From Down Under to Up Here: Midtown Kingston’s Village Coffee and Goods

Ten months after Mark Palmer and Anthea White opened the doors to Village Coffee and Goods in Kingston, Midtowners and commuters from other neighborhoods are frequenting the specialty coffeeshop on Railroad Avenue in numbers. Sometimes the order line reaches the door and it’s hard to find a spot to sit. That shouldn’t dissuade diehard coffee consumers; if anything, it’s a sign of somebody doing something right, and thus is worth the wait for an expertly made pourover or flat white.

By May of last year, the couple had relocated to Kingston from Sydney, Australia by way of Brooklyn. Like so many youngish parents, Palmer and White wanted that less-expensive, better quality of life for their little family. Landing in Midtown, where a resurgence in the arts and food culture is taking place, they saw the opportunity to provide wholesome, innovative breakfast and lunch fare, along with specialty drinks and basic pantry provisions to take home, including farm-fresh eggs, local cheeses, bulk cleaners and whatnot.

The menu, crafted using products from conscientious producers near and far, includes egg sandwiches with clever names, bowls of granola or chia pudding, frittatas and toast; where else in town can you find Vegemite on your locally baked artisan bread? And since opening, an expanded bakery workspace is cranking out even more muffins and pastries and treats.

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This is tucked away in the back room, called Little Village, where a grand piano dominates and people can congregate for live music or lunch with friends. The coffee is brought in from Toby’s Estate Coffee, a Brooklyn-based, small-batch specialty coffee roaster that sources beans from single-owner coffee farms around the world. In fact, Palmer worked at Toby’s Estate Coffee for several years. His two decades as a barista included a two-year stint with chef Jody Williams at Buvette in the West Village of New York City as well.

Anthea White and Mark Palmer of Village Coffee and Goods in Kingston.

How did you end up in Kingston? What was your business plan?

Anthea White: Do you mean the location or in general? It was all very spontaneous. We were looking to move out of the City when we had our son. It was quite expensive; we couldn’t afford anything there. In this neighborhood, you couldn’t just walk to get a really great coffee or some food, so we thought, “Let’s do it ourselves!” We had no idea how it would be received. The business plan was based on statistics, but nothing solid. There’s not a lot of through traffic here; it was a risk.

Mark Palmer: Traveling around the world, we always seek out a place; doesn’t matter where it is. It becomes a destination. So that’s why we didn’t care that it had to be Uptown or the Rondout or a main traffic area.

AW: And we’re a part of Ferrovia Studios upstairs. Being artists ourselves, we knew the energy in this part of town would be conducive to what we’re doing. We had a gut instinct. I get that whole concept of people being scared of Brooklyn coming in – I understand it, but we are part of that. People who come here are locals. It’s a communal space, a meeting place for people. If you work from home and don’t have a workspace/office, you can come here.

MP: We’ve played a lot of events; we did one of Midtown Arts District’s events, the Midtown Block Party, O+ and the Made in Kingston Market. That was fun. A lot of Kingston events involve music.

AW: We’re both musicians; we make art through music. We make jazz-inspired soul, and we play in other bands – not that we do that much anymore.

Do you have a name?

AW: Yeah, the Hipstones.

MP: That band is 16 years old now. It’s had its reiterations, and now it’s at a bit of a standstill. You can’t always do it.

And you’re running a business now.

AW: Yeah!

Did you have a background in business before?

AW: No. We’ve never had a business before.

MP: We have the background of being struggling musicians. When you don’t have the support of record labels and you’re forced to put out your own work, have to figure it out and strategize.

AW: You have to be savvy. Also, being up here allows for this. There’s no way we could do this in the City: too much risk.

The bright space is appointed with intriguing artwork on the walls and rough-cut wood counters and furnishings. Palmer and White scored on a couple of spalted maples and did the finish work themselves. A plan to put seating out front awaits good weather, and perhaps a nice garden: perfect for the summertime, when it finally comes.

On Thursday, March 28 from 6 to 8 p.m. you can Spring into Wine for the YMCA at Village Coffee and Goods. An evening of wine, music and community will support the YMCA of Kingston and Ulster County. Wine Enthusiast contributing editor Christina Picard will be here to introduce a variety of Australian and New Zealand vintages, with yummy in-house appetizers and music by Clare and Olivier Manchon. Space is limited, so get your tickets now ($28 per person).

Village Coffee and Goods, Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday/Sunday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., 17 Railroad Avenue #102, Kingston; (845) 868-2186, www.villagecoffeeandgoods.com.

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