Restoring Creativity at Mill & Main in Kerhonkson, NY
“As chef, restauranteur, recipe developer, cookbook author and mom, food isn’t my passion — it’s my compass and the touchpoint to everything I do.” So says, Claudia Sidoti, proprietor of Mill & Main in Kerhonkson, New York. Mill & Main is a coffee shop and marketplace located on Main Street, with a restaurant soon to open (Fall 2022), which everyone is super excited about! A farm-to-table restaurant, Mill & Main will feature a seasonal menu celebrating local producers with a heart-to-soul focus. Claudio spent 8 years at Food Network as the Test Kitchen Director and most recently at HelloFresh as Principal Chef and Head of Recipe Development. So basically she’s been feeding America mouthwatering meals for decades and now she’s feeding a fan base of foodies and locals upstate New York. Let’s learn more about her exciting venture!
What inspired you to start Mill & Main and how did your company get its name?
I’ve been in the food and hospitality industry for my entire life. It always seems to draw me in no matter how many times I’ve tried to find a way out and Mill & Main is no different. We came up to Kerhonkson seven years ago initially just as weekenders but after a year or so of driving past the dilapidated building, it just felt like someone needed to give the town some love. While my husband/partner, Paul Weathered was in the food business as well for many years, he’s been in film now for over 30 years. Our son, Christopher Weathered has followed in the footsteps and has been working in food and hospitality for over 10 years now. Mill & Main got its name because of the cross streets we are located on.
How did you get your start in food?
My start in food was so long ago! The doors really first opened up for me after I took a High School internship at a small culinary school in NYC. It was then that I knew I wanted to do something in the field and since I grew up in a home full of amazing cooks, being behind a stove was natural for me. I grew up in Chelsea and took an after-school job in a very small specialty food store on 8th Avenue called Delectable. After that, I started, co-owned, and was a chef in a Chelsea restaurant named Onini. My career continued to work as a chef, caterer, food writer and recipe developer and culinary director. My last 2 positions prior to opening Mill & Main were as Test Kitchen Director at Food Network and the Culinary Director and Head Chef at Hellofresh US.
We LOVE your Brand Identity Design–who did you hire for that?
We were very fortunate to have our son-in-law, Hamish Thain, who is an industrial designer, do all of our brand identity. We worked very closely with him to create the brand identity so I would say that it was very much a team effort!
What was it like bringing the cafe/market to life, especially during these uncertain times?
It was nothing if not exciting, exhausting, interesting and challenging. We hit many roadblocks along the way but managed to keep our eyes on the prize and stay focused on the goal of opening our doors before the end of the year. Even now that we are open for 7 weeks, we continue to make adjustments and put additional finishing touches on things. We are very interested in hearing and learning from our customers and if we can make improvements and changes that offer them a better experience then we will certainly try.
The historic building that now houses Mill & Main was in a pretty bad state. What challenges did you face in the transformation process?
Gosh was it ever! The first challenge was going before the planning board and town to get permits and have our plans for renovations approved. Not a fast process, especially in the midst of a pandemic. We also had many obstacles because there were foundation issues, water damage and much more. It’s hard to see the progress when you’re in it, but when I think back, it’s pretty incredible. We also fully restored the apartments above and now have 2 separate apartments.
What’s one of the most unique things about Mill & Main and what sets you apart from similar businesses?
I think we are unique because we are a modern-day mom & pop shop. To me, that means that on any given day, you’ll find one of us at the shop doing one or more of the many jobs that need to be done to keep our little store going. The other thing that makes us pretty unique is our multicultural and diverse backgrounds. I’m half Italian and half Colombian. My husband is West Indian from Antigua and our son is a mix of all that. Additionally, the diversity expands beyond because our family is way bigger than the 3 of us. The way the other people in our family influence how we approach food and service. We have a broad range of religions & cultures within our family from Eastern European Jewish family members, Irish, Welch and even Thai. I love to keep that in mind as I curate products and expand the menu offering.
Everyone has had a challenge hiring this past year, especially within the hospitality industry. How do you hire, retain and inspire your staff and what is your company culture?
Good question! Truth is that it is one of the biggest challenges. That said, and I know I speak on behalf of all the partners, we believe in a few very basic core values. Integrity, respect and communication. We hire from a variety of places, word-of-mouth, social media, and in-store signage that has been very successful. Retention is related to our goal of integrity, respect, and communication. We encourage our staff to really engage with customers, to learn the product line, to have fun while they work, and to ask questions along the way. We pay above minimum wage and we offer a good in-house discount which our employees appreciate. We are a fully vaccinated establishment and ask customers to mask if not vaccinated. Our team members all wear masks which helps reduce customer and employee anxiety.
How do you grow your business? Do you advertise, use social media and offer events? Or, do your customers find you through word-of-mouth?
All of the above, social media is probably the most effective but we really have not done any substantial advertising or serious target marketing strategies yet. We are slowly and steadily growing and once the restaurant opens we will evaluate and next-level marketing strategy.
Photos: Doreen Johnson
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Mill & Main
317 Main Street
Kerhonkson, New York 12446