Bakery, lunch stop, grocery store, bar, club, and soon-to-be brunch destination, Betty’s Snack Bar in Newburgh does it all. By day, Betty’s is a bakery and lunch place with a small grocery store inside, with plans to roll out brunch service starting August 26. By night, the space transforms into a bar.
The new business, which had its grand opening on July 15, is owned and operated by Doria Paci and Jim Mamary, long-time friends and business partners. Situated on Newburgh’s culinary thoroughfare, Liberty Street, in a few short weeks, Betty’s has already become part of the fabric of the local community. Paci has welcomed the friendly atmosphere in Newburgh as residents have welcomed her and her business. “From day one, when we started building, people in the community would be walking by and be like, ‘We can’t wait for you to open and we love what you’re doing!’” Paci remembers.
Paci and Mamary, who have backgrounds in food and hospitality, came up with the concept for Betty’s gradually. Paci had spent over two years visiting Newburgh weekly, and both had years of hospitality expertise to draw on. However, “We did not come to Newburgh being like, ‘Let’s go open a business.’ That was never the plan,” Paci says.
Both she and Mamary loved the Hudson Valley, but had struggled with convenience and accessibility issues; they were unable to get to even the smallest grocery store without driving. They found themselves looking around at their community and noticing a niche they could fill. “We were like, ‘What does this community need?’” Paci says. The initial concept for Betty’s was a grocery store and bar that would ideally be walkable for many residents.
They found their current space by coincidence—Mamary was driving around and noticed a “for sale” sign in the window of what used to be the Liberty Street Bistro. Two weeks later, they signed the lease. They inherited the coffee machines from the bistro, and decided to include a coffee shop in their plan. “It just kind of snowballed,” Paci recalls.
Paci and Mamary currently live full time in the Hudson Valley, mere blocks from each other, but they both have extensive experience owning restaurants and bars in the city. Raised in Wappingers Falls, Paci got her start in the industry by waitressing at Bananas Comedy Club in Poughkeepsie, which has since closed. She moved to the city in 1997 to attend Hunter College, and waitressed at multiple comedy clubs, bars, and restaurants. She used to own The Counting Room, a wine bar and cocktail lounge in Williamsburg. Mamary, born and raised in Brooklyn, was previously a restaurateur. “He’s restaurant and I’m bar,” Paci laughs.
Over time, both she and Mamary found themselves growing frustrated with the competitive nature of owning a business in the city. Everything was cutthroat, always having to one-up everyone around you and be prepared for imminent failure. “We both spent the last 20 years running places in the city and, and it kind of beat us down,” Paci explains. “In the previous places that I opened in the city, I've been like, ‘Okay, how is this going to be received?’ [There's] so much competition.”
The pair prefers the reception they’ve gotten from their new community members in the Hudson Valley; the positive feedback has allowed them to enjoy their work more than they have for a while. “There was a day when we used to enjoy [this work], and now we’re finally enjoying it again,” Paci says.
The market section of Betty’s, which occupies what used to be the Liberty Street Bistro’s dining room, was designed in the image of a New York bodega. They sell staples like eggs and milk, plus a range of chips, sodas, and coffee brands. Paci and Mamary only had to do cosmetic renovations on the space, removing tables, updating light fixtures, and redoing the decor in the bar. Now, you’ll find the space decked out with cowboy print wallpaper and red accent walls.
In the bakery section of Betty’s, their cookies are made with chocolate chips the size of dimes, their raspberry Linzer cookies are shaped like hearts, and their scones come in flavors such as almond nectarine, strawberry chocolate chip, and apple raisin. Every dessert in their sleek black and glass display case is referred to as “Ann’s homemade.” Ann Nickinson, who previously owned High Falls Kitchenette and a place in the city, is the head chef and bakes all of their pastry items fresh daily.
Betty’s extensive breakfast and lunch menus include dishes like a chicken Caesar salad sandwich ($10), spicy cold sesame noodles ($12), scrambled egg or beer-battered shrimp tacos ($11), and a lobster roll that will take two hands to pick up properly, served with a heaping portion of fries ($24).
The bar offerings, conversely, have started out sparingly as Betty’s finds permanent employees, but they plan to introduce a larger menu come September. They serve American craft beers from all around the country, as well as hard ciders, kombucha, and cocktails like watermelon margaritas.
Newburgh has been hit hard recently by the closing of several restaurant institutions, including Betty’s predecessor, Liberty Street Bistro. As Betty’s settles into the neighborhood, the store’s employees are excited to become the new local spot. “[We decided to] just open and, and have fun, and bring fun back to [this] business,” Paci says. “Come check us out!”