NYC Restaurateurs Find a New Home Upstate
These two women moved their operations from a dining capital to a farming capital.
Soy's new spot on Main Street in Rosendale / Photo by Etsko Kizawa
While there have been a number of chefs and restaurateurs who have left high-profile jobs in the New York City area to open restaurants in the Hudson Valley, it is rarer to find a restaurant itself that has relocated with the same name and concept.
Monica Byrne and her wife, Leisah Swenson — owners of Home/Made, a brunch spot and catering company that moved to Hudson after 11 years in Brooklyn — were drawn to the Valley after catering a rehearsal dinner. In 2015, they purchased a home in Ancram, and decided to transplant the restaurant two years later. “We still have a catering business and an event space in Red Hook, but didn’t want to operate two restaurants, so we moved Home/Made.”
Etsko Kizawa, owner and chef at Soy, a Japanese restaurant serving favorites like ramen and bento boxes, moved to Rosendale (also in the summer of 2017) in search of a better home for herself and her son. Her restaurant had been open on the Lower East Side for 15 years, but it was time to leave the city for a number of reasons. “There had been so much change in the area,” she says. “I had a number of friends moving, and I had uncertainty with my lease.”
In Brooklyn, Byrne says there were similar catalysts behind Home/Made’s transition. “We had been in business for 12 years in Red Hook, and also saw a changing neighborhood and a lease that was coming up for renewal.” Yet she describes the vibe in Red Hook as “reminiscent of an old New England whaling village.” Surprisingly, the weekends in Hudson are busier than in Red Hook; however, the latter was a very close community, and it has taken some time to become ingrained in Hudson.
Outside Home/Made on Warren Street in Hudson / The weekend brunch spread. Photos by Leisah Swenson
Kizawa echoes that sentiment. “People here aren’t as fast as they were in the city to jump on a new place.” She says the winter months were “a lot harder than I thought they would be.”
Kizawa is using her bigger space in Rosendale to build business with cooking classes (which she offered in the city) and movie nights. While she isn’t offering delivery, Kizawa has found that the checks are higher, as customers spend more time dining and order drinks from the bar.
Since Home/Made is only open for weekend brunch, Byrne didn’t note any downturn in business during the winter, although she laughingly notes that Saturdays are busier than Sundays, the inverse of what she saw in Red Hook.
“The pace in the Hudson Valley is less frantic and more civilized,” Byrne says. “I am loving it up here and have the best of both worlds as I get to go down to Red Hook for my other businesses.”
She notes it’s easier doing business in the Hudson Valley — pointing to dealings with the health department and the convenience of having the restaurant’s farmer located across the street. “We can be more creative in our menu when we have a safety net.” Byrne aims to continue focusing on weekend service and adding evening hours. (Both she and Kizawa say it’s more challenging finding qualified staff in the Hudson Valley.)
Etsko Kizawa, Soy's owner and chef / Photo courtesy Etsko Kizawa
Soy’s move upstate means Kizawa now has to drive to Albany to get many specialty Asian items, whereas she used to be able to get on her bicycle and head to Chinatown. Many suppliers now visit her less frequently, “but my storage space is much bigger,” she says.
With both restaurants entering their first summer, the owners admit there was a learning curve. “I would tell any restaurant owner who’s contemplating a move not to have any expectations,” says Byrne. Kizawa says that her move was a compromise. She’s “back to square one financially,” but amazed at her space and the beauty of the area.
Get More Value in the Valley
Hey New York City restaurateurs! You might want to take a cue from your peers in Hudson and Rosendale.
Red Hook: 700 sq ft plus a garden
Hudson: 1,000 sq ft plus a garden
Lower East Side: 300 sq ft including kitchen space
Rosendale: 2,000 sq ft plus kitchen space and garden
Rent per Square Foot*
Lower East Side: $96
Red Hook: $45
Monthly Electricity Costs
NYC’s Con Ed: $2,670
Rosendale’s Central Hudson: $1,622.81
Hudson’s National Grid: $1,244
*Restaurant Space, under 10,000 sq. ft.; five-year average; 15-mile radius from Rosendale and Hudson