CATSKILL — In the midst of the COVID-19 public health crisis, a new business was scheduled to open its doors in the village Friday.
After more than a year in preparation, Catskill entrepreneurs Tim and Anna Graham and their friend Dave Snyder are sent to welcome patrons to Left Banks Ciders.
The cidery, located at 150 Water St., will be open from 4-10 p.m. on Fridays, 1-10 p.m. on Saturdays and 1-8 p.m. on Sundays, with weekday hours to follow.
“To say this is a strange and awkward moment to open a business is a vast understatement,” the Grahams said in an announcement. “Just when we were getting ready to open our doors this spring, a pandemic stopped everyone in their tracks.”
Tim Graham was drawn to Catskill, he said.
“I really love the town,” he said. “We had a really good opportunity to have something in this building.”
After Graham’s friend purchased the former Bottle Shop, Graham expressed interest in the cellar underneath.
“What an amazing cellar, we thought,” he said. “This would be an amazing cider cellar. This is like a wine cave.”
The business is poised to open in a COVID-world, Graham said.
“We transitioned a lot of our energy to outside seating,” he said. “We made this nice outside patio. We’re doing everything we can do to encourage people to be outside, social distancing. All the tables are measured to be six feet apart. We want to be conscientious of the virus and open as safely as we can.”
“It’s a good thing they’re opening,” Catskill Local Development Corporation President Joseph Kozloski said. “They’ve been working on getting things together for quite awhile.”
Left Banks approached the LDC about its Project 90 program, in which the corporation supports new businesses by paying for their first three months rent, Kozloski said.
“That’s normally the toughest time for businesses, when they’re trying to get clientele started,” he said.
The LDC also offers low-interest loans, typically at 3%, for businesses looking to open, Kozloski said,
“The LDC is here to help them and any other business that would like to come to Catskill,” he said. “We’re here to help businesses grow in the village.”
Greene County announced an emergency loan program for small businesses affected by the pandemic in April. Two types of emergency loans are available: one for small businesses with 10 employees or fewer, to retain or restore those employees, and another for microenterprise businesses with five employees or fewer, to help hire new employees. Both loan options have zero interest and no payments due for the first six months. The deadline was recently extended from June 30 until whenever the state of emergency is lifted or when funds run out, whichever comes first.
The county approved five of these emergency loans as of July 1, Greene County Economic Development and Planning Director Karl Heck said.
Left Banks will have seven of its original ciders on tap this weekend, Graham said.
“We have a cherry cider, some wild fermented cider, a low-alcohol cider,” he said. “We plan to have that list constantly changing and keep coming up with new flavors all the time.”
Patrons will be able to order flights to sample multiple ciders, Graham said.
In addition to the housemade cider, Left Banks will feature a selection of local beers, wines, ciders and other alcoholic beverages, all made in New York, and patrons can enjoy a beverage on the outdoor patio that overlooks the Catskill Creek.
The Grahams’ vision has been a work in progress.
“We began this brick-and-mortar project in earnest over a year ago, breaking ground on the cidery after years of small-scale, experimental cider-making,” according to the announcement. “Since then, we’ve been making cider, renovating our cellar, constructing a tasting room and figuring out how to start and run a business — becoming professional amateurs. This past fall we picked some 20,000 pounds of apples in the Catskills and made 1,000 gallons of cider from wild, uncultivated, unsprayed apples foraged from the trees of friends, neighbors and strangers alike.”
Graham has been making cider on a small scale for six years, but this is his first commercial endeavor.
The Grahams want their business to have a small-community feel with a global perspective.
“At one point in history, nearly every town in New York in proximity to apple trees had a cider house,” according to the announcement. “People got what they needed from their environment and used it to support a local economy. We want to be a part of that spirit, sourcing all our apples and juice from within an hour of our front doors. A year ago, we wanted to be a small, local cidery, but the events of the past year have re-emphasized that global problems are also deeply local problems. We open with the goal of becoming a welcoming place for all who seek company and camaraderie—and of course, cider. New York is a kingdom of apples, and Left Bank Ciders is a place to celebrate that abundance.”