COBLESKILL — Remember, remember the Fifth of October.
That was the day Tim and Tracy Purcell got married and opened their new restaurant.
Try wedding planning for 325 people and launching a new venture in a converted 1850s farmhouse at the same time.
Seventeen years later, they're still married — and the restaurant is thriving.
The Purcells tackled the venture after Tim, a former flight attendant, opted to change careers following the Sept. 11 attacks.
“This is exactly what I want,” said Tim when shown the abandoned and overgrown house.
The location conjured up warm family feelings, and with a little bit of TLC, the former farm was reborn.
“And we’ve been able to keep that feeling,” Tracy said.
Grapevine Farms is billed as a “country shop, boutique bistro and wine cellar.”
The two-story farmhouse is located just outside of downtown Cobleskill in Schoharie County on state Route 7.
The dining room retains the charm of an old farmhouse, including creaking wooden floors, a fireplace and walls dotted with photos of the Purcells own ancestors, as well as family heirlooms and china and stemware passed down through the generations.
Culinary options were initially modest: The lunch menu consisted of two sandwiches and two soups augmented by homemade cookies, which remain a perennial favorite.
Grapevine Farms owners Tim and Tracy Purcell.
“Until last year, we didn’t have a chef,” Tracy said. “We had Moms. We just geared it around comfort food.”
Specialties include homemade quiche and Grapevine’s Famous Chicken Salad, their signature dish featuring cranberries infused with domestic-produced red wine — a recipe generated from a guest chef when Grapevine was temporarily used as a FEMA command post following Tropical Storm Irene.
The menu changes twice annually, and Grapevine attempts to use local ingredients whenever possible.
As the Purcells settled in, the venue doubled in size in 2007 with the addition of a commercial kitchen, dining room and expanded retail space.
The upstairs is now a cozy warren of retail space featuring a year-round Christmas room, as well as clothing lines from Vera Bradley and Brighton, among others.
One popular recent addition has been Beekman 1802, the Schenectady-based lifestyle brand which Tracy said has been warmly received.
“As we’ve grown, we’ve grown more diverse in what we carry,” she said.
Grapevine Farms added a wine cellar in 2009 featuring only New York state wines.
At the time, there were fewer than 200 wineries in the state. The number has now doubled.
“We wanted to do something unique,” Tracy said.
Tours and tastings are available, which makes the location a multi-hour destination when paired with dining and shopping.
Grapevine Farms owners Tim and Tracy Purcell.
The family-owned business is also increasingly dipping a toe into themed events, including murder mysteries, paint-and-sips and theme parties in which staff portray characters, whether be from Harry Potter or Disney.
Keeping on top of current trends is critical, said the business owners.
“If you don’t, you won’t survive,” Tracy said.
And while Grapevine Farms is a cozy destination drawing local residents and foreign tourists alike, they do have an unexpected draw.
As many as 15 guests have reported paranormal activity at the farmhouse over the years, stories independently corroborated by visitors.
“We’re heard the same stories by people who don’t know each other,” Tracy said.
Sightings have included apparitions and noises — one woman even reported being steadied by an unseen hand as she nearly toppled over backwards while shopping.
The Purcells suspect the spirits of former residents of the converted farmhouse, including children who died of the flu and the original owner, who has been described as a “curmudgeon.”
Several visitors have reported signs of the old man, and the children have been spotted dancing around a Christmas tree.
Outside paranormal investigators have visited the property and the site has been included on the Haunted History Trail of New York State.
Upon taking ownership of the property, the couple discovered someone had leaned a displaced gravestone against the garage: David Hilts, who died in 1859 at the age of 80.
More from Dine 2019: Montgomery, Fulton and Schoharie Counties
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- Authentic Italian at Parillo's Armory Grill in Amsterdam
- Table At Fort Plain: Fine dining midway between Utica and Albany
- C.P.'s Family Restaurant in Hagaman offers memorabilia with its burgers
- Saltman's Hotel choice for servings of food, history in Fulton County
Now the owners keep it on site to ward off bad luck.
Guests shouldn't let the spirits deter a visit. All been described as “happy spirits,” said Tracy, who admitted she hasn’t had an encounter — yet.
“It freaks some people out,” Tracy said. “One lady came screaming down the stairs and left.”