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The goat cheese factor
December 1, 2009 - Bill Ackerbauer
Earlier this fall, New York Times blogger Stanley Fish wrote about Andes, N.Y., the tiny, rural Delaware County town where he spends his summers. In his Oct. 5 blog post about Andes, he writes glowingly about the place, which the New York Post recently named No. 38 on its list of the best 100 places for NYC metro types to visit on a weekend drive.
"It flourishes against all odds," he wrote. "I’m trying to figure out why."
I'm trying to figure out Fish's definition of "flourish." I had never heard of Andes, so I was intrigued by Fish's description of the place. I see some parallels between it and some of our Sacandaga Valley towns, the most obvious of which is that a huge tract of former farmland near Andes was flooded to make a reservoir in the 1950s. The area also has its share of economic disadvantages, such as the decline of its local dairy industry.
Fish rattles off a list of Andes' charming features — amenities he supposes must have developed "by accident":
... two serious art galleries, nine antique and craft shops, a restored mansion ... a beautiful park designed and built by a lifelong resident who is also a noted painter, a renovated historic tavern, a handsome 19th century hotel and dining room, a chic farmers’ market, a modestly named “basket shop” that sells (among many other wondrous things) stunning Indian kilim rugs for less than $400, and a restaurant that ... buys local and offers gourmet cheese and wines, high-end olive oil and absolutely real croissants.Sounds terrific, especially if you're interested in art and gourmet cheese and Indian rugs and whatnot, and especially if you have the discretionary income necessary to enjoy such products. I presume the school, library and tennis courts are public facilities that residents may enjoy at no cost beyond what they pay in taxes. The burning question, of course, is how do the good people of Andes afford the "finer things?" What jobs does the local economy support other than masseuse and tea-shop clerk? According to the state Department of Labor, the unemployment rate in Delaware County was 8.4 percent in October, just slightly better than Fulton County's 9 percent.
I mentioned Fish's blog post to an acquaintance of mine, a Gloversville resident who happened to be passing through Andes the next day. He took some pictures and sent them my way (see photos above at right). He said his reaction was the same: It looks nice, but what do these folks do for a living?
Perhaps it's as simple as Fish suggests: Andes can support a thriving arts community and other cosmopolitan amenities because affluent visitors stop by from time to time and shell out a few bucks for croissants and high-end olive oil.
If you take the time to follow the link to Fish's blog, be sure to see the readers' comments at the end. Several are enlightening, including the ones that suggest Andes is a "best-kept secret" sort of place and the attention from Fish and the Post are unwanted because they might bring in hordes of wealthy out-of-towners who will buy up all the cheap houses for seasonal use.
What do you think? Do we in Fulton County appreciate our out-of-town lakeshore property owners, or are they a blight on us year-rounders?
And, more to the point, could goat cheese and antiques be the solution to Gloversville's economic troubles?
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