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Photos by The Hunter Houses

Paracasa Is Not Your Average Catskills General Store

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Upscale provisions shops have been popping up in small towns across the region. Check out the latest hotspot in the Catskills.

Hensonville, a tiny hamlet in the shadow of Windham Mountain in Greene County, has plenty of rugged nature. But with a population of just 295, retail has been sparse. If year-rounders or weekenders felt the urge for a cup of good coffee or fixings for a charcuterie board, they had to hop in the car and go to Catskill or Hudson.

Paracasa

But thanks to Paracasa, which opened at the end of last summer, that’s changing. The shop offers a fresh take on Ye Olde General Store, updated for our more sophisticated times. Tinned fish? Check. Za’atar spice blend? Yup. Wagyu beef? They’ve got it. A vintage tablecloth and hand-poured tapers to liven up a party? Ready and waiting.

Paracasa is the brainchild of a quintet of creatives: Danielle and Ely Franko, plus Brian MacArthur, who runs the Hunter Houses rental properties, and their pals, Michelin-starred chefs (and frequent upstate visitors) Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske, who helm Contra and Wildair in NYC’s Lower East Side.

The road to Paracasa started in 2016. The then NYC-based Frankos (he’s a computer programmer by trade; she, a dermatology physician assistant) had bought a weekend house in Tannersville that was in less-than-mint condition. With a heavy assist from YouTube tutorials, they dug into rehabbing it.

coffee and cake

Soon, they started Airbnbing the spruced-up home, with Instagram helping to spread the word. Their hideaway was quickly booked solid, and so they moved to the Catskills full time. Joining forces with their “creator of opportunities,” MacArthur, they snapped up a couple of other homes to renovate. Working with all things natural—wood and plants everywhere, a woven hammock by a sunny window, nubby neutral rugs underfoot—they built the Hunter Houses mini empire of rental homes.

Loving the nooks and crannies of the Hudson Valley and ready to step up their game, the team moved on to a bigger undertaking: an as-yet-unnamed, 12,000-square-foot inn in Hensonville, set to open sometime this year. A business partnership with chefs Stone and von Hauske unfolded from their decades-long friendship; the two chefs are engineering a restaurant to anchor the new inn.

goods for the home

But through all this, there was a frequent unmet need among Airbnb guests that kept nagging at the Hunter Houses team: There was no place nearby to get good provisions. “If you were looking for a happy hour cheese spread, it was always a struggle,” says MacArthur. “Our guests were typically from the city; they were accustomed to high-quality ingredients and willing to pay for them.” Locals also craved a place to buy something special to punch up a meal.

The idea of a larder-cum-housewares shop took hold, and when a storefront a stone’s throw from the inn-in-progress became available to rent, they jumped.

What they dreamed up was a new link in the chain of modern general stores stretching across the Hudson Valley—think the Golden Russet in Rhinebeck and Otto’s in Germantown. Dubbed Paracasa (“for home” in Spanish), the space has the Hunter Houses stamp on its antique interior. “We really like natural materials, good lighting, and ton of plants,” says Danielle. “This was our first time using ancient limewashing techniques to give the walls texture, and Ely had a crazy idea for the counter. It’s now a statement piece that anchors that side of the store.” The counter’s you-have-to-touch-this look comes from glazed zellige tiles, a handmade style that originated in Morocco.

Chefs von Hauske and Stone then began stocking from their secret sources, offering what they felt would be ideal for an upstate dinner party or a lakeside picnic. “We’ve been working with a lot of purveyors who have products for restaurants and rarely work in retail,” says Stone. “It was important to offer things that real chefs use and that are not overpriced or complicated. We’ve tapped into our network to get custom oils, maple syrups, spices, and more.”

The Paracasa team recently opened Day June, a cozy luncheontette right next door.

The Paracasa team recently opened Day June, a cozy luncheonette right next door.

A self-serve olive oil station has been a huge hit, and the cheese and charcuterie section is a cocktail hour go-to. Some offerings are local, like the peppers and plums from a farm down the road, but other items have well-stamped passports. The wagyu beef comes from New Mexico, the Kas apple soda (Danielle’s favorite) from Spain, and the Comté cheese hails from France.

Chef Stone suggests customers make a beeline for the yuzu olive oil and the Pyscis tinned seafood, which he deems “a no-brainer. It’s the purest essence of a Spanish ‘conserva,’” (or the canned seafood delicacies that are a world away from the sardines and tuna we know here).

Rounding out the wares are home goods that Danielle and Ely collect. She admits to not being able to pass up a good vintage picnic basket, which are stocked next to well-curated cutlery, pepper grinders, and geometric-patterned potholders, as well as some personal-care items.

While the team behind Paracasa clearly has elevated tastes, there is something for everyone. The shop aims to be a Hensonville hub. “It’s wonderful to be right on the main street of a small town, and see how everyone here has adopted us, watched us work, and cheered us on,” says Danielle. “Whatever you need, even if it’s just coffee and a cookie—we’re here for you.”


Related: Angie’s Bake Shop & Café Delights in Cold Spring

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week is back this April 8-21!