Thursday, January 22, 2009

Meet Otto

Otto is a grocer. And his little grocery has turned the lights back on on Main Street, Germantown. As you may have heard, Otto is from Whole Foods, a former VP of Operations responsible for 16 stores in the NY metro area. So why is he in Germantown, you ask?

He wanted to be a chicken farmer. He went looking for land and found a market instead. And it needed him. Desperately. It's been two long years since Central Market went dark, and Germantown has been patiently waiting.

And it is beautiful. Otto has kept the cafe tables and the bar counter facing the street, so you can sit and watch Gtown go by (pick-up after pick-up after pick-up, all with plows, I might add). Ken is back from the Central Market days making great soups daily, and he's in the deli cutting fresh meat to order and making sandwiches and panini (the pickles are surely the best north of White Plains).

New to Gtown is Starlight, the CIA-trained pastry chef (yes, that's her name, and she is delightful). She bakes muffins and desserts daily including Otto's grandmother's own butterscotch glazed cinnamon buns. She's a talented cake baker, from what I hear, and will make special occasion cakes with 3 days notice. In the category of find-of-the-week, she's also making homemade marshmallows. Remember that when you're thinking campfire s'mores this summer.

While all of this makes a breakfast or lunch meet-up in Gtown once again possible, the essence of Otto's Market is groceries. Before opening, Otto did his research (which is why he should be around for awhile). He visited every market in a 50 mile radius. He found out most little grocers don't have much food for sale (but, we knew this). "I had more food in my cupboards than they had on their shelves."

Otto's shelves are packed. A friend of mine (former Germantown organic shiitake farmer) recently checked out behind a guy with a big plastic tub of Cool Whip. Gotta love that. Which pretty much sums up Gtown, and Otto's. Peruse the aisles and you will find locally roasted J.B. Peel coffee next to Maxwell House. Chatham's own Our Daily Bread just down the aisle from Freihofer's. And Fruit Loops shoulder to shoulder with European meusli. There's something for every palate and wallet from basic grocery, to local products, national-brand natural foods, and posh imports.

Gone is the catering, but who has money for that these days, anyway? Otto will happily prepare trays for meetings and gatherings and his cheeses, fresh local produce (in season) and baked goods should get you through, just fine.

And, I must note, the staff are all adults. Adults. With food experience. And they really like Otto. This is a very good sign.

Thank you, Otto. From the jars of penny candy to the grind-your-own peanut butter, the heavenly Chemex coffee to the Financial Times, we really like what you've done. And we won't forget that you are the Village of Tivoli's nearest grocer. The chickens will just have to wait.

Otto's Market is at 215 Main St. conveniently opposite Jim Lawlor's liquor store. Otto's is open Mon-Sat 7-7, Sun 7-3. Phone 518.537.7200.


  1. Oh, I can't wait to go check this out. Even though Germantown's a little far for me (I'm in Spencertown) the market sounds divine, and your pictures are lovely. So happy to have found your blog.

  2. Come to Germantown and Tivoli and bring your snow shoes. Lots of great trails and walks to get the blood moving this time of year - and hot soup at Otto's.

  3. Dear Otto: Please have your second store at the old RANDOM HARVEST store on Route 23 on the way into Hillsdale. It's a great location - lots of traffic of folks going to the Berkshires, plus it's close to Hudson.