Chrissie Giordano came up with the name for her new In The Sticks restaurant and store in West Saugerties from her wish to honor the building’s long history, which goes back to its years as the Pinewood House bar/restaurant with rooms to let back in the early years of the 20th Century.
“There’s a sentimental thing for this building from most people in this community,” she said, readying potatoes and veggies for that night’s Meatball night, a weekly regular since she and helpmate Ron Biscoe got the place open June 11. “I had to keep something ‘woody’ in the name and then I thought, ‘Where are we?’ In The Sticks! I couldn’t believe no one else in the state had thought of that before me, not even up in the Adirondacks.”
Giordano, who’s worked as an artist and landscaper over the years, as well as a cook and survivor of enough contracting jobs to have handled her renovations and crew with aplomb over the eight months it took her to get her establishment the way she wanted it, runs over some of the place’s other names before it shuttered eight years ago. The place became the Pinewood General Store, Andrew’s Sugar Shack, Tango (before it moved into the center of Saugerties) and some hot dog place no one can quite remember the name of.
“The Wood family started it,” Biscoe added, as everyone recalled a time when West Saugerties was a summer retreat then home to New York City cops drawn to the old police camp located at the top of nearby Platte Clove (now a Bruderhof). The Pinewood House first opened in 1936 and was a rollicking country bar and boarding house. People liked the swimming holes out back, including “Daley’s” and “The Big Hole,” and the place found it could survive year round. “Joe and Judy Hummel bought the place in 1970 and it stayed a tavern into the early 1980s.”
“I moved up here from Westchester in 1970 and still live up the road,” Giordano said. “How’d I decide to buy the place? I was making cheesecakes for the Veteran Smokehouse and one day I looked in the windows and saw all the equipment was still here. I tracked down the owner…It was a whim!”
Giordano talked about how she’d long wanted some place nearby where you could buy some sugar, an onion, and maybe have a meal breakfast, lunch or dinner. Then realized that there were quite a few Airbnb rentals in the area, with renters wanting a Catskill Mountains experience, including a real country store and place to go and eat.
“Just like when there were bungalow colonies all over the place here in West Saugerties,” she added. “We make everything by order; we do it all ‘old school.’ There’s nothing fast here.”
Carolina Nardi Larsen, who grew up working alongside her mother Maria at Woodstock’s Maria’s Bazaar (sold to new owners earlier this summer), chimed in as In The Sticks’ waitress and front-of-room presence, going on about how good all the food Giordano makes. The place is expecting its beer and wine license in the coming weeks, she noted, and has started to draw the same sort of locals she was used to working with back in Woodstock at her mother’s.
“People are finding out,” she said, sounding like Giordano’s long-lost sister. “We didn’t even finish the sign and we were busy. It’s all family style and people love that…I can tell from their tips!”
Giordano showed off the herbs she has growing around the establishment, pointed out the swimming hole out back that she lets customers use; they can park, but must promise to by an ice cream float after their swim, inside.
Nardi Larsen shows off a porch area where people can eat with their dogs, who are brought their own bowl of water and a menu of scraps Giordano cooks up for them.
“I tell people they’re eating at their Italian mom’s, that everything’s going to be made for them from scratch and served family style,” the veteran waitress added.
“I don’t let anything go to waste,” the cook/owner continued, talking about her feed buckets for geese and bunnies, her daily ritual making sun tea.
Nardi-Larsen spoon feeds me some fresh horseradish sauce for the night’s meatloaf as Giordano bottles it. Yummy, as is the smell of the meatloaf cooking.
“The recipe’s from Wally, our bookkeeper,” she said, bringing Saugerties gallery legend Wally Petrucci forth. “We’re planning on having country music nights, all acoustic, once a month, plus a reunion of old-timers from those old Pinewood days once we get our beer and wine license. We’re even planning to sponsor one of the Bach brothers as a motocross racer”
A couple of middle age guys saunter in the front door and start reminiscing about when they were kids just up the road, stopping in to “pick up a pack of Kools for my mom and tall boys for my dad, plus a loaf of bread every once in a while.” The other guy mentions the penny candies the Hummels had, as well as how scary both Joe and Judy could seem to a young boy.
“We’d all spend all summer in the swimming hole, then all winter on snowmobiles,” Giordano added. “There was a slower speed limit on the road; the church was still open. Ray’s was another store, just down the road a mile or so.”
I ask where the old school was and someone references “the Great Wall of Freddy,” across the street surrounding sculptor Fred Koschetzki.
Giordano nods in the direction of a tinted photo of the old Catskill Mountain House, from up above where we are on the Greene County Mountaintop, and says, humbly, “That’s why we’re all here. That started this all.”
“The owner of this place, John Mullen, was waiting for something that would be good for the entire neighborhood of West Saugerties,” she added, running her hand across the wide log section bar that centered the new establishment’s dining area. “Carolyn Mullen got crafts for sale over there in the store area…They want to see us succeed. They knew I wasn’t lazy.”
Carolina Nardi-Larsen wrapped an arm around her boss/new sister and welcomed their bookkeeper into a tete-a-tete.
“We’re hoping to be here another 35 years from now,” Giordano said.
For more on all things In The Sticks, located at 376 West Saugerties Road, call 246-1225 or check them out on Facebook.