Despite the challenges of 2020 and 2021, these five brave CapNY’ers launched cool, new food businesses.
They’re rising above the challenges of building a customer base and keeping their doors open. And, they’re doing it with constantly changing health regulations and rules.
Left Bank Ciders, Catskill
Left Bank Ciders began when a large, nearby orchard nearby borrowed Anna Rosencranz‘s compost bins to get rid of the bad apples. Anna and partner Tim Graham decided to turn those bad apples into cider. And, that gradually became a full business plan you can read about on their website. “We originally planned to open in April 2020,” explained Anna, “but we waited to open until July.”
The team received the support of their landlord and town to hold off the opening date. Meanwhile they rushed to finish the patio in time to open. “Having outdoor seating during the summer and fall months was critical, and we saw lots of in-state tourism,” explained Anna. “People seem more excited to support local business and spend locally.” Having to adhere to ever-changing guidelines has its challenges for the team at Left Bank, but they’re facing them head on. “We are so grateful that we were able to open at all, and that our community has come out to enjoy our cider. Honestly, it’s been a great success, even with the pandemic and all of its challenges!”.
Left Bank Ciders is now closed in light of Covid restrictions, though doing some pick-up and retail sales (you’ll find their wares at the fantastic Solo Vino in Catskill). Look for updates on reopening dates on their Instagram account, below.
Kitty’s Market, Hudson
Kitty’s Market Café, located across from the Amtrak Train Station in Hudson, serves breakfast, lunch and takeaway dinner, six days a week (they’re closed Wednesdays). They opened in fall 2020, and sling plenty of delicious options like traveling hashbrowns, and steaming hot chicken dinners.
Don’t miss their amazing pastries from the pastry case, including sticky ginger tea cake and coconut almond carrot cake.
The Cloud Food Hall, Albany
The most unconventional of the new food and drink spots is the Cloud Food Hall. In November 2020 owner Cory Nelson announced that they’d reimagined the traditional food hall. Cloud Food Hall is first mobile app-based food hall offering pick-up, dine in, and delivery, depending on your comfort level. Every. Single. Meal. Is $4.99. The Cloud Food Hall app is available for both IOS & Android stores. They have everything from southern soul food and Halal to Italian and Mexican, and the app is very user friendly.
Darling Doughnuts, Saratoga Springs
Darling Doughnuts opened their Saratoga Springs Broadway storefront in July 2020. Although it wasn’t the ideal time to open, co-owner Natascha Pearl-Mansman already had a fan base from her Saratoga Springs pop-up shops, which she operated out of a commercial kitchen. Natascha’s art background infuses her creations. She envisions yeast-raised doughnuts as a canvas, creating stunning patterns and visuals using all-natural ingredients. And, their menu changes weekly, with everything from cannoli-filled to caramel stroopwafel to matcha.
Nic’s Trattoria, East Greenbush
“As you could imagine, starting a new business during normal times is challenging enough, and doing it during a pandemic involves a whole new set of obstacles,” explained Rocco Nicoletta, Partner and General Manager of Nic’s Trattoria in East Greenbush. When they signed their lease and began building the restaurant, COVID didn’t seem to be much of a concern. Their main focus was spreading the restaurant’s business concept, originally about providing a quality alternative to other Italian-American restaurants in the area. “Many of our menu items are inspired by traditional, homemade Italian dishes and recipes,” explained Rocco. “For example, our pizza is made in the Neapolitan-style, as opposed to the more common NY-style pizza offered in this area. All of our pasta is made in-house, too. No pasta out of a box here.”
When the pandemic hit harder than anyone expected, it slowed things down quite a bit. “We had to consider adjusting our business model to adapt to the circumstances. With a limit on dine-in capacity of 50%, it’s nearly impossible to be economically viable as a restaurant offering only dine-in service,” explained Rocco. “As a result, we decided to create a temporary take-out service via Nic’s To-Go, our internet-based virtual restaurant. Customers can place their order online and swing by our restaurant to pick it up. This has helped us out tremendously, as many people are hesitant about eating in at restaurants during the pandemic.”
Cookie Therapy ALB, Albany
During lockdown, friends and serial entrepreneurs Faye Jones and Ashley Brown started baking large (6 ounces!), gorgeous cookies as their own kind of therapy. They incorporated amazing ingredients like roasted strawberries or honey lavender.
Local products like Death Wish coffee, or mix-ins like Ring Dings and Fluff found their way into recipes. And soon, what started as a hobby quickly turned into a booming business, and Cookie Therapy was born.
Written by: Jessica Kelly
Jess is a journalist and photographer with a focus on food, travel, and entertainment. She’s written for over 10 different local publications in New York State, in addition to the Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan, AAA Northeast, Eater, Dame Traveler, Food52, Insider, Wine Enthusiast, Kitchn, AAA World Magazine, Thrillist, and more. Follow her adventures on Instagram @Adventures.Are.Waiting.