Wander off the beaten path in Saugerties, tuck into this modern but down-to-earth general store and café, and plan to stay a while.
When people enter Olsen & Company for the first time, one of the things they tend to ask co-owner Marianne Olsen is if she’s new to the Hudson Valley. When she tells them that she grew up in Woodstock and raised her family in Saugerties, “they’re kind of surprised by that,” she admits.
Maybe it’s because Olsen & Company has the sleek, sophisticated look of other high-end general stores and eateries run by NYC transplants that have popped up all over the region. But Olsen and her two business partners—daughter Elizabeth and niece Janelle—have been running the business since 2017, when it operated out of a small space on Partition Street that could only seat a handful of people.
“When we opened, we sold a good number of local groceries and obviously we wanted to have good specialty coffee,” recalls Olsen. The pantry items included butter, eggs, and milk, along with dry goods like pasta, sauces, and crackers. They also started cooking and serving food, including sandwiches and baked goods. Two years later, Olsen & Company moved to their current and larger location—a renovated carriage house on Jane Street. “We also wanted to serve wine and beer and be open at night,” says Olsen. And although she initially worried that being on a side street might be bad for foot traffic, “we had no problem at all,” she adds.
That’s thanks to the food. “Our concept here is clean, fresh, and organic if we can get it. Clean is a very big deal to us,” explains Olsen. That means no artificial flavorings, preservatives, or added sugars. But it also means simple food that tastes authentic, like the café’s roasted chicken sandwich. Or the best-selling breakfast sandwich made with pasture-raised eggs, microgreens, and pesto mayo served on local bread. Or their famous homemade chicken salad.
This commitment to good, simple dishes comes from Olsen’s background as a caterer and private chef. Among her clients were the nearby recording studios. “When I started working with the studios, I was so nervous about cooking for a big music artist. I would always wonder, ‘Are they going to like my food? They probably want something really fancy,’” she recalls. But she’d prepare something simple and, “it would be successful.”
“We have really high standards when it comes to feeding people,” admits Olsen, adding that everything on the menu is something the women would eat themselves. And that extends to the groceries in the cooler and on the shelves, where you can find everything from staples like bread, eggs, cheese, and milk to jams and honey, pesto, fermented hot sauces, and olives. Most of the goods come from local farms or makers, like Hawthorne Valley sauerkraut, beer from West Kill Brewery, and skin care products from Fat of the Land. Coffee beans are sourced from roasteries including No. Six Depot in the Berkshires. Occasionally Olsen and her partners find items that fit their criteria that come from farther away, like the Spring & Mulberry date-sweetened organic chocolate bars from Raleigh, North Carolina.
All the eating, coffee drinking, and shopping takes place in a light, airy space with plenty of places to sit at the counter or at one of the cafe tables. While the pandemic squashed plans to be open Thursday through Saturday nights, there is now a happy hour on Friday nights with small cheese plates to go along with the beer, hard cider, and wine. Olsen & Company has also hosted several Sunday Suppers this year and plans to do more of these three-course dinners—so be on the lookout for those as well as more daily specials and baked goods on the menu. But whatever they serve, “we just want to cook and let people come in and eat. We just love it so much,” says Olsen.