Beacon: Time to Shine

By   |  Photos by David McIntyre  |     |  Community Spotlight

Beaconites recently mourned the end of Max’s on Main, a bar owned by Richie Kaplan that cast a laidback spell of welcome over all comers for 18 years. On social media, the prevailing mood was gratitude for the good times, with an undertone of anxiety. No one yet knows what the New York City buyers plan to do, but one thing is sure: It won’t be Max’s.

“People are saying it was the last ‘real’ bar,” says Emily Murnane, a storyteller and historian whose family owns Beacon Bath & Bubble, source of both vintage sodas and handmade soaps. “I’m not enough of a bar person to be sure, but people say all the others have a gimmick of some sort, or they’re places you feel like you need to dress up for.”

“I think the Hub [Stinson’s Hub on Route 52] will absorb a lot of Max’s local clientele,” says Marko Guzijan, a Beacon native, owner of the Hudson Valley Food Hall and realtor. “But as far as Main Street—no, there’s nothing quite like Max’s. Richie was tired, and he got a good number, and it was just time.” An artist who’s a Hub regular has designed the official Max’s tribute shirt, and rumors swirl about a possible steak house or jazz club. The wave of change that’s swept this small city in the past quarter-century has been a lot to get used to, but one would be hard pressed to find a Beaconite in mourning for the Main Street of the previous millennium.

“Our old mayor, Randy [Casale], used to say a parking problem is when you can roll a bowling ball down Main Street and not hit a car,” says Guzijan. “Now we have thousands of people walking past the front door of every business every weekend. Most of us who’ve been here a while are like, ‘This is great. Build more!’ We’re reaping the benefits of a lot of hard groundwork that was done back in the 1980s and `90s. Men like my dad did the heavy lifting—the code enforcement, insisting that the first floor of a Main Street building had to be commercial, buying the old places and fixing them up.”

“I grew up alongside Beacon,” says Murnane, born in 1995. “I think my second grade class was the first to visit the Dia museum. My mother opened our family business in 2006, and I really got to expand my horizons right along with the city’s. There are growing pains—a lot of people feel priced out of Main Street, and there’s some righteously earned culture shock. There’s been a lot of turnover—we’re one of the older businesses on Main Street now—and a fair number of people are buying here to take advantage of our perceived boom. What emerges is that your success depends on being invested in the community, the everyday residents—if you’re not making them happy, the 48 hours of the weekend just isn’t going to cut it. And let’s think hard about the environment, please—every time I see another development planned, another tree come down, I worry. ”

The Beacon Scene

“A lot of Main Street appeals to the 20- and 30-somethings, people who like arcade games and organic kombucha,” says Murmane. “At the same time, the Yankee Clipper Diner has been serving since 1946. The good people who’ve moved here want to become part of the community, and the quickest way to do that is to understand where we came from and what used to be where you’re standing. You see a lot of new businesses paying some sort of respect to the businesses that were there before them. And the Historical Society plaques that they give to homes over 100 years old are popular. Newcomers who get invested and enchanted that way go a long way toward keeping this place cohesive and thriving.”

Nilufer Goodson and Addison Goodson inside the recently opened Turkish restaurant, Nilufer’s Home Kitchen.

The mile-long Main Street stretching from the riverfront parks to the foot of Mount Beacon is packed with treats of all sorts. A Little Beacon Blog, a frequently updated guide, lists over 30 clothing shops, 25 home goods and lifestyle stores, and good-sized handfuls of other retail categories, from books and records to flowers, cigars, pet supplies, and beef jerky. Lists of coming events, classes and activities for all ages are equally long and various; from art to Zumba, you can find Beaconites enjoying all the things.

Dining and drinking choices are so plentiful and diverse that A Little Beacon Blog lists these in three sections for West, Middle and East and has broken out a second list just for brunch spots. The restaurant guide, they explain, changes daily.

The Beacon Real Estate Market

Charlotte Guernsey of Gate House Realty has been selling homes here since 1998, and says the steady upward trend shows no signs of slowing. “Stuff is moving regardless of interest rates, we get a lot of cash buyers, prices are higher than ever, and inventory’s still low,” she says. “A well-designed house in turnkey shape, we’ve got buyers lined up waiting for those. We had a bidding war last week for a well-remodeled place that was around the $2 million mark, and people were coming out of the woodwork with cash offers.”

Her best advice? “Pay attention to the factors you can’t control, like your views and your zoning,” she says. “Don’t sweat over anything you can fix, and buy for potential.”

Michael Johnson recently opened Moreish, an English food stall, at the Hudson Valley Food Hall.

There were 50 homes listed in Beacon at press time. An updated three-bedroom mobile home could be had for $125,000; a three-bedroom ranch on a quarter acre, with a generous porch and updated kitchen was offered for $325,000, and a three-bedroom condo at Beacon Landing for $425,000.

At the other end of the spectrum, a 4,559-square-foot loft in a former silk factory on the Fishkill Creek featuring 20-foot ceilings and hand-carved pillars and beams could be had for $1,950,000—assuming the bidding wars don’t get out of hand. True to Guernsey’s theory of what cannot be changed, distance from Main Street seemed to be a major factor in the desirability equation. 

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