Q & A from the Field

Michael Bruno

Valley Rock Inn (Sloatsburg, New York)

Live: Tuxedo Park, NY
Previous Life:
Founder 1stdibs.com
Hike, Bike, Swim, Ski, Cleaning floors
Side Gig: Real estate brokerage, Antique store, Guides

Why are you so passionate about Upstate NY?

When I first moved to the lower Hudson Valley 8 years ago I had never been Upstate. I spent years traveling all over Europe to find antiques dealers I thought should be on 1stdibs. When I went Upstate for the first time it reminded me of the European country side with small inns with their own restaurants and shops and farms to discover along the way. NYC is so close to Upstate that it attracts special talent in the art, design and hospitality fields. The diversity of what you can see and do in a day, let alone for a weekend, will keep you going back for more.

Did you apply for PPP for Valley Rock Inn and how much staff have you cut?

We held on to almost all of our staff until we found out we were not getting any of the PPP funding in the first round. Within hours of finding out we had to make the difficult decision to furlough half of our staff and cut our monthly payroll expenses in half.

We are fortunate that we have a very active organic food market that is keeping the other half of our team busy.

I have known for a very long time that you cannot rely on the government, but we were still disappointed in how the program was managed. We were led to believe that if we kept our staff the funds would be available to pay them vs. them getting paid through unemployment. Regardless, I am glad we hung on to our people as long as we did and we hope to have them all back soon.

What is your outlook on the economy and the important upcoming summer months for Upstate businesses?

I believe most people will be very careful with their money for years to come, but they will spend money on getting out of the house even if it’s just for a night or two. I don’t think they will want to travel very far as we all have a new attachment to our homes even if we do need a quick change of scenery.

Tell us why you are launching the Tastemakers Guide for Upstate New York now?

There are so many places to go to have an intimate experience in Upstate NY and we wanted to make it easy to find out who is open and what they have to offer – all in one place. The guide focuses on places to go in the art, design, hospitality and natural worlds.

How did you pull together over 300 places to feature?

Most of the places within the guide were shared by some very cool Tastemakers who live in or frequent the Hudson Valley and Upstate region.

Who is the team working on Tastemakers Guide?

Everybody on the team has another job and is either working pro bono or their time has been donated by the company they work for. I have brought together an amazing group, many us worked together in the early days of 1stdibs so its comforting for us to all be together working on something we believe can help small businesses. 1stdibs was all about small business so this is near and dear to our hearts.

How do you decompress?

Nature is key. Once I have done a round of emails in the AM with coffee in bed and read some news I wish I didn’t, we head down to take the pups out. We live where there is a lot of protected forests so we can let Boris and Natasha take off from the kitchen door and run wild for an hour along moss-covered trails with swimming holes along the way.

What do you do just for you?

I try to hike 3 days a week, usually 2-3 hours each time with a fair amount of elevation gain. It’s not always easy to find time but I do try to make it a priority on my list. We are surrounded by Harriman State Park and Sterling Forest, with over 70,000 acres of forever wild parkland – roughly 5 times the size of NYC. I take friends and we hike and talk from a distance on trails with ridge line views to the Catskills and Manhattan. They all love that I know the trails so well that they don’t have to think. We can have our own moment and still be together.

What new habits from this time will you take with you into the future?

Spending more time with my family at our beautiful home, cooking dinner and eating in the dining room, not always being in a hurry – even though I sort of like to be. And doing more things on my own, in a do-it-yourself sort of way, from mowing the lawn to helping out with the laundry. I forgot how good doing chores could make me feel.

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