The Rural We: Matthew White
Photo by Andrea Labshere
Hillsdale General Store owner Matthew White dubs his hamlet “world class but low key” because of its convenient location to East Coast cities and the unique community of people who live here. Originally a weekender, White is a serious “preservationist” who saw potential in an old dilapidated building in the village square, and opened the Hillsdale General Store, which will celebrate its third year in business on October 15. White’s passion for the town he lives and works in is contagious, and it only grows as more and more people discover what’s so special about Hillsdale.
I moved to Hillsdale 10 years ago after being a weekender for some time. I didn’t specifically choose Hillsdale, it was more that I fell in love with a piece of land and decided to live there. While I still run an interior design business in NYC, I am almost always here. It was a fairly typical small town when I first moved here, but a lot of things have happened since then. There’s a very active volunteer community, to which I attribute a huge part of the town’s energy.
The hamlet of Hillsdale had recently been named a National Historic District, which is actually quite difficult to achieve and it’s a big deal to be recognized. That has its advantages for someone like me. The general store building was built in 1855 and was serving as a video store when I bought it. The purchase came about a little by insanity, a little by passion. I wasn’t looking to open a new business, but I’m a very passionate preservationist, and I saw this old building that was just about falling down. Since I couldn’t restore the building and have it just sit there, I created the general store. Opening a new businesses is a big risk but I felt supported by the community in a way I might not have in other towns. There are two other businesses under my roof — Crossroads Food Shop and Boxwood Linen — which create a synergistic energy; we’re all about local. I attracted David Wurth, the owner of Crossroads, to Hillsdale because he wanted to open a restaurant in the Hudson Valley, and Crossroads in turn created a spark that brought other businesses to the area.
I’m crazy about the whole Roe-Jan region. Our farmers’ market has joined up with Copake this year, and it’s been pretty incredible. On weekends, sometimes 700 people show up! And the terrain is just so beautiful. This time of year, with the leaves, it’s like fireworks. You turn a corner and it’s just… wow. My new Robin Hood Radio show is called The Shape Of Things, and I read short stories I’ve written based on the region. It allows me to talk about the many things I love about this area.
My motto for Hillsdale is “world class, but low key” because it’s not the Hamptons; there’s a different kind of vibe among residents that’s very intellectual and curious. More and more people are discovering it and more businesses are opening here. In another five years, our buildings on Main Street will be restored and utilized. When people risk opening a business, it’s so exciting because it shows they’re invested and have a commitment to our town.
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