A little over a week ago, Hemlock, a new wellness destination from Foster Supply Company, welcomed its first visitors to Neversink, N.Y.
“They all grabbed their Hemlock water bottles, and every single one of them headed directly out to the trails,” says Sims Foster, who owns the property with wife Kirsten Harlow Foster. “You know it’s going to be a good night, because no one comes back from spending some time in the woods angry.”
Hemlock is the Foster Supply Company’s seventh hotel, joining sister properties in the Sullivan County region of the Catskills including the DeBruce, the North Branch Inn, and Kenoza Hall. After launching a small spa at their recent property, Kenoza Hall, the Fosters were encouraged to go deeper into the wellness hospitality space.
“Our other properties might not be wellness in the sense that they’re not spa hotels, but people do come up here for restoration and relaxation and so there’s an inherent wellness in what we have been providing and offering to our guests,” says Kirsten.
The 34-room hotel, spread across several buildings and located on 230 acres with six miles of trails, was the former home of New Age Health Spa, which closed in 2011.
“We tend to take old buildings, take stories that have started to be written, and kind of brush them off and write the next chapter,” says Kirsten. “[Wellness] is what the space was really built and designed for. It’s in the walls and in the history of the property.”
In addition to offering traditional spa treatments, Hemlock’s holistic wellness offerings include yoga, meditation, hiking with rescue goats, crafting, and stargazing from a platform on the property, built with the intention of laying outside and looking up.
“When we started thinking about what wellness means to us, I have these words printed in front of my computer that I’ve been looking at in my office for two years, two concepts that resonate with me,” says Kirsten. “One is happiness, and one is acceptance.
“That is true wellness for us,” she adds. “Happiness is really at the core of being well. And looking back at a lot of spas that we’ve been to, there is a seriousness and a bit of an intimidation that comes across in that segment of hospitality.”
The Fosters note that their intent was to bring an element of playfulness to wellness — hence activities like crafting, pottery, painting, and hiking with goats. The Hemlock team helps all guests design a tentative schedule of activities for their stay, based on their intentions for visiting the property.
The hotel’s design leans into the area’s Quaker heritage and natural setting. The color palette is rooted in neutral tones and interiors feature handcrafted wooden Shaker furniture. The property’s signature quilting pattern was inspired by the local Neversink quilting community. “It’s really about simplicity and calmness, and trying to help support the goal of the guest,” says Kirsten.
Part of the Foster experience is in the culinary experience. Food and beverage has become a centerpiece of Foster Supply Company properties and earlier this year the company earned an “outstanding restaurateur” James Beard nomination. Their newest addition is Bittersweet at Hemlock, a plant-forward restaurant and bar. Sims sums up the restaurant’s approach as “mostly vegetables, and delicious.”
Bittersweet is definitively not a traditional “spa restaurant,” and Hemlock isn’t results-centric wellness.
“We’re not a property where you go for transformative physical change. You’re not going [to Hemlock] to fix a physical flaw,” says Kirsten. “Change and improvement is a continuum path, and hopefully through an experience at Hemlock you can get closer to being OK with who you are and where you are right at that moment.”