Shereen Salmon wants to rethink what it means to be a Main Street business in the City of Poughkeepsie. The courthouse, local law offices and other downtown businesses generate a decent portion of the traffic at local restaurants, she says. But Salmon hopes to connect with the local residents and students of Poughkeepsie, too. When Upstream Café opens its doors to the public next month, Salmon wants it to feel less like a business and more like your living room. “We wanted a cozy, comfortable space where people can linger, laugh and just relax,” she said. “It’s not a fast, busy place where you need to rush out the door.” The French Caribbean restaurant, though, is not the only addition Shereen and Garfield Salmon are making to the city. Upstream is located at what was, until recently, a vacant eyesore on Main Street.
With the help of a loan program designed to assist entrepreneurs of color, the Salmons, originally from Jamaica, purchased and renovated the four-story building. They created not only the ground-floor restaurant but also five rental apartments. The project has drawn praise for city officials as another small step in the city’s ongoing revitalization efforts, which have been centered on mixed-use development. The Community Preservation Corporation, meanwhile, is touting the building as an example of what can be created through its ACCESS initiative, which not only connects prospective Black and indigenous owners with funding, but also guidance with their projects.
“Small building owners and entrepreneurs like the Salmons are critical to the health and vitality of our state’s housing stock,” Lawrence Hammond, the director for the ACCESS program, said in a statement. “Providing BIPOC (short for Black, indigenous, people of color) developers with a hand up and access to resources and support they need to be successful is why CPC created the ACCESS initiative.”
Food reflects identity
Tentatively set to open in early to mid-February, Upstream Café aims to enchant customers with its French Caribbean cuisine. The restaurant, based at 368 Main St., held a ribbon-cutting last week. To know Upstream Café is to know Garfield and Shereen Salmon. Its name is a play on their last name, and its food is a reflection of their identity. “My husband and I are from Jamaica,” Shereen Salmon said. “My husband went to culinary school, and his specialty was French-Mediterranean cuisine, so we did not want to lose that specialty by focusing only on Jamaican cuisine. We wanted to blend the flavors, and he does an excellent job at that.”
Alongside a selection of baked goods, Upstream Café’s menu will include jerk chicken, honey barbecue ribs, salmon and escovitch fish. The couple plan to update the menu to include seasonal options and ingredients. Upstream Café seats about 30 people, and with amenities including free WiFi, USB ports for guests to charge their phones and a television, Shereen Salmon hopes guests will take the time to enjoy the space. Of course, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic presents a challenge to any new business. The Salmons have arranged their dining room to allow as much space as possible between guests, and they also plan to offer delivery through apps such as Uber Eats and GrubHub.
A fresh building
Of the five apartments in the building, three are occupied, Shereen Salmon said. Remaining vacancies include a one-bedroom apartment for $1,450 per month and a two-bedroom apartment for $1,750. “(The building) sat dormant for 10 years,” she said. “It was a full gut renovation and rebuilding.” In order to tackle the project, the Salmons sold one piece of property and worked with the Community Preservation Corporation to determine how big of a loan would be needed. According to a release from the corporation, the couple were unable to find a loan through other financial institutions, which, it said, is one of the reasons ACCESS was created in summer 2020.
Through the initiative, the Salmons received a $465,000 construction and permanent loan. Garfield Salmon said the loan, and the initiative, made the project possible. “We’re excited to be opening our café, welcoming new tenants, and look forward to being a part of the Poughkeepsie community,” he said. Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison said, in the release, called the agency “a financial partner” that helps “individuals reenergize our downtown.” “We are really gratified and happy that Garfield and Shereen Salmon have looked to Poughkeepsie to help revitalize and redevelop this building on our Main Street,” he said.
Geoffrey Wilson: email@example.com; 845-437-4882; Twitter: @GeoffWilson_