Beacon: what’s new, what’s now, what’s great



The Beacon turnaround started with three letters: D I A.

Dia: Beacon (163 Main St, 845-440-0100; diaart.org), home to the Dia Art Foundation’s collection of huge and quirky pieces of art from the 1960s to the present, is housed in a former Nabisco box factory along the bank of the Hudson River. With a way-cool bookstore, charming café, nice grounds, and gigantic galleries to roam, visiting is a fine way to start your day in this Dutchess County hamlet. But don’t stop there.

If you’d like some shopping and dining with your art, head north on Route 9D until you reach Main Street, where there’s a whole lot of hip happening. Main Street is a long thoroughfare with three distinct parts: old Beacon, new Beacon, and newer Beacon. When you enter the street from 9D, you’ll come upon several blocks of thriving galleries, shops, and restaurants. Middle Main Street features more utilitarian fare: bridal shops, beauty salons, barbers—even an old-school diner. Stay the course and you’ll get back to even newer Beacon with clothing stores, home-furnishings shops, and more.

Once on Main, you’ll soon see three antiques shops on the right. I recommend them all: Geppetto Woodworks(163 Main St, 845-838-2024), Iron Fish Trading Company (167 Main St, 845-590-4849; ironfishtrading.com), and Finders Keepers (171 Main St, 845-216-9449). While they each have their own style, they have one thing in common: low prices. I recently picked up an art deco desk for $40 and a rusted iron cart for $25—while missing out by minutes on a fabulous vintage dress form. For high style and higher price tags, cross the street to Relic at 174 (174 Main St, 845-440-0248) for a mix of mid-century modern and a smattering of vintage clothes.

During the 1800s, Beacon was home to nearly 50 hat factories, rendering it the hat-making capital of the United States. You can pay homage to this rich history with a stop at Jacqueline (478 Main St, 845-838-1737). This elegant emporium features everything from a wedding-worthy straw hat of grand proportions to newsboy caps, berets, and other engaging chapeaux.

Don’t miss the Artisan Wine Shop (180 Main St, 845-440-6923; artisanwineshop.com), where well-priced wines abound. Uniquely arranged by taste (find your favorite style in sections entitled, crisp, round, rich, or lush), this spacious store offers a large selection of bottles I’ve never seen anywhere else.

The most popular restaurant in town is the always-bustling Homespun Foods (232 Main St, 845-831-5096; homespunfoods.com). Owners Jessica Reisman and Chris Ancliffe moved to town from Seattle, where Reisman plied her trade as a baker. She’s still baking, but Homespun also offers a full menu of Mediterranean-inspired platters, artful salads, homemade soups, and fabulous sandwiches such as the piquant fresh mozzarella with peppers served on a ciabatta roll slathered with eggplant spread on one side, and olive tapenade on the other.

While Homespun’s desserts are delish, Beacon’s new hot spot is ZoraDora’s (201 Main St, 646-206-3982), where Steven Astorino sells his majestic paletas or ice pops. These Latin American-inspired treats are milk-based or ice-based; the ingredients are organic, seasonal and, according to Astorino, “as local as I can find.” My mojito ice pop was made with fresh lime juice, lime zest, mint, ginger, and tequila and  I’m still dreaming of it.

// Leslie Long