By Fred Stabbert III
Town of Delaware Supervisor Ed Sykes sat back in his seat last Wednesday night, looking his...
Soon after opening Callicoon Trading on Upper Main Street in 2014, proprietor Irene Nikolai imagined a revival for a Callicoon landmark built in 1852.
As then-president of the Callicoon Business Association, Nikolai got to know the former owner of the historic Western Hotel, who was kind enough to host events in the closed inn for such town-wide happenings as Callicoon Country Fair, Callicoon Artwalk and Dickens on the Delaware.
Nikolai visualized restoring TheWestern – a four-story Victorian mansion with mansard roof – could, as it was in its heyday, be “a place for community gatherings and a platform to showcase local food, music and art.”
Reviving it is. Just 25 days after closing on the property July 5, The Western Hotel & Supper Club began serving craft cocktails and a farm-to-fork fine dining menu created by local chef Henning Nordanger. On the bluestone terrace and in the updated bar area guests enjoy Berkshire pork schnitzel with caper mashed potatoes, beef goulash, trout almandine with spaghetti squash. The menu features fresh, seasonal ingredients from such local purveyors such as Beaverkill Trout Hatchery and Willow Wisp Organic Farm.
A Halloween dance concert featuring three local bands, re-introduced The Western’s Harmonie Hall ballroom as a live entertainment venue. The ballroom also hosted a dance party fundraiser for NACL Theatre in November and offers free lindy hop swing dance classes Friday nights at 6:30 p.m. New classes including line dancing, ballroom, waltz or salsa are planned once instructors are found.
This month the long awaited fireside dining room re-opens. The hunting lodge atmosphere invites patrons to sink into leather chairs and savor signature cocktails before a crackling fire on a bluestone hearth. Dining room upgrades emphasize historic mahogany architectural details, stained glass, a spiral staircase and gallery of oil paintings by local fine artists. Reservations are being accepted now for the New Year’s Eve gourmet five-course surf & turf dinner including entertainment by Kentuckybred honky tonk singer-songwriter Cliff Westfall.
Reservations can be made at www.westerncallicoon.com.
With progress in the bar and restaurant, renovations over winter will focus on rooms.
“It’s a big project,” says Nikolai. “We’re taking things one step at a time.”
Supper Club & Inn
Fated to Come Together
Over a Bourbon Lift (an over-21 craft cocktail twist on an egg cream) in the Tap Room of The Western, Nikolai described how The Western Hotel & Supper Club felt “fated” to go from concept to soft opening in just six months.
The pieces “just came together,” said Nikolai.
In January 2016 a commercial real estate lease, over a year in the making, materialized. At the same time she began writing the business plan for The Western. Thanks to Advanced Certified Business Advisor Sam Kandel out of Kingston, a connection made through the Sullivan County Division of Planning and Environmental Management (DPEM), Nikolai finalized the plan.
Next step: presenting the project to potential partners including the Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development, the Industrial Development Agency and the County Division of Planning.
“I was really nervous,” said Nikolai of presenting at the meeting convened by PEM Planner Heather Jacksy and Commissioner Freda Eisenberg. “I felt like I talked for an hour.” At the end, the room fell silent and Nikolai held her breath. Finally Marc Baez of the Sullivan County Partnership suggested all three entities “back the project.” Through the county and state, the project also landed a small Sullivan County Workforce Development grant to offset salaries during startup phase of the project.
A regional search for mortgage lenders enlisted Dime Bank of Honesdale, PA. When Nikolai walked “star banker” Commercial Lending Officer Chase Holl around the property, Holl instantly saw the potential in the business. Holl recommended Nikolai apply for a “Banking on Business” (aka “BOB”) loan, offered through a Pittsburgh bank. Fortunately Dime Bank of Honesdale services western Sullivan County thereby qualifying the Western for such a loan typically available only to Pennsylvania-based businesses.
“The BOB program has three or four funding rounds a year,” said Holl. “We just made the cut-off.” Financing partners’ responsiveness allowed Nikolai to close on the property on July 5th and open the bar area and terrace July 30th in time for the Callicoon Country Fair.
In 25 days, friends and local contractors scrambled to inventory and test kitchen equipment, refrigerators, freezers and systems dormant for eight years. Cosmetic upgrades such as replacing drop ceiling tiles with custom cut and painted wood were made since the mahogany bar, terrace, stained glass in the ceiling over the bar were beautifully preserved.
A Generous Spirit
The areas pristine natural beauty and clean air first drew Nikolai to make a home in Western Sullivan County in 2011, but the generous spirit of the region’s people keep her.
In her first two years — first as a weekender in 2011, then as a property and business owner of Callicoon Trading Company — Nikolai “met more friendly people and built closer relationships in this area than in sixteen years living in in Manhattan.”
The collaboration with Henning Nordanger, local chef and founder of Hennings Local in Cochecton, to create the farm-to-fork menu for The Western, evidences such community support. “I can think of nothing more generous than the fact that Henning has his own restaurant and helped us develop ours,” says Nikolai. “Henning understands the value of having another good restaurant in the area to draw more people to all of us.”
Sealing the Deal
Energy is infectious in Callicoon, driven by new and expanding businesses like CafeAdella Dori, the eight room boutique hotel Nine River Road, and boutique retailers The Lazy Fox and Lee Hartwell Antiques.
Nikolai is grateful for momentum building in what she calls a “gem of a town.”
A producer from Brooklyn in the final phases of house hunting stayed at The Western recently. She called dinner in the restaurant “the best meal she had in three months.”
“Having the Tap Room lights on and more restaurants and bars open in town help drive the local economy and seal the deal for newcomers imagining making a home here,” said Nikolai.
The Western Hotel’s restaurant is open Thursday through Sunday. Bar opens at 3pm. Dinner from 4-10pm.