Camp Kingston Is a Space for Food and Fun in Ulster County

Camp Kingston offers a little bit of everything—a café, bar, gaming room, and more—for those who are kids at heart.

Samuel Shapiro cherishes his childhood memories at his parents’ Camp Sequoia in Sullivan County. He was 11 when they sold the 75-year-old Rock Hill retreat, but those sweet summer days of campfires, crafts, and lasting friendships shaped him and inspired his new business venture.

Last November, Shapiro debuted Camp Kingston, a social gathering spot at 36 St. James Street. It’s a place to encourage exploration and a sense of belonging—like his family’s camp. “Through the process of self-discovery and thinking about what brings me joy, I came up with the idea of a space that’s community-oriented and accessible.”

Shapiro gives a lot of credit to his landlords, the Beichert family (owners of Timely Signs), who recently renovated the two-story Midtown building once occupied by a car dealership. “Paul and Jen gave us an incredible canvas to create our space, and they put so much love into this historic building,” he notes. “They deserve a huge amount of credit for why we were able to do everything so well.”

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People ordering food

The fun begins in Camp Kingston’s front room, a combined “mess hall” and mercantile where patrons purchase snacks like granola, chips, pickles, and more. You can linger over coffee and locally-made chocolate babka or a lemon-and-honey pie in the dining area.

Lunchtime visitors can order sandwiches (with bread from local spots like Kingston Bread + Bar) ranging from the Camp Turkey Hoagie with layers of turkey, provolone, pepper relish, and mayo served on a toasted semolina roll to a Veggie Sammie with mixed roasted veg, an olive and caper salad, purple slaw, and garlicky yogurt on focaccia. Later in the day, the space converts to a bar carrying a selection of Accordion Wines (in Accord), Graft Cider (Newburgh), cocktails, and five beers on tap, including ales from Industrial Arts in Beacon and Return Brewing in Hudson.

Pinball machines at Camp Kingston

Camp Kingston also features a backroom, which Shapiro calls the “canteen.” Here, you can meet up with friends to play vintage board games or try your hand at pinball and Pac-Man. A third room, with a pool table and gallery space, is designated as a studio. It’s stocked with art supplies for crafting and exploring new creative mediums. During the day, guests use the covered pool table as a big coworking space. Future plans for the studio include showcasing local artists’ works and serving as a pickup location for Foxtrot Farms’ Flower CSA.

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Shapiro says the reception from the community has surpassed his expectations. “The cherry on top is that we live in a city supportive of queer life, and people enjoy the safety of being here. As a queer business owner, I’ve never felt uncomfortable in Kingston, so this feels special to me. The most important thing is that this isn’t just my project. I may have been the one who came up with the idea—but the reason we’ve had such a warm welcome is because of all the people working here. Our baristas, cooks, bartenders, and everyone else come in with their own personalities and I’m trying to empower people,” he explains.

Camp Kingston bar

As for what’s next, Shapiro expects to offer a wide variety of additional programming—including outdoor recreation—but he says he’ll continue to look to his customers for direction. “I hope for Camp Kingston to evolve with our community and offer a space for creativity, curiosity, snacking, and fun. We hope it will be a space for people to camp out, come up with fun ideas, and make it a launching pad for adventure.”

Related: All the Summer Food You Should Be Savoring in the Hudson Valley

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