When Agnes Devereux closed The Village Tearoom, located in New Paltz, for the last time, she thought she was done owning a brick-and-mortar establishment. After 15 years, it was time for a break.
“All along our plan was to stay for our kids to get educated in New Paltz and then we would – we didn’t want to be in the restaurant business forever. This is a full restaurant that was open for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” she said. “That was a lot.”
“Catering just became a big part of our business…and that’s something that you can continue to do without a restaurant and obviously it’s seasonal,” she explained. “So I decided to focus on that.”
They had been doing between 15 and 20 weddings a year for the past five years, but last year that number went up to nearly 30 weddings.
Devereux currently runs a catering business that specializes in farm-to-table comfort food. She described a menu that includes influences from her own heritage and seamlessly merges farm-fresh ingredients with American, Mediterranean, and European classics.
“It might mean that we would have Indian Dahl dip and we would have Italian olive oil breadsticks and we could do chicken pot pie, which is more of an Irish tradition. We might do brisket but have some American influences with pickled peaches,” she said.
Devereux talks about her business with the confidence of an established entrepreneur. She knows what she enjoys making, what she does well and what is within her brand.
“We’re not one of those – soup-to-nuts caterers that’ll just do any kind of theme or any kind of food. We just wanted to give food that we’re good at and that speaks to us,” she said. If a couple asks for something they don’t do, like sushi, she’ll refer them to a more appropriate caterer.
Then, her family found the Dewitt house, a historic home nestled between the villages of Clinton and Staatsburg, New York.
They fell in love, despite its many structural problems – it had both fire and water damage – and she decided it was time to open a bed and breakfast. Thus, 1773 Dewitt House was conceptually born.
Devereux described a renovation project that would scare most potential homeowners away.
“It was being used by somebody as a summer vacation weekend house for the past 30 years and a fire ruined the electrical system of the house. It started in the basement and led to the electric up to circuit breaker and through all of those wires.
“So it had to be completely rewired and that is still ongoing and we started in May. So every single line in the House has to be tested and do what’s left to be done. It’s a very long, slow process. And then because it didn’t have heat during the winter, the pipes burst in the house. Now all of the radiators burst and the boiler was ruined,” she said.
Replacing the boiler meant they were able to install an energy-efficient heat pump system and remove all the destroyed radiators. As a bonus, each room in the house is now independently climate controlled.
A private entrance services two bedrooms which are partially separated from the rest of the house. This section of the home also boasts a summer kitchen.
“In those days, before air conditioning, they would move their operations into the summer kitchen for the hotter months because it was sort of like almost under the house and cooler,” Devereux said.
Upon its planned opening in the spring of 2020, 1773 Dewitt will have three rooms available. But what’s for breakfast?
“Gosh, I haven’t thought about it that much,” she said.
Still in “the throes of renovation” Devereux hasn’t quite sat down and made a menu, yet.
“I can offer eggs and muffins and scones – the sort of things we served for breakfast at the restaurant,” she said. “We have a repertoire of scones and muffins that we were known for.”
More information can be found at: agnesdevereuxcatering.com
Each month, The Teller will be featuring a new Hudson Valley food or wine destination as part of this series. Have a suggestion? Let us know.
A version of this post originally appeared in
The Teller October 2019 Issue #7
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