An interview with Jess Olenych of Home Goods of Margaretville
Why did you decide to open a business in the Catskills?
I actually grew up in the Catskills, but never really thought about staying here. When I was in college, I did a bunch of traveling and ended up in DC for an internship. There was this sudden change in the weather bringing cool, fall like conditions (which doesn’t happen in DC in August) and I realized how much I missed home. I decided at that moment that I had to find a way to make a life in the Catskills.
When I returned home later that summer I met the man who ultimately became my husband. So, when I graduated college, I was engaged to someone with roots in this community, and I knew that I needed to find a way to make it work.
I ultimately landed at a local nonprofit doing environmental education. After a while I formed my own consulting company and did contract work, but my heart has always been in the kitchen. In fact, when Jake and I got married, we engraved out wedding bands with nicknames. Mine is “The Kitchen Cheetah” which is actually the name of our business!
Step two was all the typical business stuff – we have so many assets here to help you plan a business. I spoke to an advisor from the SBA (Small Business Administration) who helped me write and research a business plan. Talking to lawyers and banks and accountants and all the local alphabet soup organizations (CWC and MARK) to get everything set up.
Compared to that, the painting (thanks to my family and friends), setting up the space (thanks to Gerry Murphy) and the ordering and unpacking (thanks to all the businesses on Main Street that accepted my packages) was relatively easy!
How long have you owned your business here?
The business has been open about 15 months.
What has been your biggest lifestyle change?
There’s so much standing involved in running a business! But, all joking aside, I feel like opening this business has given me the ability to have the lifestyle that I want.
I actually have the time to explore the local food scene and all of the wonderful producers we have around here. And, the ability to cook wonderful meals using those ingredients!
What are your favorite things to do here (when you aren’t working)?
So many things – reading a good book on my front porch. Hiking, cooking a delicious meal with local ingredients. Generally exploring the area with friends and family. My favorite thing this summer has been Pizza on the Farm at Lazy Crazy Acres. They make delicious wood fired pizza with all these outrageous and creative flavors.
Name one thing you love about living and working upstate?
Honestly, I love the calm. Even on the crazy, busiest day people are generally nice. The Mountains really seem to bring out the best in people.
What advice would you give to people who are beginning to dream about starting a business in the Catskills?
Sit down and talk with people – see what their needs and wants are and how you can fill them. There are so many different types of people who call this area home – the “locals,” the second home owners, the seasonal people and the tourists. They all have different needs but a successful business can have something for everyone!
Also, consistency is key. Be open when you say you are going to be open. No business can make money if they are never open. Consistency builds trust with your audience.
Make sure you have a good online presence – Facebook, Instagram and a website are a start. Make sure people know how to find you – almost all business starts with a web search. If you’re not there, people can’t find you!