On the bank of the Hudson River in Kingston, the air is alive with chattering crowds, laughing children and softly strumming guitars. Leashed dogs stop to exchange a curious sniff, shoppers inspect vintage dresses and mid-century chairs and the mingled smells of freshly made foods waft through the air. Business has been steady at Smorgasburg Upstate, the popular new open-air market, but the gradual creep of colder weather is starting to show. On the gray, windy afternoon of October 1, vendors and customers alike were bundled in coats and hats, trying to stave off the chills even with hot drinks and hot food in hand. Smorgasburg wraps up for the season on October 15, saying farewell to the Hutton Brickyards until next May.
The Saturday market boasts 38 food vendors and 27 handicraft and antique vendors, including both local businesses and visitors from New York City. With everything from macarons to pub food to vintage odds and ends, Smorgasburg is not your typical farmers’ market. According to representatives at M. West Holdings, the owners of the Hutton Brickyards, the first weekend had 10,000 in attendance, with subsequent weekends drawing crowds of between 1,500 and 3,000 attendees.
Despite the size, vendor Rachel McPherson of Daughters Fare & Ale in Red Hook says that there are no redundancies. McPherson, who co-owns Daughters with her husband Ryan McLaughlin, says that the Smorgasburg organizers have “met with each and every one of these vendors” to avoid competition and ensure a diversity of products. Upscale deli items like duck confit and chicken liver mousse can be found at the Daughters Fare and Ale stand, while New York City’s Itsa Pizza Truck has the savory pie market cornered. Mai Warshafsky, owner of Café Warshafsky, provides Smorgasburg Upstate with a selection of buttery shortbread in flavors like rosewater, Earl Grey and – most popular of all – lavender and coconut.
Though Warshafsky lives in New York City, Smorgasburg Upstate is something of a homecoming for the Woodstock native. “It was just as much of a lifestyle move as it was a business one. What better way to spend my summer weekends than to get out of the City, see my parents more and try something new?” she says, adding that, as a wholesaler, Smorgasburg Upstate is her first experience selling directly to the public. The young entrepreneur says that her favorite moments of the season were seeing two of her former teachers at the market and getting to reconnect with the community in which she grew up.
“I found that people were excited to try something new and have access to products that maybe they wouldn’t have otherwise,” says Warshafsky. “The personal exchange was very rewarding.” For McPherson as well, the sense of community was strong. Having previously lived and worked in Brooklyn, she saw many familiar faces from both near and far. “Everybody was curious,” McPherson says, saying that the opening weekend in August drew huge crowds “from both sides of the river.”
While Smorgasburg is in its sixth year in Brooklyn, it definitely provides something new and unique to the Hudson Valley. For customers, it’s a beautiful, semi-secluded gathering space with a bounty of food and retail options. Though they’re set apart from the busier parts of Kingston, the Hutton Brickyards are equipped with conveniences like ample parking, full restrooms and concrete floors and ramps. The site is semi-shielded from the elements by metal roofing atop the skeletal-but-sturdy beams of the old brick operations. For vendors, the venue means exposure to broader markets, but also accommodations that are hard to come by at other markets. “They have a handwashing station, ice delivery…the Smorgasburg people do their best to take care of the vendors,” says McPherson.
“I thought they did a fantastic job making the venue welcoming to everyone,” says Warshafsky, who notes that Smorgasburg is “very family- and dog-friendly.” In addition to picnic benches, features like a beanbag toss and live music invite shoppers to linger. McPherson says that the only change that she’d like to see would be later hours in the summer. “That would be a beautiful setting for evening,” she says. Equipped with string lights and open to the sky, it’s easy to imagine the Brickyard transforming into a nighttime destination.
Though the first season of Smorgasburg Upstate is coming to a close, the happy vendors are ready to commit to another year. “I’m game if they are,” says Warshafsky. McPherson says that Daughters Fare and Ale has come away from this with “only positive experiences,” and that they will “absolutely” return next summer.
Karl Slovin, the president of M. West Holdings, shows a similar enthusiasm for the market’s future. “Smorgasburg is a great tenant. Their vendors are amazing,” says Slovin. “The outpouring of interest in an event like Smorgasburg confirmed what I have believed about the site, the Hudson Valley and the ongoing conversation people want to have around food.”
Smorgasburg Upstate, Saturdays through October 15, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., 200 North Street, Kingston; https://upstate.smorgasburg.com.