Wow, talk about gentrification. This Times piece tells us the story of tiny Rosendale, New York, one of countless small Hudson Valley towns left economically depressed by the departure of industry (in this case, a cement plant). Well, as has often happened with economically depressed, former industrial locales across the First World, pioneering creative types have arrived, looking for space and light and affordability. And honestly, it sounds pretty good to me (well, except for the guy who commutes to the city by bus).
The focal point for the “hipsterization” of Rosendale (and remember, I still think hipsters are good, not evil) is a place called Market Market, a cafe/cultural general store serving such au courant NYC fare as bahn mi, bibimbap and of course, New American comfort food. Market Market was started by former Williamsburgers Trippy Thompson and Jennifer Constantine, who you might remember (if you are old like me) as the funny, amiable bartender at the Brooklyn Ale House, and the lady who DJ’ed at Diner (among many other things, of course).
This Hudson Valley spur of New York hipsterdom isn’t exactly a new thing, as artsier types have been moving upstate for generations, lured by affordability and the absolutely breathtaking beauty of the area. In the interest of full disclosure, my wife and I are lucky enough to have a place on the border of Dutchess and Columbia Counties, about ten minutes from the Bard College campus and its de facto town, Tivoli. Yes, this is the Tivoli upon whose female populace Griffin Dunne once creepily opined:
The women all look like Dylan’s girlfriends from his early album covers. The type of sad-eyed ladies who roll their own cigarettes, have pottery clay under their fingernails and listen to Cat Power bootlegs while driving around in their rickety pickup trucks.
This passage, of course, is from Dunne’s appropriately titled piece, “Brooklyn on the Hudson“—and it’s kind of true, if not quite as impossibly romantic. Bard is basically a Williamsburg finishing school, and the streets of Tivoli occasionally seem like an extension of Bedford Avenue. For some, that seems horrible, for others (like me) it’s not so bad.
But is this particular strain of gentrification a good thing for the towns themselves? Well, in Tivoli’s case, with its built-in source of monied habitués just down the road at Bard, it probably is, as small businesses stand a good chance of lasting, creating a real sense of continuity and community that benefits everyone, newbie and townie alike. However, I’ve also seen cases upstate where really lovely folks from the city have opened wonderful little stores or restaurants in tiny little towns, only to close a year or two later. And that’s probably what’s lacking in this Times piece, the “townie” perspective, which might not have made for such a pleasant little story.
Anyway, I do wish Trippy and Jennifer all the success in the world, and I’ll definitely be making a detour to Rosendale sometime this summer.