The Pulse

Business deals: A hybrid taxi debuts in New Paltz, and the Poughkeepsie Area Chamber of Commerce hits the century mark. PLUS Shop Talk

The Pulse


Driving Home a Point

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An Ulster County taxi company is saving the ozone layer, one fare at a time



No matter which side you’re on in the global-warming debate, the trend towards “going green” seems to be here to stay. From recycling newspapers and eating locally grown foods to installing energy-efficient systems in their homes, many Valley residents are doing their part to minimize their environmental “footprint.”

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The latest Valley firm to hop on the go-green bandwagon is Joey’s Taxi and Transportation Company in New Paltz. Last December, owner Joseph DiBlanca introduced the newest member of his fleet: a 2006 Toyota Prius, the Valley’s first hybrid taxicab. Festooned with flowers and peace signs, the four-door hatchback sedan should get a whopping 60 miles to the gallon around town, says Manager Mike Ennis. “Basically, it’s a combination of an electric and a fuel-oil powered automobile. The combination enables it to be very economical on fuel consumption.”


Both economics and environmentalism played a part in the decision to purchase the hybrid cab. “As a taxi company, our fuel bills have been going up and up. And watching the news, we’re always hearing about the dangers of carbon dioxide emissions,” says Ennis. “And New Paltz is an environmentally sensitive area. So we felt it would be a win-win-win situation all around.”


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Driving the hybrid car “takes some getting used to,” according to Ennis. “You push a button to start the electric motor, and the auto shift is on the dashboard. The gas part of the engine doesn’t kick in until you’ve gone a few miles, so you don’t hear the normal car noises. It’s weird, but it’s fun.”


Somewhat surprised that other local taxi companies have not already gone the hybrid-car route, Ennis is optimistic that the new vehicle will do more than just ferry folks around the Highland/New Paltz area. “Our objective has always been to provide reliable and safe transportation to our customers,” he says. “Our hope is that they’ll now see us as environmentally sensitive, too. Collectively, the country has to do something to be less dependent on fossil fuel. This is a step in that direction.”

 â€“ Polly Sparling


Shop Talk


Lavendar’s Blue

Wappingers Falls


Visiting Lavendar’s Blue in Wappingers Falls is like the ultimate adult-child playdate. Not only will you find fashionable clothes for infants and kids (up to size 8) at the colorful children’s boutique, but owners Maura O’Connell-Leonetti and Patricia O’Connell are so cheery and welcoming you immediately feel that you’re among old friends.


The 1,100-square-foot space overflows with cute, upscale clothing and accessories: onesies stamped with “Burpberry” or “Gucci Coo,” miniature Kenneth Cole leather jackets, and lullaby CDs with songs sung in languages from around the world. The idea for the store, which opened last Father’s Day, was borne out of the sisters’ frustration with their inability to find unique, trendy clothes at affordable prices for their children (Julia, two and Carrick, five). “Shopping down in the Village and in SoHo, we would find the greatest things. But locally, all you have is Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus down in Westchester,” says Pat. “We really wanted to have a store where local moms could find stylish, well-made clothes at better prices than the expensive department stores.”


The majority of their eclectic merchandise — which ranges from bibs to chic diaper bags, designer sunglasses to Buggaboo strollers — is selected from manufacturers who use fair-trade principles or carry products that are strictly American-made. And not only do they have the right idea fashion-wise and ethically, but they make the kiddies feel right at home, too: a TV set up next to the comfy couch in the back corner plays Disney DVDs.

“Customers are pleasantly surprised when they come to the shop. They love that we have things for boys,” says Maura. “And kids love it here.” — Elizabeth Stein


Lavendar’s Blue. 946 Rte. 376, Suite 3, Wappingers Falls. Open Mon.-Tues. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Thurs.-Fri. 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. 845-227-3329 or


Cuddly Critters

These wacky stuffed toys are shaped like 10 different animals, including a lobster and a hedgehog $42 each



Cute and Colorful

This all-wool Coco Bonbons coat has a matching faux-fur muff $92 coat $28 muff


Trendy Totes

Fully equipped: This diaper bag by Petunia Pickle Bottom has plenty of zippered pockets and compartments $157


For Your Tot’s Tootsies

These nonskid, cotton-blend socks for him and her look like miniature golf shoes $26 box of six pairs


Still Rockin’ After All These Years

Pawling’s Towne Crier Café celebrates 35 years as a matchless musical showcase


Opening night, November 21, 1972. Just three years after Woodstock. A new music venue called Towne Crier Café, equal parts coffeehouse and hippie hangout, opens its doors in a former general store and stagecoach stop in Beekman. The first act: the Wretched Refuse String Band.


Not exactly Crosby, Stills, and Nash.


But a few weeks later, when an obscure English folksinger’s car broke down on the way to the gig, the club hosted the first of many more-celebrated performers. “This singer was friends with Pete Seeger,” owner Phil Ciganer remembers. “He hooked us up with Pete. So, by accident, in walks Mr. Folksinger himself. No one complained.”


And there have been few complaints in the 35 years since. In an industry where clubs come and go with the latest musical fad, the Towne Crier has a history that’s hard to match anywhere in the country.


The club was a hit early on. “People came out because it was the only venue of its type in the Valley,” Ciganer says. “They were curious.” And they were treated to some fine music. Ciganer, a former Wall Street trader, would seek out talent himself. “I designed the place in 1972 to be a place I wanted to go to. I ask myself, would I pay to see this person? If the answer is only maybe, I pass.”


Over the years, his taste has proved impeccable. Such performers as Leon Redbone, Suzanne Vega, and Shawn Colvin served as opening acts before they became household names. A teenage Béla Fleck ventured up from New York City to hone his banjo chops. These days, Ciganer loves playing musical matchmaker. “Pat Metheny and John Scofield came to me and asked to play together,” he says. “David Byrne and Richard Thompson collaborated. Just last week, John Sebastian was here, and Paul Shaffer jumped up on stage to do some old Lovin’ Spoonful. Then Will Lee from David Letterman’s band hopped up. That’s just what happens here all the time.”


Making a living in the music business is tough, Ciganer admits. He moved the club to its current, more spacious location near Pawling 19 years ago. The coffeehouse fare evolved to fine dining. European-trained Chef Erich Panhofer and Pastry Chef Mary Ciganer offer cuisine that’s a far cry from the herbal tea and brownies of the ’70s.


“The key to survival is that the club has adjusted with the times,” Ciganer says. And even though he has “broken 60,” he has adjusted as well. “Sometimes I ask myself how I could be doing it this long,” he admits, “but when people come out of the club walking on air, looking at me with joy in their eyes, I know why I am doing it.” — David Levine




For a full century, the Poughkeepsie Area Chamber
of Commerce has been boosting local business



Surviving to your 100th birthday is no small feat. The Poughkeepsie Area Chamber of Commerce reached that milestone last November 20, the centennial anniversary of the organization’s very first meeting.


Created to help the local economy grow and prosper, the business networking group started out in 1907 with 312 charter members, some of whom — Zimmer Brothers Jewelers, Marshall & Sterling Insurance, and Central Hudson — are still going strong. The group’s first president was William W. Smith, one of the Smith Brothers of cough-drop fame (the company made their trademark lozenges in the area all the way up until 1972). Originally called the Poughkeepsie Chamber of Commerce, the group added the word “area” in 1960 to reflect the booming business activity taking place throughout Dutchess and the surrounding counties. Today, the chamber boasts 1,600 member organizations — ranging from local farms and small businesses to high-tech manufacturing firms — located throughout the Hudson Valley region.


Last November’s fête also celebrated another anniversary: the 567th Contact Breakfast, which the chamber has held monthly since 1959. “There have been some lapses here and there,” says Tammy Cilione, the group’s vice president of communications. “But we’ve had a breakfast almost every month since then. We’re really known for that, we’re the first chamber to do it.” These early-morning get-togethers are always well-attended and informative, according to Cilione. “We have at least 250-plus people at every event. There’s kind of a casual business feel to them. People network, and we have keynote speakers who provide relevant information. And our older members help new people get used to the culture of the chamber.”


Highlights of the birthday bash included a keynote address by New York Senator Charles Schumer, and a cake contest (featuring entries baked by the Culinary Institute, as well as local bakeries La Deliziosa and the Pastry Garden). Congratulations to the Chamber for a “job well done.” — P.S.



Lozenge luminary: William Smith (inset) of Smith Brothers Cough Drops was the Chamber’s first preside


Folk’s in the family: Towne Crier owner
Phil Ciganer (right) with son Grayson, 14


Street-wise: Joseph DiBlanca shows off his company’s new hybrid taxicab nt. Above: A well-attended “smoker” meeting at the Columbia Institute in 1910

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