Main Street in Poughkeepsie is not the same as it once was 10, or even five years ago. As anyone who’s lived or worked in the downtown area can attest, it’s a region in the midst of change – and for the better, too. With the introduction of programming like First Fridays and PKGO, Queen City is alive in a new and wonderful way.
Ty Johnson knows this for a fact. Born and bred in the city, Johnson spent his youth in the Poughkeepsie City School District before traveling south to attend Iona College in New Rochelle. During his earliest years, he remembers his mother warning him to stay away from Main Street.
“Poughkeepsie was a tough place to be for a while,” he recalls. Yet that didn’t stop him from scooping up Main Street real estate when he returned to town in 2010. A serial entrepreneur, he founded Kingdom Caps, a now-closed clothing store, in 2010, followed by 358 Gallery (now Cryptic Gallery) in 2015. In 2017, he began work on Pure, a combined restaurant, bar, and lounge that aims to highlight African American culture and revitalize the city’s nightlife scene.
“Pure is something I wanted to do for a long time,” he reveals. “I wanted to create something that was fun, new, and for the hip hop culture. It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, purple, green, or yellow. We want everyone to feel like Pure is theirs.”
Open since August 2018, Pure embodies the vitality that lies at Poughkeepsie’s core. A multifaceted concept, the 1,500-square-foot space serves as both a restaurant and club-style lounge for the community. During the daytime hours, the eatery treats customers to soul food by Chef Damel Diyari, a Hudson Valley mainstay who honed his expertise under 3 Michelin star chef Marco Pierre White and 2 Michelin star chef Terrance Brennan. Locally, he’s made his mark in kitchens like Heritage Food + Drink in Wappingers Falls, where he was executive sous chef, and Hudson Taco in Newburgh.
While Pure’s food sensibilities are loosely categorized as soul food, Johnson explains that the menu is really whatever Chef Diyari makes it.
“Literally everything [Chef Diyari] has made has been the best I’ve ever tasted,” Johnson enthuses. “Sorry, mama.” According to him, a few of the chef’s best specials include his French toast, a weekend treat available during Pure’s music-filled brunches, along with lobster mac and cheese and grilled cheese with sliced apples. On the core menu, Diyari delivers comfort food flavors in the form of jerk burgers topped with onions and pineapple and deep-fried chicken wings with a medley of spicy sauces.
Going into nighttime, Pure’s mosaic bar comes alive as its “Puretenders” welcome guests and get the drinks flowing. The bar is part and parcel with the lounge, which sets the club-inspired scene plush sofas and contemporary artwork.
“It’s all about people from all walks of life being comfortable,” Johnson says.
To create Pure’s signature atmosphere, he turns on a curated playlist of hip hop and R&B tunes, along with melodies from local musicians. The music is just loud enough to create a mood for nights on the town or themed 80s and 90s brunches on the weekend.
Since Pure is a place of creativity and innovation for Johnson, he looks forward to continuing to surprise diners with new menu items and events. He also hopes to integrate it further into the Poughkeepsie community and connect with other entrepreneurs in the area. He and his wife recently opened Passion Studios, an art gallery and event space connected to Pure, in 2019. In 2020, they plan to launch two more minority-owned businesses: CREAM, a boutique on Academy Street, and BFIT, a fitness center that teaches people how to be both physically and financially fit.
“I’ve been trying to work with city officials in order to increase and improve local economic growth,” he explains. “The City of Poughkeepsie has big plans for this area.”
380 Main St, Poughkeepsie