Susan’s Upstate Caffeine Tour – Stop Three – Schenevus

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It’s pronounced skin-EE-vuhs. It’s nobody’s idea of a hot spot…a town laid out like many small upstate towns – a few businesses on one street, and not much else. And like many similar towns, the highway which passed it by is just a mile away.  It’s between Cobleskill and Oneonta on I-88 and there’s a whole lot of not much around it. But with a gas station and the Chief Schenevus diner, Schenevus is still alive and kicking.

It’s handy to the highway (as I mentioned), it’s not far from Cooperstown, and there are some beautiful places hidden in the hills off the main street.

I stopped by the Chief Schenevus on a cold, wet early spring day when I was chilled to the bone. I got a warm welcome, a hot cup of soup, and a thrilling surprise – a homemade scone.

I really like scones. They give me a sense that maybe we’re not all as different as we sometimes seem to be. I’ve had scones in Scotland (the best ones, I’ll admit), scones in England, scones in Canada, scones in New York and scones in random spots all over the US. If scones can be everywhere, we must all have at least a little in common, right?

But I was a bit worried when the door shut behind me. There was a TV. And it was set to Fox News.

Here’s the thing about this part of New York: it’s Fox News country. Not exclusively so, of course. But there are a lot of viewers here. If you don’t like Fox News, it can also make you feel a bit worried about your welcome. After all, you’re not a local.  And you tend to have more confidence in what Fox calls “fake news.”

But here’s the other thing about rural New York: people are really, sincerely nice. So I’ve had a lot of experiences with Fox News people that demonstrated that they may watch the nonsense they see there, they may even believe some of it, but they take their people on an individual basis, at face value. If you’re nice, they’ll give that back to you tenfold. If you’re not, whatever you get is on you.

That seems fair to me.

So when I walked in the Chief Schenevus and saw scones, I immediately began to relax. A good homemade scone, for me, is a sign that there’s still hope for this country.

The Chief Schenevus had three people working on the day I was there. There was a fellow cooking in the back, and two women behind the counter in the front. There was hot potato soup, good solid ceramic mugs and plenty of coffee.

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The women were friendly but not nosy. The food was delicious and they seemed to get a kick out of how excited the stranger was about the scones.

As I was leaving, a young couple came in with their new baby and both women lit up like a sunny day. They clearly knew the parents and were thrilled to see the new neighbor.

It felt friendly. Even with Fox News on behind them.

Four stars, Chief Schenevus. Five if you turn off the TV.

 

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A General Store Story

UPDATE: I am delighted to report that this wonderful old store is under contract and the new sellers intend to keep it as a market in some revised form.

Want to see what’s for sale in the western Catskills and beyond? Come visit my website at upstatecountryrealty.com. Sign up for our monthly newsletter and don’t miss a thing!

The QUINTESSENTIAL GENERAL STORE

That’s the official ad. It’s a general store. It’s in Cherry Valley. It’s for sale. But of course that’s just the beginning of the story. Let me tell you about Rury’s Food Store.

When I was a kid, my family had a cabin on 100 acres outside of Cherry Valley. We spent every summer there. I adored it and I loved the town of Cherry Valley. It was sleepy and friendly and quiet, and I was way too young to know or understand that Alan Ginsberg and a horde of wild-eyed artists had a place above town where they had a much more adventurous life than I did. But there was always something a bit more interesting in the air than you’d expect from a seemingly-forgotten small upstate New York town.

I brought my own kids to that cabin and we all have happy memories of their times there. To them,  this was the town where they could walk down the middle of the main street and only have to keep an eye out for a tractor or a dog. It’s where the library was the size of their house back home, and where they could find hilarious old comic books for sale in the back of the market down the road. And it’s where they could walk into Rury’s and enjoy the satisfying slam of a giant screen door and be welcomed by the same guy who used to greet their mom – Jake Rury.

My kids are grown now. And I’ve moved back to this area, drawn by a sense that I had to, finally, live here. I started talking to Jake, who was ready to sell his market. I really really wanted to run a general store. He let me run all over the building, and I learned there was a former lawyer’s office on the other side, two apartments on the second floor, and an absolutely incredible top floor space that was once used by the Mason’s.

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It didn’t work out; my partner will do almost anything for me, but moving his music studio into an aging building in the middle of a town he hadn’t quite warmed to yet (though it won him over eventually) was a step too far. We found a happy compromise in Franklin – a town about an hour away but equally artsy and charming and beautiful. Rury’s closed.

And then Jake died.

His sons own the building and they’ve got no interest in running the store. I got in touch and asked if I could help. They said yes.

And so I find myself representing a property that I still wish I could have bought myself. I can envision the market that could become the new Rury’s (and I will hope the name stays). I picture an owner who loves small communities, who wants to come in and become a part of what’s here, who appreciates its quirky history, its summer tourism and its winter quiet. I picture a coffee pot that’s on in the winter for the plow guys if the local diner isn’t open yet, a place with a table or two where the elderly folks know they’re welcome to sit down and visit and the local kids know they’ll be greeted by name. And I can picture so many things on that amazing third floor that I simply cannot list them all.

I know this town, and it needs a market. It needs an anchor. Right now, folks have to drive twenty minutes for groceries that aren’t stocked at the town’s convenience store.

The new owner may have other plans. But I’m rooting for a market.

Jake Rury’s dad worked in that market, then Jake bought it and raised his family in the apartment upstairs. The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (A&P, remember) was once a competitor, but it’s gone. It’s a health care center now. There was a newer supermarket. It’s gone; now an insurance agency. This is one of Jake’s boys. He’s looking for someone to take over a live/work opportunity that kept his dad and his mom comfortable for their whole lives.

 

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This is what’s on offer. It seems to be a good, solid old building. It’s a town that sees tourists from nearby Cooperstown and Sharon Springs in the summer. There’s a lot of updating to do, particularly the electric, so it requires clear heads. But there’s business in town, and there’s potential for this to be something very rewarding — and not just financially.

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