News & Insights


Recipients to be honored at SCP’s 25th anniversary annual meeting

The Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development has announced that Sims Foster and Kirsten Harlow Foster will be honored as the 2019 Walter A. Rhulen Award recipients at this year’s Annual Meeting on October 10th at The Kartrite Resort and Indoor Waterpark in Monticello, N.Y.

Additionally, the Partnership will recognize Michael Zalkin, who chairs the Partnership Membership Committee, as its Distinguished Service Award winner.

The annual Rhulen Award recognizes an individual or individuals for business excellence, community commitment, and service to humanity. Sims, a Sullivan County native, and his wife and business partner, Kirsten, own and operate Foster Supply Hospitality and manage Western Properties, LLC. Their businesses consist of a group of boutique hotels and restaurants in the Sullivan Catskills including well-known names such as The Arnold House and The DeBruce in Livingston Manor, N.Y., The North Branch Inn in North Branch, N.Y., The Cabin at Hessinger-Lare in Jeffersonville, N.Y., and Piccolo Paese and the Sullivan County Golf and Country Club in Liberty, N.Y.

Sims and Kirsten decided to leave lucrative careers in New York City to become investors and entrepreneurs in Sullivan County. Their entrepreneurial effort has contributed to the growing number of tourists to the region and has created over 100 jobs for the county. They also support the Sullivan County business community by sourcing local vendors for their business needs.

“The Fosters are showing the county, the region, and the world how one can take an existing business or location that may be going through a difficult time and breathe new life into it at the highest level,” said SC Partnership President and CEO Marc Baez.

The Fosters’ businesses have earned accolades in many well-known publications, including the New York Times, Travel and Leisure, Esquire, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and Bon Appetit. In fact, Bon Appetit in 2018 named The DeBruce one of America’s best new hotels in the world, and Time Out New York Magazine named The North Branch Inn one of the “Best Bed and Breakfast Inns in America.”

Sims Foster is a board member and Marketing Committee Chair of the Sullivan Catskills Visitors Association, a board member of the Catskill Fly Fishing Center, and soon-to-be board member of the Sullivan County Land Bank.

For the last four years, the Fosters have provided a nutrition and lifestyle education program for eighth graders in the Livingston Manor School District through their nonprofit, A Single Bite. Over the course of a semester, the Fosters work with the district’s food and nutrition teacher to introduce children to the idea that food, where it comes from, and how it is delivered to them is an important choice.

“Sullivan County is extremely fortunate that these two talented individuals have fully committed to investing their expertise and resources into our county,” Baez added. “Their work truly exhibits the best of what the Sullivan Catskills has to offer.”

The Partnership will also honor Michael Zalkin, a Woodridge, N.Y. native with a long history of success in the travel industry in Sullivan County, with its Distinguished Service Award.

Michael graduated from Fallsburg High School in Fallsburg, N.Y. and earned his Bachelor of Economics from Ithaca College in Ithaca, N.Y. He went on to complete both his Master of Economics and his Doctorate in Economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in Amherst, Mass. Michael was an assistant professor of Economics at the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Ind. for five years before returning to Sullivan County in 1990 to take over his family’s camping resort, Birchwood Acres.

Birchwood Acres eventually joined the Jellystone Park franchise system, and earned several Jellystone awards, including Rookie of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, and Camp-Resort of the Year. In 2013, Michael sold the park to Sun Communities, an NYSE-traded REIT. Currently Michael oversees real estate and other investments held in his sub-chapter S Corp, Birchwood Lodge, Inc.

He also dedicates a significant portion of his time to his community. He is a member of the Partnership’s Board of Directors, and chairman of the Partnership’s Membership Committee. He also served as a Fallsburg School board member for 12 years, including four years as vice president and four years as president.

“This past fiscal year Michael has brought newfound energy and enthusiasm to the Partnership’s Membership Committee,” said SC Partnership Board of Directors Chairman James Bates. “His efforts have raised the bar in our communication to members and has resulted in attracting younger and more diverse board members to the Partnership.”

“Whether he is lending his expertise to the Board of Directors or injecting fresh new ideas while leading the Membership Committee, Michael has helped the Partnership evolve and has positioned the organization to better serve our members moving forward,” he added.

The Annual Meeting will be held on Thursday, October 10th at The Kartrite Resort and Indoor Waterpark from 5:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. To RSVP or to become a sponsor, call 845.794.1110 or email Jen Cassaro at [email protected].