A Rivertown Jewel In-The-Making
Think you’ve seen all there is in Dobbs Ferry?
By Marisa LaScala
Photography by Iko
“Dobbs Ferry? But there’s nothing in Dobbs Ferry,” a friend pronounced when I mentioned that I was writing an article about it. My retort to her—and, yes
to you, dear reader (who, fess up, thinks the same): “Been to Dobbs Ferry lately?”
I thought not. The little-more-than-two-square-mile village, if I may borrow a line from Mr. Zimmerman, is a-changin’. “When I first moved to Dobbs in 1978,” says Paddy Steinschneider, an architectural designer and member of the town’s Land Use Committee, “the downtown was dying, losing shoppers to the strip malls along Central Avenue.” Dobbs Ferry could always tout its schools (the high school has the only International Baccalaureate program in the county), its family-friendly community (“The library runs a mean story hour,” says resident Lori Marrone), and, of course, its drop-dead gorgeous river views. Today, the village of approximately 10,600 can add to that list a burgeoning downtown.
“The town is just blooming,” declares Mimi Filipova, co-owner with Martin Freiman of the one-and-a-half-year-old contemporary clothing shop Fiamor. Indeed, the local Chamber of Commerce has grown to more than 80 members from 22 members last year—and is still growing. “I see the business district becoming the jewel of the Rivertowns,” says Steinschenider. And though Dobbs (as the locals call it) may not be as tony as, say, Rye or as trendy as Mount Kisco, therein lies its attraction: this artsy, quaint village has an unpretentious charm all its own.
Want to be ahead of the curve? Venture down by the river to discover the up-and-coming new Dobbs.
The Bleecker Street of Westchester
What’s behind the renaissance in this rivertown? Good old-fashioned consumerism, of course. “Dobbs Ferry is becoming the Bleecker Street of Westchester,” says Barbara Marshall, owner of Marshall’s Cheese, one of the many new entrepreneurs responsible for the change.
Most village shopping is conveniently located on Main, Cedar, and Palisade Streets. “I try to buy everything locally,” says Bettina B. Speyer, former chairperson of
the Downtown Improvement Committee. And for the most part, she says, she succeeds.
No visit to the village is complete without stopping by SoHo East (63 Main St., 914-693-7296), which features owner Stacy Higgins’s hand-picked selections of stunning tableware, including the stylish Riverside Design collection made from recycled sea glass. You’ll also find unusual martini glasses, beaded pasta servers, bamboo bowls, and imported European table linens. Odds are good you won’t leave this shop empty-handed.
If it’s you rather than your home you’re interested in dressing, no problem. Stop by Mimi Filipova’s Fiamor (27 Cedar St., 914-478-3898) for basic black and beige ensembles, blazers (I spotted a pretty-in-pink corduroy one for $120), special-occasion dresses, and denim from designers like Miss Sixty and Red Engine. Or visit Ginko & Stich (26 Main St., 914-693-5321) to snag fashions by Ducci, Essentials, and Vantana. The shop also has lovely jewelry, including designs by Debra Baltarshanski, whose creations are studded with saltwater pearls (some dyed a sleek black). “My family has a store in Manhattan,” owner Adriana Harris says. “It was always in my blood to open a boutique.”
Another fashion option, Mommy Girl Go-Go (82 Main St., 914-478-4228), is run by Joy Rose, that is, when she’s not out with her band, Housewives On Prozac. Rose stocks her shop with fashions by Anna Sui, Betsey Johnson, and Fresh Meat, plus such flirty gift items as a pocketbook in the shape of a bustier or a bright purple, old-style telephone bedecked in sequins, beads, and feathers. And while you never know exactly what you’ll find at Now and Again Consignment (123 Main St., 914-693-7841), you can be sure that it will be a bargain. You could spend an afternoon browsing through its racks of comfy sweaters, slacks, scarves, and other accessories. Best of all, the store is a not-for-profit organization benefitting local schools, hospitals, and other organizations.
Once you’re all dressed up, go glam at the two-year-old Rituals: Makeup and Manifestations (77 Main St., 914-478-5507, www.ritualsonline.com). In addition to offering makeup and other beauty products (like the must-have Naturopathica skincare line), owner Ilise Harris offers a host of primping and pampering services including one-hour makeup lessons, therapeutic body wraps, and facials. “My eyebrow girl, Lynn, is the best around,” she says. Also be sure to check out the professional-level products—especially the silky lip gels—at hair and makeup artist Rosemarie Pomilla’s new N.Y. Prostyle Studio (385 Ashford Ave., 914-741-0773, www.nyprostyle.com).
Dining in Dobbs
All that shopping can make you work up an appetite. Fortunately, the village offers a number of spots where you can stop for a quick refueling. Tomatillo (13 Cedar St., 914-478-2300), a small, unpretentious Mexican eatery that many locals swear by, has joined in on the growing farm-to-table bandwagon, using produce from the Stone Barns Center in Pocantico Hills and from Hudson Valley farms. This is the sort of place that you might easily pass up—it doesn’t look like an upmarket dining destination. But looks, as they say, can be deceiving. Everything, down to the chips and guacamole, is made fresh daily. Build your own burrito, or try a Green Machine (featuring organic spinach, brown rice, black beans, guacamole in a roasted tomatillo sauce), or a Bella Baby (a spinach tortilla with grilled Portobello mushrooms in a smoky chipotle sauce).
Another popular local favorite is Sushi Mike’s (146 Main St., 914-591-0054, www.sushimikes.com), where real sushi aficionados nix the Americanized California roll for more exotic chef’s creations, like the Dobbs Ferry roll (whitefish tempura and cream cheese, topped with spicy mayonnaise) or the Kamikaze (shrimp tempura, cucumber, and pickled jalapeÃ±o). Sushi Mike’s is small, so call ahead to reserve a table.
For what many consider to be a great spot to nurse a glass of wine while enjoying a spectacular view, head down to the water and grab a chair on the open-air patio of the decades-old Chart House (foot of High St., 914-693-4130, www.chart-house. com). And with that wine, perhaps a seafood dish is in order, say, a macadamia-crusted mahi-mahi, spiced yellowfin ahi, or a “Snapper Hemingway.” Or instead opt for a tall glass of beer and some lobster spring rolls.
If it’s a nice, thick, juicy burger you’re after, hunker down at Doubleday’s (83 Main St., 914-693-9793), a sports bar and casual restaurant famous for its Angus beef burgers. And if the half-pound of chopped meat with thick fries doesn’t fill you up, walk around the corner and enjoy coffee and dessert at Caffelatte (41 Cedar St., 914-674-0997). This is the town’s unofficial watering hole—where moms meet to chat, meetings are held, and where a book can be read in peace and quiet—but it serves coffee rather than liquor, of course. You can just as easily satisfy your sweet tooth (and caffeine habit) at Rich Bean Bakery CafÃ© (63 Main St., 914-479-0706). Order a frothy cappuccino and the bestselling biscotti.
Before you leave town, though, do stop by Marshall’s Cheese (27 Cedar St., 914-591-1997). If you’re not a cheese lover already, you will be after sampling some of the creamy, rich, and sweet artisanal cheeses from cheesemakers in the Hudson Valley and abroad. “I try to get organic cheeses,” says owner Barbara Marshall. Some of her favorites include the French Beaufort cheese, made from milk gotten from what she calls “very pampered cows,” and Vento D’Estate, an Italian cows’-milk cheese made with white wine and rosemary, and topped with hay. While there, pick up a baguette or two, delivered fresh every morning from New Rochelle’s Bread Factory. All you need is a bottle of wine and you can have yourself a picnic by the water. A favorite spot: the Waterfront Park (across from the Metro-North station). Its eight-and-one-half riverside acres are perfect for communing with nature—and enjoying fresh bread and cheese.
Catch Some Culture
With its panoramic views of the Hudson and vistas that extend to Manhattan, the village has, not surprisingly, attracted scores of artists. “The river is an incredible asset,” says Ronnie Levine, an artist who recently moved her Rivertown Painter’s Studio from Dobbs Ferry to Tarrytown. “When I saw Dobbs Ferry, I saw the riverfront and hand-built old houses that were perfect raw material for a life-into-art transformation. There are many landscapes and street scenes there still waiting to happen.”
It seems as if there is a gallery tucked away in almost every corner of the village. You can find an art gallery at St. Cabrini Nursing Home, the South Presbyterian Church, and in the town’s new Peter Gisolfi-designed library. Luis Perelman, a member of the Upstream Gallery (26B Main St., 914-674-8548, www.upstreamgallery.com) says he’d like to see Dobbs Ferry’s artistic community grow the same way that Peekskill’s has. Upstream, a mainstay on Main Street for the past decade, currently has 21 sculptors, painters, and photographers who rotate through its two exhibition spaces on a monthly basis.
If viewing art makes your own creative juices flow, try your hand at Pottery On Hudson (145 Palisade St., 914-478-2762, www.potteryonhudson.com).Owner Linda MacKenzie and her staff give classes and workshops in wheel throwing, hand building, majolica, mosaic making, raku, and surface decorating. Clay art fans might also want to visit Dobbs Ferry Pottery (86 Main St., 914-674-8203), where 32-year resident and artist Marian Ferrer exhibits her sculptures and paintings. “I consider myself more of a ceramic artist,” Ferrer says of her non-functional pottery and large-scale ceramic forms. Or, bring the art home. Let muralist Lisa Samalin of DeersTooth Murals (10 Cedar St., 914-674-6413; www.deerstooth.com) transform one of your walls. Check out her whimsical work at Sushi Mike’s, where her underwater creatures gather for a jazzy soirÃ©e.
For music lovers, the Hudson Valley Music Club sponsors seven chamber concerts every year at the Dobbs Ferry Women’s Club (54 Clinton Ave., 914-478-0417), with the season running from October to May. Past performers have included the famous Mendelssohn String Quartet and Gerard Reuter, an award-winning oboist.
If you’d rather make your own music, head to the Muzic Complex School of the Performing Arts at The Muzic Store (39 Cedar St., 914-693-3200; www.muzic store.com). Located in a century-old landmark theater, complete with plush, red seats and a real Broadway-quality dance floor, it sells everything from KISS guitars to bongos to tambourines (what better place to test your new guitar than on stage, where you can swagger around Ã la Mick), and offers instrumental music lessons ($30/half hour), dance classes, and a full recording studio, so you can finally cut that demo. And when you do, send it to resident Al Cattabiani over at his new Rivertown record label, Garagista Music (914-693-2408; www.garagistamusic.com). He is planning on putting out a series of compilation CDs featuring local talent. “We have more than our fair share of excellent musicians who would likely welcome the chance to have their music heard more widely,” he says.
If after a day of shopping, dining, and soaking in the Hudson River vistas hasn’t made you a Dobbs Ferry convert, you’re a tough customer. But check back often. The town is still undergoing a renaissance, and your patience shall be rewarded.