I encountered Dale Mitchell after investigating the “mystery” house he owns on Route 83 just past Stewart’s in Pine Plains. (See the article on mystery buildings in last month’s issue of Maine Street Magazine.) Mitchell, a tall older gentleman wearing a flat cap and plaid shirt, agreed to meet me in his tiny office, surrounded by an assortment of other small buildings that had always intrigued me.
When did you come to Pine Plains, NY?
I came to Pine Plains over 40 years ago from Kent, CT, where I had taught mathematics and science at Kent School for 15 years and then turned to real estate development. I became successful at building high-end homes and built two passive solar model homes – one in maple and one in oak. The New York Times did an article about my company and we sold 30 homes in 18 months. That was my first business. When visiting Pine Plains, I stayed at The Pines and bought it on the spot from the owners. My wife and I moved here, restored the incredible Victorian mansion, and operated it as a bed and breakfast. That was my second business.
The best thing that ever happened to Pine Plains was when Christian Eisenbeiss, who had built Holsten-Brauerei into Germany’s largest brewery empire, came to stay as a guest at the inn. He became involved in the community and purchased the Stissing House with several local investors including myself. At that point in time, the Stissing House was literally a shell waiting to be bulldozed, operating as a very questionable bar where motorcycle gangs hung out. Christian promised the investors that we would salvage the building and retain it as a restaurant in the center of town. He had the financial resources to invest in the restoration and then support the restaurant, which paid very little rent. When he died unexpectedly in 2017, his heirs sold the building, which now operates as a very successful restaurant. In fact, it received a “Best New Restaurant” nomination from the James Beard Foundation this year. Christian also played an important role in saving Pine Plains Memorial Hall.
Someone told me you built the Pine Plains post office.
The US Postal Service solicited bids to build and lease a new post office in Pine Plains. This caused a major commotion that ended up in New York Supreme Court. Members of the Town Board did not want to see the post office outside the center of Pine Plains so they attempted to scuttle the two winning proposals I had made. Eventually I proceeded, built the post office, and then sold the lease and land to investors. The whole thing made me somewhat controversial.
What is TapNZ NOTASHED on your business card?
This is my current business venture, which uses salvaged larch and Brazilian Ipe from the old Tappan Zee Bridge foundations and pilings to build affordable structures. I work with my partner Issa Nesheiwat on this line. Issa is additionally the owner of Apex Modular Solutions, an industry leader in modular construction. When the old bridge was demolished, the state brought in barges with huge cranes. They tore apart the submerged pilings and shipped them to Albany. I bought an estimated three million board feet and, after cutting up the wood, ended up with about a million square feet of usable timber. I had to figure out what to do with it. I used it in the construction of these small structures.
Initially I thought a modular party barn would be popular, but now thanks to my collaboration with Apex Modular Solutions, we’re building small, affordable one-bedroom homes complete with insulation that buyers can finish themselves. These are panelized homes built in sections and then transported from Missouri and put in place over the wood frames built from the Tappan Zee salvage. It’s much easier to put a paneled ADU (accessory dwelling unit) in place in a back yard than an entire modular section. A 16’ by 40’ home of 640 square feet would be priced in a range of $40,000 to $100,000.
What about Antique Vintage Woods of America?
That was my third business. About 25 years ago, I started reclaiming wood and then reselling it. For example, I bought a million board feet of redwood from Taylor Wines in upstate New York and shipped it all over the world. Several years ago, I sold the business to the Hudson Company and they eventually changed the name on the sign.
When I started the company there were only four major wood salvage operations in the United States. Now there are thousands. We operated two design centers in Pine Plains and advertised in Architectural Digest and other shelter magazines.
Recently I started New England Hard Woods which my son now operates. I’ve just always loved wood. And now I am building Apex Modular Solutions using reclaimed wood to construct affordable, one-bedroom houses.
Now you’re getting to what I really wanted to talk about. Of the original 100 acre farm that I purchased from the Pilch family when I first came to Pine Plains, I still own 35 acres wrapping around the Stewart’s gas station. In my life I have started and sold five businesses all of which are still functioning. But this last project is the most important.
Issa Nesheiwat approached Hudson River Housing with the idea of building affordable housing units on my property. They liked the idea and currently have an option to purchase the land. At the Pine Plains Community Day this fall, HRH had a table and lots of people were excited about affordable housing. HRH has had informal conversations with town officials and will be presenting its proposal to build 36 affordable units on the property soon. The plans will include a sewer and water treatment facility that could potentially be expanded to serve the town center. It’s how to move Pine Plains forward and benefit everyone.
What difference have you made in Pine Plains?
I have invested in three properties: Stissing House, The Pines, and the Pilch Farm. Our family has purchased two homes in the area. I have started five businesses here and directly or indirectly built five buildings. I hope this last project will make the biggest difference in the future of our community. •