CATSKILL, N.Y. — Locals looking to land a buzz-worthy, foodie-friendly restaurant in this Hudson River village are offering the right chef a novel deal: Come to Catskill with a killer concept — maybe farm-to-table, gastro-pub or vegetarian — and get space on Main Street rent free for a year.
The hope is that the right restaurant will give the growing number of arrivals from New York City an attractive place to eat. And maybe it will accelerate the kind of gentrification that has revived other river towns.
“I don’t know what the actual spark will be, but I certainly think this will help ignite whatever’s going to happen,” said Nina Sklansky, who belongs to a local group promoting Catskill as a funky, affordable place. “If people are going to linger, they’re going to want to eat.”
Catskill, a village of 4,000 on the west bank of the Hudson about 100 miles north of New York City, is changing as city people migrate north or buy second homes. In the past year especially, local real estate broker David King said he has noticed more 30-something couples with toddlers from Brooklyn. Meanwhile, there are plans to convert an old commercial site into a haven for artisans.
Across the river from Catskill, the city of Hudson is loaded with antique shops, art spaces and, yes, the sort of restaurants that get described glowingly in The New York Times as “a fever dream of luxury and rural kitsch.”
“God forbid if the place turns into something like Hudson, but a little bit of it would be nice,” Sklansky said of Catskill.
Sklansky, a copywriter who moved upstate a decade ago, is working on a privately funded marketing campaign for the village with a group of like-minded residents called the Catskill Action Team. She helped cook up the restaurant offer this summer.
Team member Andrea Lowenthal is offering the deal on the ground floor of a building she owns on Main Street. The new restaurateur would have to pay for some capital improvements to get the free rent.
Lowenthal and Sklansky said a chef with experience is necessary. There have been more than a dozen nibbles so far, including people from New York City. But they have yet to find the right chef.
Catskill already has a bunch of restaurants, from Italian to Thai, and not everyone thinks one more is needed.
Peter Di Stefano of Di Stefano’s New York Barber Shop wished the local group luck. But he also showed off a stack of menus from local restaurants such as Natalie’s Nook, La Casa Latina and A &G Texas Weiners.
“We have wonderful restaurants,” he said. “What they should be doing is promoting the restaurants that are here.”