There is certainly no shortage of ethnic food stores in the Hudson Valley, but for the most part, they offer exotic Hispanic produce or Asian specialties. Jolly's Good Grub, located in the heart of Saugerstock (the local name for the area between Saugerties and Woodstock), is one of the few deli and gourmet shops offering British goods such as teas, candies, preserves, meat pies, pastries, and others. "There are a lot of people who are aware of what makes for quality European food and they are glad to find it here," says co-owner Helen Wells. "We carry items from Scotland, Wales, New Zealand, Ireland, and most other countries where English is the primary language, plus a few Indian delicacies—British people love Indian foods."
Wells, along with wife Lucinda, are both originally from England. They lived in Manhattan for several years before eventually moving up to Saugerties full time. "We were drawn to the area for its peace and quiet," Wells says. "And there's plenty of quiet here." At first, they rented the lower half of the house to tenants, but when the lease ended, the couple decided to open up a shop. About five years ago, Jolly's was up and running. "After our last tenant left, we didn't want to rent again, so we started selling deli foods," Wells explains. "Eventually, we began offering more and more English foods and grocery products."
The hard-to-find selection draws a combination of curious passersby and destination shoppers. "We'll see lots of customers who are just interested to see what we offer, and they'll 'Oooh' and 'Ahh' and say, 'This reminds me of when I was a kid!' But then others will have heard of us and come from a distance," Wells says. "And since we have quality imported foods, we get a lot of repeat customers."
The Wellses haven't been back to England in several years, but they enjoy sharing a bit of their heritage as a part of daily life. Rather than looking at it as an exciting new enterprise, the couple finds the shop to be a rather low-key undertaking. "I think owning a business is exciting when you're younger, but once you get to a certain age, you start to take life at a more leisurely pace—and I'm certainly at that age," Helen Wells says. "Of course, we endure the same challenges as everyone else, with the recession making things a little harder, but it's something we enjoy doing, and we plan to keep at it as long as we can."