Author: Destination Marketing Corporation for Otsego County
Ever wonder why Cooperstown is considered one of America’s favorite hometowns? Maybe ponder instead, WHO makes Cooperstown so special? ...Take a minute to discover The Real MVPs in this series that highlights the owners of your home away from home when visiting Cooperstown and the Otsego County area and the makers of memories. Take a peek behind the curtain at cherished moments and excitable characters who make the story of ‘business as usual’ quite the opposite!
...CONTINUED FROM The Real MVP's Series: Part I
Foothills Performing Arts Center
“We’re so grateful to have a space that has been so accommodating to a small production company like us.”
Gary has always been a lover of the theater. In his own words, he was cast as the role of Santa Claus in his first grade Christmas pageant, and then took a 30-year hiatus. Now, after retiring from Hartwick College where he taught mathematics for 43 years he started his own production company to help keep community theater alive. The Stuff of Dreams Productions was created out of Gary’s love for classic theater in 2016. He partnered with a friend, Steve Dillon, who founded Bigger Boat Productions to start putting on plays such as “Of Mice & Men” or “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest” at Foothills Performing Arts Center in Oneonta, NY. The group performs about four shows a year, with six shows over the course of two weekends at Foothills. He says @foothillspac has been so accommodating and supportive - they group now has an on-site workshop for sets to be built and a dedicated space for rehearsals and shows. As Gary and I chatted we discussed how he hopes the company will still be able to put on their next show “It Can’t Happen Here” set to debut in late October. He and Steve have plans in the works to combine production companies and apply for non-profit status in the future, which would expand the list of possible performances to choose from. When planning your trip to Otsego County, check to see if they have any showtimes! You won’t be disappointed.
“I came here in the early 70s to attend SUNY Oneonta. Every time I left, something drew me back. The community is great, and I’m glad we’re able to give back to it here at Green Earth."
Walking into Green Earth in Oneonta feels like walking into your old friend’s childhood home. It gives you that same comfortable feeling, and there’s always good conversation to be had. Operating since 1991, the Green Earth Health Market has always been the go-to place for organic or locally sourced products. Gary Schroeder, the original owner, frequently played poker with Dean Roberts. In 2008, Gary looking to move on from the store, and Dean with the idea of buying the business with his wife Emily, took the leap and made the commitment. Now, their son Micheal is the frontrunner of the store. Emily and I chatted about all the different products they have, and a hidden gem in the shop: the bulk foods section. Perfect for sustainable living, you can enter Green Earth to get the exact amount of ingredients you might need for a recipe if you don’t want to hang around the pantry.
The other gem of the store is their cafe, serving delicious and healthy options. Salads, sandwiches, smoothies, and more can be found on their menu, and they even have cold brew coffee on tap! Cheese, veggies, fruits, milk, and an assortment of meat can be found in their aisles from local producers and as you head towards the back, you'll discover local brews as well. The staff is always friendly, offering recommendations, or answering questions you might have about certain products. Green Earth also offers the community yoga and meditation classes in their banquet room and always go out of their way to help out fellow neighbors. Green Earth isn’t just about organic and healthy living, but about creating a welcoming and healthy space for the community as well.
The Lake House Restaurant and Lodge
“We were dedicated patrons here before we decided to buy the business. We love being able to share our piece of the lake with our customers, and give them the same experience we had when we were in their shoes.”
Built in 1843, The Lake House Restaurant and Lodge is one of the oldest continually operating establishments in Richfield Springs and Otsego County. Located on Canadarago Lake, about 15 miles from Cooperstown, we paid a visit to Christine Corrigan, along with her husband and co-owner, Gene. With a building this old, it wasn’t a surprise to hear some stories of the building’s past lives. In the 1920s it was a speakeasy and a favorite country retreat for Jack “Legs” Diamond who used the Lake House as his summer home. There was a trap door in the floor of the first story leading to a room in the back corner of the basement with an old fashioned tin ceiling. They believe he stored illegal liquor and hid from the revenuers that came looking for him during Prohibition. The Lake House changed hands only twice between Jack and the Corrigans who purchased The Lake House in 1996. Both retired teachers, they decided to acquire the restaurant/hotel combo after being long-time regular patrons. They even had their first date there! Now, you can enjoy the scenic view of Canadarago Lake as you eat on the back patio, and on summer weekends they offer live music. With a large tent for events on the property, its a great venue for weddings, reunions, and other gatherings. If you’re looking for a cozy spot with lots of history, great views, and a great atmosphere The Lake House is worth the trip!
“There’s an art to science that’s not well appreciated. There are more variables when you’re making beer than, say, a chemical reaction. That’s why I don’t like to take a strict approach to making beer. I don’t always strive to make the same exact thing.”
As you walk down Oneonta’s Main Street, you’ll pass by shops of all kinds. Gift shops, boutiques, tattoo parlors, restaurants of all kinds, and even… a brewery. Roots Brewing Company opened its doors in 2013. The funky little spot was known as Henderson’s Clothing Store until the 1980s. After that, the storefront wore many hats before Roots opened in 2014. Brewmaster, Jason Parrish, had been experimenting with brewing since he graduated from Purdue University in Indiana, where he studied medicinal chemistry. He had taken a position at Brewery Ommegang after college, entering a quality control position. Jason had experimented with home brewing and eventually thought to put a plan into works to start a brewpub in downtown Oneonta. They renovated the entire building, creating a space where community members could gather, chat, eat, and drink. Jason’s approach to making beer is similar to cooking, he doesn’t follow a strict recipe for each batch. Comparable to a soup “that you can’t taste for 3 weeks,” Jason will taste and adjust batches using local ingredients, like sweet-fern plants that can be found growing around the northeast and often experiment with seasonal flavors. They have the production capacity to brew five different beers at a time, and often have other local beers and ciders on tap. Roots has become a hot spot for local organizations to hold fundraisers or meetings, and community members are eager to come support. If you’re looking for a spot with a great atmosphere and great craft beverages, make sure to visit Roots Brewing Company on your next trip!
“I have to say, we’re proud of what we’ve done here. It’s nice to see customers, both old and new, come in and appreciate what we’re doing.” Butternut Barn Primitives.
Otsego County is full of hidden gems,... and also full of antique shops! Butternut Barn Primitives in Richfield Springs is a worthy stop for those looking for unique pieces to add to their home. Converted from an 1840’s post-and-beam carriage barn, Butternut Barn has been in operation since 1976. Judie Stone started Butternut Barn post-recession in the 1970s, after pursuing a career in adult education and real estate. Once the local school had stopped adult education, her friends encouraged her to open a store to sell her handmade gifts, such as dried floral bouquets or ceramic figures. She now operates the shop with her daughter, Kelly, and during special occasions, it’s not uncommon to see them dressed alike! Over the years, they started to focus more on antique and custom made pieces that now fill the rooms of the barn. Upstairs are the original hayloft and grooms quarters, while downstairs you can see the layout of the former stables. At the front counter, you’ll find penny candies, a fudge case, and an antique cash register still in use. Butternut Barn carries candles and other handmade goods as well, but their focus on primitive wares is what sets them apart. Locals may remember the Scarecrow Contest that Butternut Barn put on for several years, filled with good memories and hay wagon rides. During the holidays, Judie and Kelly transform the shop overnight into a winter wonderland. Nowadays, Judie is open by appointment and happy to show you the pieces and tell you the history behind them.
“Since day one we’ve had some customers coming here 7 days a week. Sometimes twice in one day! Developing that customer relationship and knowing everyone’s face, building that connection, that’s my favorite part.”
Did you take a metal lunchbox to school as a kid? Maybe it had your favorite cartoon character on it, and a matching thermos too. Whether you did or didn’t take a lunchbox, there are two things visitors remember about Jerry's Place. First, the awesome food and ice cream. Second, lunchboxes.
Jeff Braswell took over Jerry’s Place in 2014, putting his culinary degree from the Culinary Institute of America to work. Jeff’s first job was at an ice cream place and has been in kitchens since he was 14. When the previous owner, Jerry Miller put Jerry’s up for sale, Jeff saw an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. Jerry had an extensive vintage lunchbox collection, but it was the only thing not included in the sale. Since then, Jeff has searched online and at garage sales to build his own collection that’s now in the restaurant. You can even find Elvis at Jerry’s, but don’t expect him to sing much. Serving burgers and fries, sandwiches and salads, and more, Jeff likes to classify this type of menu as “classic, American, happy food.” When you finish your meal, it’s hard to pass up dessert with the broad selection of hard and soft-serve ice creams. Getting the kids home might also be a challenge with a playground outside, and an arcade inside. Jerry's usually hosts car shows through the summer as well, where you can really take a step back in time. A great place for kids and the kids-at-heart, Jerry’s Place is a must-stop on your next trip!
“It’s a place to escape from the world, if only for a brief time.” Posie's Vintiques.
Connie TerBush started going to her first auctions when she was just 12 years old. From there, a love of collecting antique and unique pieces was born. After retiring from a career in construction, Connie and her husband Craig took on the challenge of opening their own shop where others could find items to add to their home or collection. Located in the heart of Milford, NY, Posie’s Vintiques' charm begins at the roadside with red wagon signs directing visitors to the shop.
Connie and Craig wanted to build a space that was appealing to all tastes, from glassware to toy trains, and a place to escape and reminisce. As you enter Posie’s you’ll see all the thoughtfully placed displays of glassware, decorative pieces, and furniture; giving new life to old items. If you travel to the room on the left you’ll enter Craig’s Classics, a room dedicated to Craig’s love of vintage and antique toys including; pedal cars and tractors, toy trains, and vintage toys such as Tonka and Structo. Baseball fans can even check out some vintage baseball memorabilia! You may be wondering, “why Posie?” Named in honor of her maternal grandmother, nicknamed Posie, Connie chose that name as well for her own grandchildren to call her. In the logo for Posie’s Vintiques, you’ll see 4 flowers, each one representing her 4 grandchildren. Since opening in 2018, Connie has built friendships with customers who keep coming back to find a new treasure to bring home. So next time you visit Posie’s Vintiques, let us know what treasures you’ve found!
This concludes The Real MVPs Series...for now...