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Housebound for Thanksgiving

Housebound for Thanksgiving, I am anxious to get out and cover some uncharted territory for this column.  Even though Times Journal columnist Patty Fagin had beat me to the punch, I head toward The Pioneer, a new eatery blessed with a Halloween opening in historic Esperance.  Proprietors Matt and Cheryl Brucker take obvious pride in their new space in the former Elm Hotel on Main Street, next-door to the popular Quit Bug.  The restaurant is standing-room-only when I arrive with a group for the Landis Arboretum, each of us anxious to eat and to have a place to recommend to the increasing number of visitors to Landis each month.

The Bruckers are 20-year residents of nearby Charleston.  “Matt always wanted to run a restaurant,” says Cheryl.  Matt affirms his wife’s statement with a quick smile thrown from the organized hubbub of the kitchen.  Each of us knows someone else there and soon we are part of the casual cross-current of conversation. Most are congratulating re-elected Esperance Town Supervisor Earl Van Wormer and catching up on events with his always-amiable wife Charmayne.  Soon we are sitting beside them – a table of five – and in short order we are munching with pleasure.

Serving a wide array of breakfast and lunch offerings on Mondays Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays (7 AM – 2 PM), Pioneers extends its hours on Fridays and Saturdays (7 to 7) to include value-priced dinners starting as low as $7.99.  The Pioneers is down-right friendly and available for private parties. Although there is no bar (at present), Cheryl and Matt offer fresh soup and desserts du jour, take-out, delicious coffee, and great gathering place whether one lives around the corner or is just passing through.  Pioneers, 163-1 Main Street. Esperance.  518-875-6699.

Within a Schoharie minute, I’m crossing the bridge into Middleburgh.  Esperance caterer Dottie Gallo-Vojar (Sweet Tooth Caterers) extracted a promise that I would visit recently opened Sweet Temptations, on that town’s Main Street.  While waiting for the light to change I catch a hurried glimpse at the stately homes along River Street to my left and imagine living there – without the heating bills.  In minutes, I’m talking with proprietor Heather Vilegi, whose husband Richard owns the handsome Middleburg Hardware next door.  As we speak, I make a mental note to tell you about the multi-sized apothecary jars filled with everything from assorted candies such as chocolate covered blueberries and cranberries to amaretto/tiramisu and champagne cordials, and rich selections nuts and raisons.  All, of course, beautifully showcased.  Sweet Temptations offers espressos, cappuccinos, lattes, smoothies, teas, whole bean coffees, gift baskets, home-made pastries, and made-to-order pies (although Heather pleads for a break from pie-making following a hectic Thanksgiving season).

Leaving the shop, I walk along the main thoroughfare.  I recall how before I migrated to the area I would leave NYC at 4 a.m. to be at M&J Restaurant for breakfast to ask people questions about the region. M&J has since moved to the other side of the street next to PJ’s Ice Cream & Burrito Shop.  I drop into Mrs. K’s Kitchen, admire the new library building, see that the Middleburgh Gym has new digs, note that Kelly’s Grill – the only place I could find a satisfying sandwich one late night – is still in swing, that St. Mark’s Church was prettier than ever, that Pasta and Grille has joined Hubie’s as a local eatery, that the windows of The Conglomerate and The Everything are as interesting as always, that Wayman’s Antiques seems to have a new lease on life – and above all, that Middleburgh’s Main beat is bustling with foot traffic and shoppers.  When I asked about what I perceived as positive change, several people pointed me to an upscale but folksy retail outlet on the block called Home Fires Home Accessories Marketplace (308 Main), which shares space with Magee Realty.  There I speak with enthusiastic realty agent Kristin Turon, a licensed Magee Realty salesperson and a resident of Greenville, who loves working in the Middleburgh office.  She leads me into a discussion of Middleburgh’s Community Partners Program.

Like a quick breeze, Debbie Magee enters the shop. We meet.  “I would love to talk,” she tells me, “but I have an appointment for lunch. Before I run, I can tell you that when I was younger I could not wait to get away from here.  Just as strongly, I wanted to come back.  When I returned to the area about four years ago, I saw instantly that it needed care and focus.  I worked to create the Community Partners Program. The results already are apparent.  More and more people are coming here – to live and to bring their business or establish one in our town.  We’re proud of our combined efforts as neighbors, friends, and business people.” As they should be.

As you’re shopping local this season, be sure to re-visit Middleburgh and Esperance.  You’ll be happy you did.  A lot is happening everyday and some of it is, quite frankly, picture perfect.


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