Owner, The Spotty Dog Books and Ale
Long story short: When you add a bar to your bookstore, business really picks up. “It’s proven very helpful for author tours,” says Kelley Drahushuk, owner of Hudson’s Spotty Dog Books & Ale, which is located in a restored firehouse. When she wanted to host a visit from Jim Edgar, creator of the popular “My Cat Hates You” Web site and the man behind the New York Times bestseller Bad Cat, all she had to say was, “My bookstore has a bar,” and he came all the way from Portland.
When Matt and Ted Lee, who had just bought a place in Greene County, stopped by to promote The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook — winner of a mess of James Beard Awards — the bar also came in handy for washing down appetizers like butter bean pate and pimento cheese.
Owning a successful bookstore in Hudson is not merely a business venture for Drahushuk: it’s an investment in her hometown. She was born and raised here, though she admits that as a teenager, “I couldn’t wait to leave. I would sulk around town saying, ‘It’s so boring!’ ”
That was then. After getting her degree in industrial engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology and meeting her future husband, graphic artist Alan Coon, she lived in Philadelphia and Jersey City while pursuing a career at Liberty Mutual as a safety consultant. Drahushuk began to reconsider Hudson and see the beauty that was lost on her teenage self. So the couple moved back in 2002 and soon opened an art supply store.
That’s where the plot thickens: Drahushuk’s uncle, Neil Evans (aka Cornelius H. Evans IV) had purchased the grand old 1889 C.H. Evans Fire Company firehouse in town, which honors his namesake relative, a onetime politician and brewer. Evans IV was already operating a revived Evans brewery in Albany and wanted to set up a satellite at the firehouse, but never got around to doing it. So he enlisted his niece and her husband to move their art supply store there in 2005. The couple reinvented the business as a bookstore, supplementing the art supplies with 10,000 books. And of course they set aside an area where Evans beer (as well as wine and coffee) flows. They meticulously restored the place, keeping the gorgeous original tin ceiling and other architectural details intact, earning them a preservation award from the city.
“It’s getting harder and harder to be just a bookstore,” says Drahushuk. “If you just offer books and zero else, that’s probably a recipe for disaster. Coffee mugs, stuffed animals, toys, and art supplies help. I don’t mind being diverse.”
Is she worried about the ever-growing onslaught of e-books or other means of delivering a book? “Readers are readers,” she says. “They read across whatever platform. But I am happy that we offer physical, in-your-hands books.” Fave reads include anything in the Young Adult category, since it can be a fast, sophisticated read. She is always on the lookout for gems from small presses like Blackmail, My Love: A Murder Mystery by Katie Gilmartin, which has a 1950s noir vibe and moody linocut illustrations.
Aside from reading, does she have any hobbies? “Hmm, well, let’s see. Yes, probably. I like to see movies though I tend to fall asleep early. I live in a place where I do not have cable. I love to thrift shop and buy vintage clothes, so I spend my time around Hudson when I want to blow off steam.”
Drahushuk is especially proud of the community vibe at her store. One employee has carte blanche to book a roster of musical acts that bring people in who might not otherwise visit. Locals also gather here to play trivia games, work on laptops, or just chat. As the mother of two small girls, she understands the need to get out of the house. “You can bring your kids here and have a glass of beer or wine and not feel like you’re dragging them to a bar. And people sometimes say that Hudson’s gotten too expensive, but here it’s very egalitarian. You can come into my store with four dollars in your pocket and walk out with something great.”