Books and drinking go together like Hemingway way and … well, just Hemingway. Whether it’s a cup of coffee over some quiet morning poetry or Bukawski with whiskey straight in a dirty glass you found under your dresser, enjoying literature over a beverage is a favorite past-time of any good book nerd. And like most book nerds, Amanda and Anthony Stromoski had long dreamed of opening their own bookshop.
“After 10 years in Brooklyn, we were very happy and loved our jobs and neighborhood, but wanted to be closer to the mountains, have the possibility of owning our own home, and become our own bosses,” Anthony says. “We had a great community of friends and family behind us, thought Kingston was a wonderful town with the opportunity for finding a great space, and an idea we believed could be successful. We figured it’s now or never.”
How did they hit upon the idea of combining books and brews? Vino and vellum? Fraps and folios?
“About 15 years ago, we came across a quirky little spot in Chapel Hill, NC called — we think — The Spotlight. It was a hole in the wall that sold used books, PBR, coffee, grilled cheese and PB&J sandwiches. At night, they became The Nightlight, and hosted bands, poetry readings, open mic nights, etc. It was the most comfortable place, with a great used-book smell, and it seemed like a place where literature and other, more grownup diversions could come together.”
“A bookstore didn’t have to be a library-like, quiet place only for shopping, but a place to hang out, enjoy entertainment, and maybe enjoy a delicious adult beverage. We never forgot that place, and found others over the years, including Spotty Dog in Hudson and Freebird in Brooklyn, that had the same comforting, exciting vibe.”
The Stromoskis had made plenty of stopovers in Kingston over the past decade, both while hiking in the Catskills (often with bull dog Augustus in tow) and as a weekend destination in its own right. The town had a welcoming community and all the food and drink options the Brooklynites craved, plus the proximity to the mountains they were looking for.
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“Like many others, we’ve been eyeing the [former] Kingston Academy for years, and wondered what would happen with it. After a couple tours of the building with our fantastic real estate agent, we knew it would be the perfect place. The windows, the brick, the stone, the history, the location just off the busiest streets, the neighbors — it was the right spot. Plus, we only live two blocks away.”
Keeping things local was also on the menu for the menu itself:
“We started with the premise that we wanted a strong craft beer selection, so we built in twelve taps, and we plan to always offer a strong Hudson Valley/New York selection, with a cider or two for those who lean away from beer or prefer gluten-free beverages. We also wanted to have an eclectic but affordable wine list, and worked with a local friend and wine rep to put together a list of seven wines by the glass that we loved. Finally, when we made the decision to offer espresso, we went with our favorite roaster, Counter Culture Coffee, and purchased some great equipment. We thought that if we were going to do coffee, we needed to do it right.”
In addition to the 12 “drafts” and wine list, Rough Draft also offers three beers by the can, various coffee and espresso beverages, Harney & Sons tea, and savory, Aussie-New Zealand inspired pies straight from Brooklyn’s Down Under Bakery.
As for book selection, the shop is initially carrying around 3,000 titles, curated by the staff in conjunction with a few publishers and distributors to ensure a healthy balance of new and bestselling titles, as well as personal favorites Stromoski hopes are indicative of the store’s personality. They can of course, however, order any special requests in just a few days.
Rough Draft held their soft-open on Friday, November 10 when their final licenses and certifications came through and they thought, “why not?” With even an abbreviated menu their shop was such a hit that remained open full time (11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday) as their team of baristas and “bibliotenders” put on the finishing touches.
The store’s grand opening will be celebrated to coincide with Small Business Saturday. Official Rough Draft growlers and gift cards are now available, and on both Black Friday and Small Business Saturday customers can earn double punches on their loyalty cards. (Every ten books nets $5 off the next one, while ever ten teas or coffees rewards a free cup!)
The fun won’t end after Thanksgiving weekend, however. Make sure to stop back in the near future, as Rough Draft adds trivia nights, author signings, viewing parties and all types of shenanigans to their literate litany of events.
Rough Draft Bar & Books
82 John Street, Kingston