When the Stamford Smokehouse opened with little fanfare on Main Street in 2013, villagers were quick to notice that something significant was taking place and that a game-changing culinary destination had emerged. The enthusiasm and care proprietors Michael Solyn and Caitlan Grady imbued their establishment with were immediately apparent, and locals rejoiced in the traditional smokehouse specialties and sides available for dine-in and takeout that rivaled any to be found at the most famous smokehouses in the US. Several years later, the community felt a collective pit in the stomach, quite literally, when Stamford Smokehouse closed. But we needn’t have worried and just required some patience, as Mike and Grady were converting their premises into a USDA-approved facility, a daunting task for anyone, but especially for these two who were negotiating the process by themselves without the paid consultants that are normally retained by people in their situation. This belief in their own abilities and willingness to take on seemingly impossible challenges make them great assets to the community, and the Stamford New York Business Alliance is proud to count them among our charter members. They reopened in 2018 as Solinsky’s, specializing in charcuterie and salumi, and are now poised to receive the acclaim of the wider public that they deserve.
During the pandemic, Solinsky’s has remained open and lived up to its designation as an essential business. As the Alliance launches its website, we are thrilled to provide this profile of Mike and Grady at this moment in time.
Please tell us about your connection to the Stamford area and what led you to open Solinsky’s here.
Grady has always been connected to the area. Her mother’s mother’s family were some of the first Palatine German settlers in the area, and you can find their grave sites in Jefferson and Blenheim. Grady’s parents were weekend warriors and she had always wanted to live here permanently. Michael’s first introduction to Upstate New York was at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park as a student. Years later he took the certificate course at SUNY Cobelskill in USDA meat processing and food safety. During a January snowstorm he decided that he wanted to make his permanent home here. We met shortly after that January term class and moved to Jefferson together six months later with the shared goal of creating the finest charcuterie and salumi the Catskills could offer.
You work with local farmers in developing your products and also provide processing services for farms selling their meats directly to the public. Can you talk about this relationship you have with local farmers?
Food culture and history has always been defined by the parameters of the environment. Those boundaries forced food producers to work with and react to what local farmers could provide. Although we have access to a broader variety of ingredients now, being able to have a direct conversation with the farmer about the animal allows us to make better choices about how we approach processing those animals. Is their beef 100% grass fed and how old is it? Does the pork eat a dairy heavy diet, what kind of pig is it, and will its conformation dictate what products can be made? The choices of the farmer affect their product, which in turn affects our product and how it will be produce
What are the challenges of operating Solinsky’s in normal circumstances and now with the pandemic?
First of all, we are lovers, so not being able to invite people into the store anymore and sample them bites out of the deli case is heartbreaking. We want to feed you, love you, and connect. On the other hand, being an essential business that feeds our community, we feel responsible to be open and feed our neighbors, but feel an equal responsibility to making sure that we are a clean and safe space for our customers. Secondly, the supply chain in the country has been affected. Now getting something as simple as salt and sugar can be difficult, which leads to daily concerns about our ability to continue processing. Michael has been working extra hard making sure that we have everything we need, but it has been a struggle at times.
What do see as Solinsky’s role in the Stamford community?
Every community of a certain size used to have a Solinksy’s. We are a small Mom and Pop processing house and the service we provide is no different than what would have been found here 100 years ago. With the invention of modern food processing our country moved temporarily away from small batch high quality products, but as US citizens travel the world they bring back a taste for the quality products produced by small processing houses. Regardless of traveling, when you taste food that someone has taken the time to make right, it tastes better, more delicious. Our role is to provide our neighbors, community, and friends with the best tasting products our training and talent can deliver and elevate their lives in whatever small way we can.
What are your goals/plans for the future for Solinsky’s?
We want to be that food memory that connects generations of a family. We both share that, and those memories have left an indelible mark on who we are. We hope there is at least one kid out there who will grow up to be as obsessed with food as we are. If one of those kids tells their grandchildren about getting kabanosy at Solinsky’s and then those kids - 60 years from now - can think about their grandparent and pass on and share the experience with a loved one, that would be really nice
Thank you for being charter members of the Stamford New York Business Alliance. What does the Alliance signify to you?
The US was founded by hard working industrious people. People who came here filled with fire and ambition to create something better for themselves. SNYBA is made up of people who embody that ambition; business owners and citizens who want to work together because they see the raw potential of Stamford and want to build it, and celebrate in it, together.