As new media continues to evolve into the digital age, Akira and Ellie Ohiso, publishers of Green Door: A Journal of Responsible Living in the Catskills & Hudson Valley, made a decision to strike out in a new direction with their careers. Transitioning from weekends in the country to making the Catskills their home, the Ohisos took a gamble and began a glossy magazine venture that has led them on a surprising and spiritual journey of discovery. Reconnecting with family and community is just the tip of the iceberg for what this entrepreneurial couple has accomplished along the way. In celebration of Green Door magazine’s second anniversary, The River Reporter sat down with Akira and Ellie to find out more about their story.
TRR: Your magazine is gorgeous! How did it come into being? Whose idea was it?
Ellie: It was a joint concept, really. Akira had been (professionally) blogging for several years and I was working in graphic design. We were working hard, had two children, and still having a hard time making ends meet in New York. Soul-searching became an everyday pastime, so we put our heads together and decided to make some life-altering changes.
Akira: As a social worker, I was constantly fighting for a “vulnerable population” in different sectors of the city. We had been visiting Ellie’s parents at their weekend home near here since 2004 and not only fell in love with the region, but also recognized that there are similar issues here in the Catskills, and wanted to be a part of the change that people expressed a desire for here in the country. That, combined with our own personal desire for change, drove us to seek a different way of life and be an active part of the community.
TRR: Not only have you set up shop in Liberty, NY, but you also live in the village itself, which has been fighting a difficult reputation for a number of years. Why Liberty?
Ellie: When we decided to create the magazine, we laid out a mission statement which includes our desire for Green Door to be an instrument of change. This town has a rich history and great bones. We both believe that there is a renaissance afoot in and around Liberty, and wanted to show the community that there are many ways that the town can “come back” and we want to be a part of that. Neither of us felt that we could accomplish that goal without being at the heart of it all.
Akira: There are many viewpoints of this region and we hear a lot of talk. We wanted to make it clear that we believe in this town and that there are so many creative ways to bring it back to vitality, instead of lamenting what once was. By making Liberty our home, we’re telling others that we’re here, we’re happy here, and you can be too.
Ellie: Of course it was a gamble, and it took some getting used to. We gave ourselves, and the magazine, a few years to get off the ground. Initially, it was scary and we found ourselves in the city fairly often, but it wasn’t long before we discovered that this is now our home, and that city life wasn’t all it was cracked up to be for us.
Akira: Our friends thought we were crazy
Ellie: There were times that I did, too!
Akira: But we soon discovered that the stress and worries that we carried daily were actually coming from our environment, rather than within. It took a while to “detox,” but now we have a clearer idea of what we want our lives to be about, and it’s not necessarily keeping up with the Joneses.
Ellie: While we brainstormed on what we wanted the magazine to be, many of the trappings fell away. We acknowledged that being “green” can mean different things. Of course, being eco-friendly is at the top of the list, but finding a new home that’s green also meant finding a way to live with nature, a sense of responsibility, and discovering greener pastures for our family. We wanted a more peaceful, natural environment in which to raise our children. I don’t believe we would have had our third, had we stayed in NYC.
TRR: In just two years, Green Door has already had an impact, not only here but around the country. The magazine is drawing attention to opportunities for others, not just to visit, but make the Catskills (and the greater Hudson Valley) their home as well. What do you attribute the seemingly instant success to?
Ellie: We have a wonderful distributor. Although we make the magazine available at no cost in the counties that we cover (Sullivan, Ulster, Delaware, Greene and Dutchess), 90% of our readership is in and around the greater New York City area. Our subscriber list grows daily, we can be found in every Barnes & Noble location and of course, available on line.
Akira: We are not alone. Although the Internet has become an enormous resource for gathering information, there is a renewed interest in keeping the printed word alive. Modern Farmer and Folk Magazine have set up shop upstate. Twenty-somethings are creating hard copy magazines, so we feel that we’re in good company. When Ellie and I see a dog-eared copy of our Green Door magazine in a library, or on a newsstand, our hearts sing. Some leaf through it and save articles to savor. Others read it cover to cover in one sitting, but they’re reading it, and responding, which brings us great joy. We feel that we must be doing something right.
Ellie: This is only the beginning. We’re setting up shop right here on Main Street in Liberty and receiving lots of local support. Our store (opening soon) is so much more than an office. We’re creating a place for community to gather, a performance space and an art gallery that will feature the work of magazine contributors. Akira and I are so grateful to be a part of the process and incredibly excited to discover what lays ahead, behind the Green Door.
[For more information, visit www.greendoormag.com , “like” them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @GreenDoorMag. The Ohisos will host an opening reception for an artists’ exhibition, “Change: A World in Motion,” at Green Door, 34 South Main St., Liberty on Friday, July 19 from 6 to 8 p.m.]