“I was always longing to live in a closer community. A place where neighbors knew and cared for each other, looked out for each other.” - Jesse Marcus, Co-Owner
This magazine and our website are, like the businesses described on their pages, a labor of love. We hope you find much here that’s useful and enjoyable, and that we can help you to feel truly at home here, whether you’re up for the afternoon or looking out the window of the house your grandfather built. For the first time, it’s occurred to us to introduce ourselves in these pages as we do so many others. Our Meet the Owners stories are intended to help you feel comfortable and familiar in checking out new places, so what better place to start than by adding that comfortable familiarity to our own magazine? Jesse Marcus grew up in New Jersey and moved to the Upper East Side in 1995, working in advertising, something he’d discovered a knack for while working with his family’s jewelry business. Melissa Hewitt grew up on Long Island, in a family that owned a print shop, and discovered her own knack for design and marketing and began working for an ad agency.
Though the two hadn’t found each other yet, they were already looking for the same thing. “There was a lot to love about the city, but I was always longing to live in a closer community,” says Marcus. “A place where neighbors knew and cared for each other, looked out for each other.” Hewitt, meanwhile, had been feeling a similar longing. A mom of three, she wanted to raise them somewhere where there was more of a sense of place, more of a village.
“That’s why we call it Vortex; we feel this place really draws you in, and want to help other people feel that too.”
- Melissa Hewitt, Co-Owner
In 2001, both found their way to Ulster County. In the next couple of years, their paths would cross around the offices of the BlueStone Press, and after love at first sight they were soon exploring together as a couple and as a family. They loved what they found, from mom-and-pop stores to delicious foods and useful services. Excited by checking out each new find, they’d befriend the owners and staff, and when a neighborhood business went under, it strengthened their mission to support local. They started VISITvortex in 2008. Wanting to use their skills on behalf of the place that had won their hearts, the couple began making videos of their adventures, giving business owners a face and a voice, encouraging them to show off their wares.
“There was no real social media yet, and nobody was doing this,” says Marcus. “We designed and implemented an online portal where you could see the videos we were making of indie shops, local restaurants, farmers; the idea was to encourage shopping the neighborhood instead of the big-box stores and to help get their word out and make a better living.” The videos were a hit, even drawing in a boost of cooperation from the folks running the I Love New York campaign, and the print magazine soon followed. “We both love print, how tangible it is, and wanted to make a beautiful quarterly magazine,” says Marcus. “Melissa, of course, has that background—she grew up around marketing and printing and had her own letterpress print shop. We wanted to showcase what we were doing on the website and spread the word farther.”
“Distributing the magazine is a blast. I walk in and people grab one and light up. It’s like I’m bringing them a gift—and really, they’re giving me one.” - Jesse Marcus
The website and the magazine share a similar flow, and that’s by design. “We always try to be relatable to everyone, whether you’re a tourist, a new resident, or someone who grew up here,” says Hewitt. “We love this community with a passion, and we want everyone to feel at home while they’re here, know where to find what they need, and be enticed into some new adventures. That’s why we call it Vortex; we feel this place really draws you in, and want to help people feel that too.”
It’s been 15 years. Melissa’s three oldest are happily launched on their own creative pursuits, and Milo, the child they had together, is 11. “He’s helping pick the covers for each issue,” says his designer mom. “All of the kids have helped through the years, and Milo now is taking an interest.”
As a contributing writer I have worked with VISITVortex since 2013. I’m with Milo: it’s work that never fails to be interesting. Every business, from the third-generation legacy families to the newly minted entrepreneurs whose dreams are just finding their wings, is as unique as a fingerprint; giving them the chance to talk about it is about as much fun as a reporter can have. These are stories of dedication and love and hard, smart work; they’re inspiring to write and, I hope, inspiring to read. If you have a dream, take it from the people you’ll meet in our pages: It can become your reality and transform your life—usually into something that demands far more from you than you ever knew you had, but that’s half the joy of it.
Thank you for letting us be your guide to the beauty of this beloved community, the Hudson Valley and Catskills. We’re hoping you’ll love the place the way we do, and we’re going to keep on showcasing the best parts. People seem to like it. “Just distributing the magazine four times a year is a blast,” says Marcus. “I walk in and people grab one and light up. It’s like I’m bringing them a gift—and really, they’re giving me one.”
Hudson Valley | Catskills