It might be hard to imagine in this cynical age that a nearly perfect place exists. But for those who enjoy pairing a good local brew with a compelling novel, perfection may just be reality.
Spotty Dog Books & Ale opened in Hudson in 2005 and offers 12 brews on tap that are mostly locally sourced, a wide selection of books for sale, and an arts supply section.
This fairly unique shop is the result of family legacy and the success of Albany’s C.H. Evans Brewing Company.
“My uncle bought the building we’re in now and was going to open up a second brew pub,” says Kelley Drashushuk who owns the Spotty Dog with her husband. Her uncle is Neil Evans. Owners of CH Evans Brewing Company. Spotty Dog is located in the CH Evans firehouse which was built in 1889. Drashushuk and Evans both trace their roots back to CH Evans whose original brewery started in Hudson in 1786.
“He realized that he was so busy with the original location that he was probably never going to get around to doing it. People were grumbling that the building was going unused so he asked me if I had any ideas.”
A bookstore was the first idea that came to mind, as Drahushuk spent years while running an arts supply store in Hudson regretfully being unable to refer shoppers to a local bookseller.
Her uncle responded to the bookstore proposition with one small change: “What about a bookstore with beer?”
Going into their 13th year the bookstore employs around 10 people to various extents and has become the home to a slate of regulars, while also serving as a bit of a tourist attraction.
At a time when Amazon uses books as a loss leader to draw in customers, beer serves as a particularly helpful pairing for Spotty Dog as it has a steeper markup than books. And beer has allowed Spotty Dog to tap into the local brewery craze.
“You go to any bookstore now and it’s not just books anymore,” says Drashushuk. “You see calendars, greeting cards, stuffed animals, toys, all sorts of stuff. Books are not a money maker anymore.” And yet Drashushuk points out that her local bookseller association has seen more new stores over the past few years than it has seen closures. “People have this mistaken thought that independent bookstores on the ropes. Some people want the experience of going to a bookstore, talking to people about what they are reading and then leaving with something they can hold.”
Beer serves as a complimentary draw.
“Beer has really been a nice thing. We’ve gone from 8 taps to 12. We are very lucky to have good breweries locally. We carry Flores, Sloop, my uncle’s beers. Many of these places don’t bottle so we’re able to have them on tap here and people like to come in and try all these local beers. We are filthy with really good breweries in the area.”
Drahushuk says that one of the advantages of owning a store, that in some ways is a fantasy to many people, is that it allows her to defer to her employees who bring in their ideas about what to carry and how to cater to their customers.
“I have a very good staff, very smart, very informed and they try things I wouldn’t. I am constantly being informed and schooled by them. They stock the things they would want to buy, or know others want to. They told me we should have music here and I told them I won’t be here at night but if you take care of it, let’s go for it. And they did.”
The store regularly hosts musical acts from around the area that represent genres as diverse as hip hop, folk, and jazz, as well as talks, workshops and trivia nights.
“There is no doubt Hudson is getting to be a tourist destination and we get our fair share of customers because of that, but we wouldn’t exist without our regulars. We are infinitely lucky because who wouldn’t want to go to a bookstore bar?”