Tivoli General: An Updated Version Of A Childhood Memory
By Jamie Larson
That immutable, lovely experience of the mom-and-pop store is back in Tivoli, New York, updated in style and flavor. At Tivoli General, Natalie and Kazio Sosnowski only technically became a mom and pop eight months ago (after the birth of their son, Julian) but their well-curated store, with its stellar lunch menu, already feels like an integral part of the community.
Bard photography students who couldn’t bear to leave the picturesque village after graduation, the young couple first bought an old egg farm in Elizaville and, in 2014, started Five Maple Farm, producing heritage breed, forage-fed pigs, heritage chicken eggs, goat milk soap, maple syrup and produce. But since farming wasn’t enough to sustain them, they opened Tivoli General in March 2015, right in the center of town.
“When we were students here, we saw this as a gaping hole in the community,” Natalie Sosnowski says, seated in front of the wall menu in her bright, well-appointed shop. “We were always very realistic that the farm would take a backseat to the store, but that the store gives us a great place to showcase what we make, as well as great stuff from other farms we love.”
“We definitely knew we wanted to provide basic necessities: toilet paper, sugar, beer, spices,” she continues. “It’s the worst when you need one ingredient and you have to drive all the way out to a supermarket. So really we’re here to support locals and there’s also this amazing community of Bard students who shop a completely different way, basically meal to meal. We’re here for them, too.”
Tivoli General does carry basics, but they also have a selection of local goods and specialty items you aren’t going to find in any other one place. They have high-quality meats, some seasonal produce and other products from local farms and businesses (including Sparrowbush, Fix Brothers, Chaseholm, Ronnybrook, and others), and they stock a versatile selection of international ingredients, spices, pottery, cookbooks, used records, canned octopus… and a huge selection of craft beer.
“We’re passionate about food and, as a small store, you have to provide specialty stuff because you’re just not going to be able to compete with the big stores unless you have things they don’t,” Sosnowski says.
Otto’s Market in Germantown (which was recently sold to new owners who continue the operation) is an influence of theirs and proved that small towns want and can support a modern general store. “Otto’s was super inspiring for us,” she says. “Just to see what an amazing job he did — and you really can see how much people still do value the personal touch of a small business. That sounds corny… but it’s true.”
What’s really got locals and visitors addicted to Tivoli General, though, are the sandwiches, on excellent bread and bialys baked daily by Kazio. The menu, which includes regularly changing specials, offers a traditional banh mi with pork pâté and pickled vegetables ($10), avocado toast with onion jam and prosciutto ($10), fresh mozzarella with tapenade ($7), a prosciutto cotto with chevre, honey, mint and arugula ($7.50) and more. They also have prepared salads and dips, and a selection of uncommon drinks like mango lassi ($4) and Vietnamese iced coffee ($3).
“I owe everything I know about cooking to Francesco (Buitoni) from Mercato,” says Sosnowski, who begged her way into the kitchen after working front of house in Buitoni’s acclaimed Red Hook restaurant. “I worked there two-and-a-half years and he formed my approach to eating, cooking and buying food. We wanted our menu to be simple and about these great ingredients.”
Whatever you’re coming into Tivoli General for, it’s hard not to leave with a few items that aren’t on your list. The Sosnowskis have pulled off a well-executed enterprise, even without considering their age or how many pots they’ve got on the stove at once. Their store has quickly become a vital piece of the village’s exciting main street.
54 Broadway, Tivoli, NY
Sundays – Thursdays, 9:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Fridays & Saturdays, 9:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.