Upstate New York is escape, where city folk run (skip and jump) to trip the light fantastic. The city of Kingston, a former capital of New York State no less, is a recent favorite for such New Yorkers. The stories of arrival are all different, but there is a beautiful golden thread somewhere which continues to shepherd creatives, emblazoned ones, and seekers of a better life; all just a hop north of New York City.
The city’s downtown district, dubbed “The Rondout,” is where the store Clove & Creek settled near enough to the historic waterfront. The Clove & Creek story, albeit sort of romantic, has exactly that leaving-the-big-city-for-some-of-the-time thread. “The idea came about over a best-friends' weekend in the Catskills—over a bottle of bourbon,” says Scott Neild, co-owner of Clove & Creek. “We started doing pop-ups around Delaware County; the idea quickly took root and we were able to open a brick-and-mortar store.” Neild, with his best friend and the other half of the business, Michael Cook, knew the second they visited the area—“we had found a place to start and call home,” Neild explains.
“Clove” is a Dutch word that means ravine, and the area was actually first settled by those extra-explorative scouts. “You'll see many street names and areas named ‘Clove’ and so to complete the pastoral scene in our heads, we added ‘Creek,’” says Neild. “The Hudson Valley and Catskills is an area of mountaintops and creeks and river valleys, and ‘Kill’ is the Dutch word for creek, as it happens. Little did we know when we started that we would inhabit a neighborhood home to the Rondout Creek, an important shipping and docking channel that today is home to recreational kayakers and boaters.”
From the beginning, they wanted a place that both enriched and created community—a retail experience inspired by what they call “the incredible wilderness” and the many artisans who live and work in the area. “An actual urban environment—yes, outside of New York,” Neild smiles. For them the sweet part is a 10-minute drive in any direction takes one to the serene Hudson River or the majestic Catskill Mountains. And there are similarly compelling attractions even closer-by.
“We're sandwiched between two of our favorite shops, a wine shop and a flower shop: Kingston Wine Company and Hops Petunia,” shares Neild. “Heading down the street toward the water is Brunette wine bar. We knew with businesses like these, and many others, that there was already a foundation for a business like ours to grow.”
And coffee is one of the biggest strands for the design duo. “From the outset, the other businesses on the block were asking if we were going to serve coffee because of the lack of good coffee in the neighborhood,” says Neild. “Of course, we were happy to oblige.” For Neild and Cook, the coffee program, even more than the beautiful objects they sell, has been the real point of entry into conversation and community with their neighbors. “People up here know good food and drink—they are now so happy to be able to also get a great tasting cup of coffee,” says Neild.
“Michael and I both spent many years in restaurants and I was lucky enough to work with Table on Ten and was trained as a barista at Irving Farm,” shares Neild. “Oh, and Michael practically lives off coffee. So it was a natural element of the idea from the beginning.” And for a small business, with just the two of them working there, they rely heavily on the advice and guidance of their coffee purveyor, Brooklyn-based Parlor Coffee.
“During the summer, we offered Parlor Coffee's Prospect blend,” says Neild. For them that was the perfect cup for summer—with its sweet, bright expression and its current components of Kenya Mutitu and Guatemala Chimaltenango. “Now that the weather's turned, we are offering Wallabout—a cozier, richer cup from Peru Sandia Valley and Colombia Los Naranjos,” Neild says. And their setup, so simple yet so perfect, is without adornment, a Mahlkönig Kenia grinder, a BUNN drip machine, a Hario scale, dripper, and glass carafe.
“All of our coffee is served in eco-friendly to-go containers,” says Neild. “Often people order coffee and then do a little shopping in the store. Or they take it to the twenty-foot bench in front of the store, or they take it with them to the water or Kingston Point Lighthouse, a short walk away.” And besides the pantry, the objects, and the coffee, the two owners are often chatting about the evolution of their creation—“We're also flirting with the idea of occasionally offering cowboy coffee, made over open flame, as a nod to the many campers and boaters that come through the area.”
And so if they’re not hanging at Cook’s cabin in the woods (where his fiancé is, too), they spend most of the week to come supply coffee (and comeliness) to the city of Kingston. If you ask locals about the coffee boys, they smile and share their gratitude for bringing the good coffee upstate. And as Neild and Cook say, the store “responds to and is a reflection of the community.” No one could possibly ask for much more, not even their from-the-cow fresh milk in their coffee.
Daniel Scheffler is a Sprudge staff writer at large. His work has appeared in T Magazine, Travel And Leisure, Monocle, Playboy, New York Magazine, The New York Times, and Butt. Read more Daniel Scheffler on Sprudge.
Photos by Christian Harder. Portrait of the owners by Emma Tuccillo.