On the western shore of Cayuga Lake on Route 89, a landmark business is showing signs of life again. Sitting vacant with giant realty signs and empty parking lots for the past year, the village had become a ghost town – a sad sight for all who remembered its former glory.
But look a little closer. The signs are gone. Plans are being made. A few vehicles come and go. Small repairs are underway. From freshly painted posts and rails to a beer garden with a café kitchen, this sleeping giant is stirring. With its finger on the pulse of a changing community, amidst a mecca of visitors enticed by the pristine beauty of the Finger Lakes and its wine country, the Shops at Traders Village is rising. Life in the Finger Lakes caught up with brothers Peter and John Arena – the owners – to find out just what they’re up to.
What’s the history of Traders Village?
John: Our father and mother opened it in 1997 as a place where the Amish and other local vendors could sell their wares. Over the years it evolved into a variety of different things, but we’re bringing it back to our father’s original dream. It’s exciting and kind of cool.
Like the original, it will be a farm and craft market along with vendors, artists and collectibles. We’re hoping that many small farmers will see it as a great venue in which to market their fresh produce every week, especially since other markets have become fully booked or hard to get into. In addition to “the shops,” we’ll also have a beer garden and café.
You have a craft yourself, is that right?
John: Yeah, I’ve been building tables for a little over a year. I make tables from reclaimed barn wood. I’ve been selling them online, and have sold them all over the United States, but that’s another reason I’m kind of excited about the shops; I will be displaying my tables here. I think that a lot of crafters share the same feeling that I do. When it’s your passion and you dream about creating something and being able to share it with other people, it’s nice to sell online. And it can be profitable to sell online, but there’s nothing like sharing it with the person that’s in front of you, one on one, and seeing their excitement about your product. That’s going to be fun for me to do, and I’m really excited about all these other crafters that will have the opportunity to build their business and share their passion.
Tell me how you came up with the name Boathouse Beer Garden.
Peter: There are several buildings on the property, and John, our sister JoAnne and I were all trying to decide how we would use the property. We had already intended to use some of the large buildings for boat storage. We put the beer garden in the first of one of three matching red buildings in the front, where most of the Traders Village activity will take place. It’s a very long building, so we’ll serve local craft beers in the café on one side, and display antique boats on the other side. We moved the parking back to open up a large space in front, where visitors can sit down and enjoy the view of the lake, relax and stay nice and cool in the shade.
What kinds of boats will you be displaying?
Peter: Well, nothing too large, but the 20 or 22 footers that were seen on the lakes in this area. We have a boat building tradition in this area. Penn Yan used to manufacture beautiful wooden boats, and then there’s Morehouse Boats up here on the north end of Cayuga Lake. I’m no expert, but I have an appreciation for boats and boatbuilding.
You’re not an expert? Didn’t you used to build yachts?
Peter: (laughing) Yes, I was the lead project manager for a yacht-building firm in Louisiana, and we manufactured large boats, nothing like what we’re going to have on display. They were known as “mega yachts,” the kind of boats we never see around here. But yeah, I was in the boat building business.
So where will the boats come from?
Peter: This wonderful turn of events happened when I contacted the Finger Lakes Boating Museum in Hammondsport. They have an enormous quantity of antique boats, most of which are not even on display. They’re at the warehouse. And I contacted them to see if they’d be interested in having some of their boats on display at our location. They were very enthusiastic, and we are now preparing to be the Cayuga Lake chapter of the Finger Lakes Boating Museum. So that’s pretty cool.
That’s very cool! So let’s talk food a bit. You are vegetarian, is that right? How will that affect the menu at your café?
Peter: I’m a dietary vegan. I don’t eat meat. I don’t eat dairy, and I try to avoid processed foods.
And what do you intend to offer?
Peter: I’m working with Mary Reed from Tastes of Wine Country to come up some interesting menu ideas, including vegan-based foods, but the Finger Lakes have some wonderful cheeses that I’d like to offer along with locally-crafted beers and, of course, Finger Lakes wines. The other thing is ciders. We have world-class cideries in the area, using one of the great assets of New York State – apples.
When do you anticipate pouring your first beer?
Peter: On April 18. Then perhaps we’ll have a grand opening a couple of months later, around Memorial Day.
How many farmers and vendors do you anticipate?
John: We have 70 booths indoors where vendors can leave their set-up on a permanent basis so they can just come and open up each week. Then we have another 40 or 50 booths under the large porch. So those will be available for crafts and produce. And we’ve got a lot of room for tents and stuff like that, so we’ve got a lot of room to grow.
So of all these spaces, how many would you like to fill with food vendors?
John: A lot of them. Food and shopping go hand in hand, and while we intend to have traditional things like ice cream, hot sandwiches and popcorn, we’d really like to attract vendors who focus on fruits and vegetables, gourmet sandwiches, smoothies, super foods – things like that. It would also be great to have some gourmet local coffees, fresh baked goods, loose tea, yerba mate, that sort of thing. Most of the visitors here are tourists from all over the world, so the more food choices the better. How cool would it be if the vendors could come in the morning, pick up some produce outside and fire up their blender under the porch selling smoothies and fresh salads? Or pick up some fresh local grass fed beef or bison, go to their booth and make burgers to sell for lunch?
That is cool. So you and Peter; will you be at each other’s throats?
John: No. (laughing) We get along great … he’s bigger than me … I’m afraid of him.
Traders Village will be open on Saturdays through December, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. beginning on April 18.
6128 Route 89, Romulus, New York
story and photos by Mary Joslyn