One Woodstock institution in the process of adjustment is the Woodstock Playhouse, an indoor-outdoor theater at the intersection of Routes 375 and 212. In February, the Playhouse received a foreclsoure notice after it had fallen about a year behind on its mortgage. The Playhouse, which is the second structure of that name to be built on the site (the first was the oldest continuously operated summer stock theater until it burned down in 1988), seemed doomed to close. In November, however, the New York Conservatory for the Arts (NYCA), a Hurley-based cultural organization, received a $700,000 loan from the Catskill Watershed Corporation to purchase the property. NYCA plans to enclose the open-air structure, along with making other improvements to the site that will ensure its longevity as a landmark.
Some of Woodstock’s popular shops have been around long enough to have seen the changes that come with increased tourism, new blood, and modernization. Dharmaware Gallery of Sacred Arts, established by practicing Tibetan Buddhist Erik Holmlin in Manhattan’s West Village in 1976, relocated to Woodstock almost 26 years ago. He describes his colorful shop as a reflection of his life’s interests, travels, and studies. “Woodstock is a vibrant community that still has owner-operated stores, each store being a creative act,” Holmlin explains. “If you shop in a local store, 90 to 100 percent of that money is circulated within the community; if you spend that same dollar at box stores like Target, pennies go to the community. Shop on the Internet and zero goes into the community. It’s critical that we patronize local businesses, or it’ll be a far cry from our vision of Woodstock in years past. The main challenge running a business here is the long winter.”
The Garden Café appeared in 2006, when chef Pam Brown discovered there was no vegetarian restaurant in Woodstock. “That was a surprise to me, based on the town’s progressive reputation,” she muses. “Our menu reflects our concerns about food quality, individual and global health, the environment, and the treatment of animals. The work is financially challenging in these economic times; however, my purpose is deeper than just making money. It’s incredibly satisfying to be able to serve this community and see the changes.”
The Saturday Mowers flea/farm market has operated in the heart of town, in a field behind Bread Alone on Maple Lane, for 33 years, successfully adding Sundays and Wednesdays to its schedule just a few years ago. The land has been in the Mower family for over 100 years. “The first 10 years of the market were met with some store owner resistance,” says Janine Mower, “but it’s been accepted by the business community as a ‘value added’ to the Woodstock experience. The farmers market has become a popular gathering place for locals to socialize and purchase fresh, healthy foods. Tourists mainly visit on weekends. The Wednesday traffic appears to be mainly locals, with a few day-trippers thrown in for variety. Visitors to Woodstock either begin or end their visit at the flea market.”