We Are Upstate NY With Foxfire Mountain House Founders Tim Trojian and Eliza Clark
Once you experience the chic, relaxed country vibe and coziness of Foxfire Mountain House, you’ll want to return as often as possible. With each changing season, there’s a sense of serenity and beauty–you can’t help but take a seat, put up your feet, and feel right at home. The grounds feature a natural lily pool, rustic glass pavilion, bonfire area, pond, horseshoes, and bocce ball. The long Moroccan-tiled veranda is the perfect place for morning coffee or evening cocktails. Naturally, this is a special place to say your “I do’s!”
Tim Trojian and Eliza Clark have proudly designed one of the top boutique hotels and wedding event venues in the Catskills. Foxfire Mountain House is tucked away on 10 private acres, just 2.5 hours north of New York City, a short drive to Woodstock and Kingston, and minutes from Phoenicia.
Let’s get to know Tim and Eliza…
INSIDE+OUT: Where are you originally from and how did you wind up in the Catskills?
Eliza: We’ve both had a long and winding journey that led us to living and working in the Catskills region of New York. Tim was born in New Orleans and has traveled all around the country as a chef, and I’m from Toronto originally where I worked as a television director/showrunner. A few years into our marriage, we made a decision to find a way to blend our skills and be able to spend more time together by working side by side. Opening a boutique inn with a restaurant/bar was the plan we came up with and we were lucky enough to find the beautiful old property that we renovated to become Foxfire Mountain House.
What inspired your vision for Foxfire Mountain House?
Eliza: The first thing that inspired us was the incredible natural surroundings. Foxfire is set on ten acres and is backed by mountains and woods with a lovely natural pond, meadows and a lily pool. It’s just the most serene and naturally inspirational place I’ve ever found. We brought nature into the interior decor of the inn in so many ways! We used natural materials like the floor-to-ceiling river stone fireplace in the lounge and concrete bar top. The decor features tons of fresh flowers and plants in every room, as well as specimens from the natural world like butterflies and antlers and hand-painted bird transoms over the guest room doors.
Your book is full of design inspo and recipes. What prompted you to document your journey this way?
Eliza: From the first moment we opened our doors, so many of our guests asked us about our designs for the space and said how special all the details were. The food has always been equally important to us as the look of the spaces. We were approached by a literary agent to create a book that would tell our personal journey of finding and renovating the classic old Catskills summer resort that would become Foxfire Mountain House, as well as showcasing some of our decor tips and favorite recipes from our kitchen. We did just that and loved the whole process. Interior design has always been a passion of mine, and in television, I produced a number of home renovation series. I loved being able to show in detail the designs of many of Foxfire’s spaces both inside and outside since the decorating had really been a big impetus for me personally in wanting to open the inn. The Foxfire Living book was very much an intimate family project with my husband Tim Trojian creating the recipes and cooking all the food, me styling the spaces and writing out our story and our daughter Arden Wray helping with the styling and taking every single gorgeous photograph for the Foxfire Living book. We’ve been really pleased to see how much the book has meant to so many people who’ve enjoyed hearing our story and seeing our designs and recipes. (Editors Note: You can purchase the book HERE)
One of the very best things that came out of the Foxfire Living book’s publication is that we began to be contacted by readers and social media followers who asked if we would design and decorate their own homes for them. Two years ago, my daughter Arden and I launched Byrd Studio (@by.byrd), which is a full interior design services business. We’ve been wildly busy from the start and are loving every minute of it!
Tell us more about what it’s like to work and play as partners in life and business. You see each other all the time yet also manage to run a business together.
Eliza: How much time do you have, lol? The big picture is that I don’t think either Tim or I would have it any other way. We fully respect each other and do our best to be kind when listening to ideas or making plans. But you know, it’s a lot. It can be intense and it can be 24/7. We have very similar taste which makes designing a pleasure but we have different management styles and that can be hard sometimes when dealing with the actual “business” side of the business, generally. With time, Tim and I have gotten better at dividing and conquering between us, and mostly we’ve been able to empower our excellent Director of Operations and our GM to take the pressure off us in terms of the day-to-day operations.
Let’s step into the kitchen: Tell us about your executive chef, the menu and how often does the menu change?
Eliza: Tim is our executive chef as we’ve always felt we wanted to have consistency with the kitchen team overall. We are lucky to have a truly stellar team of talented chefs in the kitchen who plan and prepare the food day to day. The menu relies on fresh, seasonal ingredients and changes fairly frequently. Perhaps it’s ok to brag since I’m not doing any of the cooking, but I really think Foxfire’s food is among the very best in the entire region. Our team is incredible because they can as easily create all the food for a 150 person event as execute the restaurant menu for our local patrons. We’re an interesting hybrid in that for part of the year we host events on Friday/Saturday weekends, and for the other part of the year the restaurant is open the entire weekend. The main thing to know is that we’re open to the public every Sunday and Monday from 4pm ALL year round. We’re going to be working hard to promote the food side of Foxfire in the next few months because we’re so proud of what’s coming out of the kitchen.
Outside of Tim’s food/chef’s background, did either of you have experience running a restaurant? If not, what was it like jumping in?
Eliza: I’ll let Tim answer this one.
Tim: Hospitality has been my life’s work. From dishwasher to chef, busboy to maitre d, running a boutique inn to a 400-room grand hotel to a New Orleans riverboat, on land and on sea I’d say my adventures in the world of service and hospitality has taken me to most of the possibilities out there in our industry. Eliza was a novice in the hospitality industry. She had run a small cafe when we met and that was the extent of it. However, what Eliza did have was extraordinary production skills. She oversaw multi-million dollar television productions, and as we discussed many late nights over glasses of wine before we jumped into this Catskills adventure, the skills she and I both had accumulated with staff, scheduling, and budgets were simpatico.
What’s your favorite and least favorite thing about running an inn and restaurant?
Tim: To me, the same things that excite me so much about being in hospitality are the ones that give the most grief. Running an inn or a restaurant is a performance, a live performance with no real chance for a second take. You “rehearse” all day, prepping for the big show that starts that afternoon and hope everything will be perfect for the guests. The anticipation of a great night and weekend as you prepare is exhilarating. Those times that you hit your mark just right can be transcendent, but those times like when the furnace suddenly dies on the coldest night of the year are the stuff of nightmares.
What is one question you’re constantly asked or the biggest misconception about your work?
Tim: We have a “No Tipping” policy for our guests at Foxfire and we have had that from our opening back in 2016. People are curious about it. This policy has provided us the ability to offer a consistent living wage to our staff members. One of the great challenges that people have always had in a tipping-based industry is with banking, that is, being able to obtain loans because of the unevenness of their wages. By giving our staff a regular paycheck, week in and week out, they in turn can rely on a steady income and are able to plan for the future. To that end, since Foxfire has opened, we have had at least five employees successfully obtain mortgages to buy houses, others have gotten loans for new cars. Because most of our employees feel secure in their job and with their income, many have taken advantage of our health insurance and 401K programs. We fully value our staff and want to show that. They are the beating heart of Foxfire.
How do you market Foxfire Mountain House and do you leverage social media? How is that working for you?
Eliza: Instagram has really been the only advertising we’ve done and it’s been a great tool for us. It’s definitely getting more and more sophisticated, even complicated, with some of the newer algorithms. I worry that only a fraction of our followers actually see our posts.
What is it about the Hudson Valley that makes it unique to live + work here?
Tim: It’s the opportunity afforded by the proximity to NYC, the vast array of locally produced foods and artisan crafts, the diversity of the population, and the creativity of the people that live in our area that makes life in the region so wonderful.
Eliza: I’m constantly blown away by the mix of country living and big city style in terms of the restaurants and shops and residents. This is not only the best of both worlds, I think it actually is both worlds. It’s the best.
What impact does Foxfire Mountain House have on your community?
Tim: I hope that our colleagues feel our support of their businesses, just as we feel theirs. We are part of a friendly hospitality community here. There’s a lot of variety in terms of style and substance and there’s room for all. Foxfire tries to be an exemplary employer. We offer our staff a living wage and salaried positions, as well as a full range of benefits that is not often seen in the hospitality industry. We hope that this approach to employment contributes to ensuring staff members become valued folks in the community who stay living in the region and bring the same dedication they have to Foxfire to the community at large.
What local businesses do you rely on to be successful?
Eliza: So many. Off the top of my head, we couldn’t do without local beer and cider for Foxfire Bar Room from great brewers like West Kill Brewing, Arrowood Brewery, Brooklyn Cider House. We love Isolation Proof Gin from Bovina. We use Hudson Naturals shampoo and body wash from Field Trip for all the guest bathrooms. For weddings, Le Shag does a lot of the hair styling for our bridal parties and Coxsackie Transport gets the guests to and from Foxfire safely. That’s just a tiny list of all the businesses we use very frequently.
What is missing in the area that you wish we had?
As far as what’s missing in the area…more antique stores! We have a solid handful near to us, and the town of Hudson is great for antiquing about 45 mins away, but I’d love to have a couple more in Woodstock if I get to dream.
What can we expect from Foxfire Mountain House in 2023?
Eliza: We’ll be hosting our 3rd Annual Summer BBQ on Sunday, July 2nd from 3-8 PM. We’ll be offering great BBQ, ice cold cocktails, lawn games and the soundtrack for the day will be provided by the inimitable DJ El Michels Affair. Then, the biggest news of 2023 is that we will be opening a sister property to Foxfire called Lost Fox Inn located in Litchfield, CT. We’re working on making it gorgeous and I can’t wait to present it to the world! It will be 16 rooms with a beautiful old tavern restaurant/bar and lovely outdoor space to host weddings and events.
Who or what inspires you personally?
Eliza: Creative souls and problem solvers.
Tell us something about yourself that people might be surprised to know?
Eliza: I never wear socks.
What would be your dream local Staycation?
Eliza: I’d love to stay at the Mayflower Auberge.
What is your current state of mind?
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Photos courtesy of Foxfire Mountain House. Photos by Arden Wray
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