Valley Rock Inn & Mountain Club is located 30 miles from the George Washington Bridge and is about an hour from most of Manhattan. Our property is in the Village of Sloatsburg, N.Y. which is located in the foothills of the Ramapo Mountains, surrounded by 70,000 acres of forever-wild parkland of Harriman State Park and Sterling Forest with trails and lakes in every direction. The property features historic houses and barn buildings that form a wall around an interior garden—creating a protected oasis. There are four renovated guesthouses consisting of 17 bedrooms and 16 baths, an organic market and two restaurants that source organic produce from our own organic farm fields in the Hudson Valley. We are a fitness-focused property with a 75-foot pool, a 7,000-square-foot gym, led hiking, biking and kayaking programs. We offer year-round wellness and fitness programs that incorporate healthy eating and exercise in the great outdoors.
Valley Rock Inn
Sloatsburg, New York
Proprietor: Michael Bruno
Hotel • Restaurant • Market
Live: Tuxedo Park, NY
Previous Life: Founder 1stdibs.com
Activities: 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.
Is Valley Rock Inn open for Business?
Yes, our market is open, but the restaurants, gym and hotel are closed temporarily.
How do you see the reopening of your Inn and restaurants this summer?
We plan to open the guest houses in May for what we call “Shelter and Nature” stays.
Since we do not want a lot of turnover, we will be requiring a four-night minimum stay for four to six people in their own private guest house. We are leaving two days between stays to prepare and sanitize the guest houses.
Each guest house will have the following exclusively to its occupants:
Three dining tables in various locations throughout the property so you can choose where you want to eat knowing nobody else has sat at your table.
Your own bike for riding into the 70,000 acres of forever-wild parkland that surrounds the village our property is located in.
Your own dedicated area at the pool with at least 20 feet from the next guest group.
Private hiking with a guide or on your own; hopefully the lakes will open and our kayaks will be ready to go.
Your own time slot to workout in our 7,000 sq ft fitness center and use of our bocce court.
As far as our two restaurants go, we will be serving primarily in our large outdoor covered Pavillion surrounded by gardens. Like all restaurants we will be limiting the number of reservations at any given time and we will not accept walk-ins.
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.