Last Friday night, the Rondout was hopping. Bands played outside Dermot Mahoney’s and Mariner’s Harbor. The restaurants were full, and the sidewalk outside Savona’s and Molé Molé was so packed with people you’d think you were in downtown Manhattan, not downtown Kingston. It was a perfect summer evening, clear and not too hot.
Usually, however, the Broadway crowd seriously thins out above Abeel Street, unless it’s the first Saturday of the month, when the galleries are open. Broadway starts uphill, and no one’s sure what’s anything up there. But last Friday night the sidewalk on Broadway above Abeel was hopping, too, with vendors proffering their wares at tables and under tents set on the sidewalk, a live band playing, the wares spilling out of stores. Yes, there are numerous attractions up there.
A trio called Play, Mars & Francisco played a brand of upbeat folk, rock and world music, giving the bands downhill some competition. A crowd clustered outside Madden’s Fine Wines & Spirits for a tasting. The large white banner promoting the event floated like a large sail above the sidewalk. One cannot overestimate the importance of signage.
People lined up in The Green Space to sample more than a dozen hot sauces, all made in New York State. Coffee aficionados drank the flavorful brew of Farfetched Coffee Roasters, a new micro-roaster from Rosendale, from tiny paper cups; you could purchase a bag of beans. And Jenny Strohm from Rhinebeck showed her mosaics crafted from recycled materials, while Elysabeth Swan did astrology readings at a table set up on the sidewalk.
You could browse racks of vintage clothing and displays of jewelry outside MezzanineAntiqueCenter and boxes of original photographs by Nancy Donskoj and Eric Richards in front of The Storefront Gallery. Karmabee, which displays cards, jewelry and other hand-made items by artists in the region, was offering temporary tattoos. At Home Antiques was also open for business, with exquisite rare and vintage items for sale. This antiques emporium sells much of its wares in New York City, and has done a lot to draw people up the hill. You could wander into The Storefront Gallery to admire Lynn Herring’s abstract graphics, or you hike to the top of the hill to the Agustsson Gallery, where Magnus Agustsson shows his imaginative and finely crafted bronze and bisque heads and other sculptures.
At the corner of Broadway and Spring, one could peer into the past at the Reher bakery, whose barrels, wooden shelves, and overhead fluorescent light are all original; now called the ReherCenter for Immigrant Culture and History, this nonprofit that is slowly restoring the facility and converting it into a museum for the city’s immigrant history. The bakery was the starting point for a neighborhood historic tour, including photos showing the rows of old buildings that once lined the other side of Broadway before they were taken down by urban renewal.
Welcome to the Night Market, a mini-festival held from May to October on the third Friday of the month from 6 to 10 p.m. along the stretch of commercial sidewalk on lower Broadway up to Spring Street. Geography has always been a factor that’s divided the Rondout district business community, with the businesses located up the hill traditionally failing to attract the visitors who automatically head toward the restaurants and other businesses closer to the waterfront. That hill has always been a deterrent, and as a result those businesses above Abeel have long struggled to lure visitors to their premises.
Judging from the crowds on Friday evening, the Night Market is doing the trick. B.C. Gee, who started the market last year with her husband and business partner, Larry Zalinsky — the couple own the Mezzanine Antiques Center, which is on that stretch of Broadway — attributed its success to the buy-in from 18 participants, each of whom contributes $125 annually. That’s enough money to pay for advertising, which includes a rack card, an ad in Ulster Publishing’s Almanac Weekly, announcements on WDST, and printed yellow lawn signs (I spotted one two weeks ago on Route 9G, on my way to Rhinebeck, and the editor says there’s a few along that town’s main drag as well).
Plus, there’s the herd mentality: “People driving down to dinner see everybody outside and the tents and lights” and head uphill themselves, said Gee. She added that a big part of the attraction to local businesses is that the Night Market was “small and manageable,” unlike past events she has organized, such as Mardi Gras and the Italian Festival. “You get out of what you put in. It’s very simple, but it is promoting the area.”