BCV Principal Hans Baldauf visits Foster Supply Hospitality with the New York Studio
I have always loved the expression that “You have to build the world that you want to live in.” I had the opportunity while in the Catskills recently, with Neil Hoyt and Becca Propper from our New York office, to see firsthand the dynamic people who are doing just that.
Sims and Kirsten Foster, founders of Foster Supply Hospitality, have spent the last several years creating an interlocking set of small inns that are part of a revival of the tradition of hospitality in the Catskills. Their properties include The Arnold House (Livingston Manor), The North Branch Inn (North Branch), Nine River Road (Callicoon) and The DeBruce (Livingston Manor), which was recently recognized by Conde Nast Traveler as one of the best new hotels in the world. Sims grew up in Sullivan County and left to pursue a career in the restaurant and hotel world, but it is clear that the Catskills – in particular the Western region – never left him.
We enjoyed a wonderful breakfast at The DeBruce, which overlooks the Willowemoc Valley. The inn is known for its food and the dining room forms one of the central social spaces of the property. Over magnificent omelets prepared by their culinary team with no more than egg and sea salt, we spoke with the Fosters about their approach to hospitality and the history of the Catskills.
Design details at The DeBruce. Photo: Lawrence Braun. A close up of a wooden bowl that is holding a paper pamphlet that reads "The DeBruce guest information" Next to the pamphlet is a set of metal keys with the number 14 on them. The wooden bowl is placed on a knitted blue blanket.
Sims described to us the first settlers, rugged individuals who braved the mountains to come over from the Hudson Valley after the revolutionary war. He spoke of the German farmers, the cutting of the hemlock forests to make tanning acid and the ways in which later farmers would supplement their income by taking in visitors from New York City for the summer. This he called the “Silver Age” of boardinghouse hospitality. It is interesting to note that American fly fishing started on the rivers of the Catskills.
The “Golden Age” of the Catskills arrived after World War II and was represented by the large resort hotels, famous for their comedians and night life. This age existed from the end of the war into the 1970s, when air travel became inexpensive and New Yorkers had more options for accessible travel.
Sims and Kirsten have a mission to share the beauty of the region with their guests while helping to build the local economy. The restaurants at each of their hotels become a means of further sharing with guests the seasonal rhythms of this bucolic place – an admirable amount of the food on offer is grown on the properties or foraged. They continue to explore other ways of connecting guests to the region – Sims jokes that ice fishing is now eagerly anticipated by a number of guests.
Kirsten is a dynamo who has created the aesthetic of each inn, down to details like custom light fixtures. She has an interesting life story that has roots both in the Hudson Valley and in Germany. Her European aesthetic is very present throughout the inns. Simms and Kirsten have two very young children and it is clear that all of this is to create an amazing life for them in this beautiful landscape (although they are expected to start in the business washing pots).
Photograph of the dining room at The DeBruce by Ronald Cadiz.