Woodstock's journey as a Destination began with the dawn of the 20th century and the founding of Byrdcliffe, outpost of the Arts and Crafts movement that arose to prevent industrialization from crushing the human spirit. Maverick Concerts and the Woodstock Artists Association soon followed. "Imagine this building as the first of a number of buildings that shall serve as a sort of summer home for all the arts," Maverick founder Hervey White told a New York Times reporter in 1916.
Fast forward to 2014: Nicolas Geeraerts is stoked. He and his partners, operating as Woodstock Commune, are spending somewhere between three and five million on their renovation of the Bearsville Theatre property, the legacy of legendary producer Albert Grossman. "I come from a background in high-end restaurants and hotels and I'm very excited to be able to revitalize a project with such great history," he says. "Of course, the Hudson Valley is booming—it's amazing what has been happening the last three to five years—and we hope to be part of that. And we're trying not to culture-shock the local followers. We want to maintain the legacy; it's a great legacy and a great local following. We only want to make it better."
Besides long-overdue building renovations, there will be an overall signal boost. "Our goal is to bring in a big market to the amazing music that exists: live recordings, maybe a record label, streaming concerts, YouTube," says Geeraerts. "On the food side, we want to do weekly farmers' markets and work closely with local farmers and CIA chefs. We want to create a weekend getaway where people can go and enjoy great food and music and get a great culinary and musical education."
Somewhere in Woodstock, somebody is sighing "There goes the neighborhood," but by the end of the 18-month project timeline, you can bet they'll likely have checked out the newly done-over patio and firepit with its boulder seating that graces the Commune Saloon (formerly the Petersen House) and maybe even sipped a Dylan's Mess signature cocktail.
New developments on the retail scene demonstrate countercultural roots grown to chic, sleek brilliance. Shop Little House, offering "supplies for modern pioneers," is informed by the aesthetic sensibilities of treasure-finder Jojo Ans, a topnotch photographer. There's a newly opened branch of Ecosystem, a shop full of exquisite things that don't hurt the planet. Artistry pervades the food scene, too, from fine dining to casual grab 'n' growl grub. The butcher shop has vegetarian offerings alongside the grass-fed beef. Shindig, the newest eatery, offers "thoughtful comfort food"—it's a café and burger joint brought to you by Ryan Giuliani, who's half of the stellar Manhattan-based Mary Giuliani Catering and Events.
Yet another new venture, this one the brainchild of Rebecca Schenker, aims to empower the attainable dreams of creatives of every stripe. Woodstock Works: The Visionaries Venue offers affordable professional space of all sorts, by the hour and for longer periods, and business counseling. Anything might happen, and it probably will.