is only going to get worse. The city could surely help by dedicating a parking lot to uptown employees where parking would be by permit. This would ease parking for shoppers – allowing them to park closer to where they want to shop. Seems like a win-win-win situation that the city could easily implement.

    It’s getting better, but another problem is the uneven and strange hours of the shops. Tourists are looking for shops that are actually open for them to buy merchandise! That’s not going to happen if shops close on Sundays and holidays.

    Yes, uptown can return as *the* shopping area of Kingston. But the city has to be more of a part of the solution – renovations to the Pike Plan were a waste and the only major expendature by the city in uptown in quite some time. I’d like to see some figures on how much the city has spent to help businesses in uptown, midtown and “The Strand.” I’d bet on which area would win and which would have hardly any expenditures.

  2. Uptown's Awesome

    I think people would hoof it IF there were enough commerce to warrant it AND shops stayed open late enough for after work visits. Leave your cars at home, take a stroll through lovely uptown! I’m thrilled to see new eateries and retail. It’s about time.

  3. Dina

    Parking is definitely a big problem. There are times I have not stopped because I’ve driven around a couple of times and there are no spots – or I don’t think I have change for the meters and just keep going. I agree that shops would be better off with later hours, maybe start at 11am and go to 7pm, if they are not selling breakfast.

  4. Julie Wehmeyer

    A lot of the newer shops and restaurants are implementing later hours and are staying open on Sunday. I own Edelweiss Soap Company and I am open seven days a week! And I stay open until 7 pm Mon-Thursday and 8 pm on Friday and Saturday. And yes, I do business in the evenings and Sundays! I also started a Facebook page called Yes, We’re Open Uptown Kingston, NY https://www.facebook.com/YesWereOpenUptownKingstonNy
    to address the issue of staying open later and on Sundays. On my site, I have documented a number of stores that do not even post any hours whatsoever on their storefronts! Things are changing, but more merchants need to get on board. I truly believe the customers will come if there is something to come to. I very frequently get customers in on Sundays upset and angry that they have travelled to check Kingston out only to find everything closed. Changes need to be made. Stores need to develop customer friendly practices of posting hours and staying open for reasonable periods of time. Yes, parking is an issue — but lack of parking is not a good reason for a store not to post hours or stay open for customer friendly hours.

  5. Vic Albright

    I think that if we REALLY want the extra business in Kingston, we need to open up ALLOT more- the model that comes to mind is 6th Street in Austin, Texas… most businesses around there are open until the wee hours of the Morning, if not 24/7.

    IMO, If Uptown Kingston followed the same model- i.e. setting up a designated parking area and closing down the streets with all the businesses (like North Front Street) to all but pedestrian traffic – a sort of Mardi Gras atmosphere – we stand the chance of becoming a HUGE tourist destination! There is nothing of this sort anywhere in the Hudson Valley, even in New Paltz.

    Don’t get me wrong- the logistics involved would be HUGE – for starters, a much larger Police presence would be required, just like Austin does it.

    Uptown Kingston is in the ideal place to start such an undertaking though… minutes from the Thruway, Route 209, and Route 28. Parking could be designated in Kingston Plaza, and a walkway could be easily be put in place near the old parking garage….it would be up to the local businesses to make it happen.

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