Whether Jessie Spellmann-Mignone is reclining in one of the premium seats at Bedford Playhouse with a tub of popcorn, visibly ecstatic to be back in a movie theater, or twirling in a dress at Jolie Jordan Boutique in Mount Kisco and igniting a frock frenzy, people are following her every move.
Spellmann-Mignone’s nascent but rapidly growing Instagram feed, @whats_in_westchester_ny, is lighting up cell phone screens with a traveler’s sense of discovery, thanks to her visually distinct photography and a genuine enthusiasm for Westchester County’s local businesses.
You could say Westchester’s businesses are her businesses. “If someone asks me to post about them, I make sure it’s a good fit and then we write up an agreement,” Spellmann-Mignone says. She also gives private and group Instagram lessons and does some photographic content for local businesses and influencers.
Spellmann-Mignone, a born-and-raised New York City girl, (who got her driver’s license for “purely ceremonious reasons”), left her stomping ground on the Upper West Side in 2010 to move to Westchester. She expected a bigger culture shock.
“I fell in love with Mount Kisco,” she says, noting the variety of restaurants and the diversity of mom and pop shops. “You get a taste of city as well as small-town life, plus, apple picking and strawberries and greenery.” She realized she was minutes away from all of it and was ready to settle in.
But, first, like most New Yorkers, she’d need to find her bagel.
“I didn’t know where my bagel store was, where my pizza store was,” she says. “I needed to find my Thai, my hair salon.”
So, Spellmann-Mignone embarked on a three-year journey of discovery and came out the other end brimming with information worth sharing.
In 2013, she started Mount Kisco Moms, a popular town fan Facebook group.
“I thought, ‘what a way to unite people and also support local businesses.’” When a member of the group wrote a post lamenting how many stores in Mount Kisco had closed, she was galvanized.
“I didn’t see it through those glasses,” she says emphatically. “I saw how many great places were opening and I wanted to help show that.” She had already made her Facebook page a hub of uplifting messaging for local establishments.
The early days of the pandemic inspired her to think big and pivot. “I said to myself, ‘It’s time to be a little less speakeasy about your business.’” So, this past November, Mount Kisco Moms hit Instagram.
It was a natural fit. “I’d go out, get content and show you around Mount Kisco,” she says.
Often, Spellmann-Mignone’s carousel posts start with a photo of her hand on the doorknob as she enters a space. (Check out her post on New England Antique Lumber.)
Then maybe there’s a video clip of her walking the interior, capturing the energy, the layout, the size. Maybe there’s a product shot or she flips the camera to show herself shopping. It’s a formula that’s vicariously addictive.
When someone suggested to Spellmann-Mignone she could have more eyes on Mount Kisco if she changed the name, it was a concept that had already been brewing in her mind. But she didn’t want her beloved Mount Kisco businesses to worry.
“I love my community,” she says. “My heart is always in Mount Kisco. But now I can access people in Dobbs Ferry and Tarrytown.”
Her Mount Kisco Moms Instagram account relaunched in May 2021 and now has the new moniker — @whats_in_westchester_ny. (The Facebook page remains unchanged though she’s created a second page for What’s in Westchester.)
The new name aligns Spellmann-Mignone’s feed with the general countywide mindset with which most Westchesterites operate. The many vibrant epicenters of culture, food, business and entertainment belong to all the towns’ residents.
“My account is brand new. And from the outset I trend 70 to 120 followers every single week,” says Spellmann-Mignone.
Unexpectedly, the pandemic added a new layer of relevance. As people emerge from the constraints of Covid-19, Spellmann-Mignone is uniquely positioned to help her followers step back out into the world.
“I can show people how to go live in a comfortable way. I’m here with you,” she says. “And I want to feel like I’m back, like we are back.”
In one post, Spellmann-Mignone chronicled her first time back in a gym at Mount Kisco’s F45. Describing her thought process, she says, “I’m afraid of going but, OK, I’m going to walk into the gym. This is a visual of what it looks like. Here’s the spacing, the mix of people in masks and not. It was just me saying, ‘OK, I want to try it and I’m going to bring everyone with me. I can’t do push-ups anymore either.”
Other posts are enticing. She gives restaurant 3 Westerly in Ossining the caption, “Froze To-Go and a Sunset Show,” and shows pink frozé (frozen Rosé) coiling deliciously into a giant glass then the sherbet-streaked sky. Her angle is, you may know the restaurant but did you also know it has outstanding outdoor space and drinks to go? Spellmann-Mignone’s post captures that magic.
At 914 Exotics in White Plains, Spellmann-Mignone can’t help but grab several unusual finds off the shelf. “I love that place,” she says. “It’s great for gifts. There are all these (candy) flavors they don’t have in the U.S.”
Back in Mount Kisco, Spellmann-Mignone mentions Shoes and More, “I’m wearing a dress from them right now” and The Hamlet, a British shop; “Oh man, have you been there yet? They have a vault with British records.” She loves Porch, “a beautiful, beautiful home goods store.”
But what about that bagel? It’s Goldberg’s Famous Bagels in Katonah. Though for special orders, she shouts out Britt & Co., which operates out of both private-and home-based commercial kitchens in and around Westchester.
Spellmann-Mignone often ditches her microphone for her iPhone so she can bring her followers with her wherever she goes. “I will go into venues and record live. I’ll say, ‘Yes, I am here at Coffee Labs (in Tarrytown), and you can hear the coffee being made.”
She captured the busy vibe at Fortina in Armonk (her go-to restaurant) with the same tactic. “I want you to hear the fork on the plate. Maybe it gives you a little jolt of happiness.”
Since April 5, fans can also listen to Spellmann-Mignone dig deeper on her What’s In Westchester podcast on both Audible and Spotify. “There is no Westchester-based podcast exclusively about Westchester,” she says. “I am so excited to be the first one here.”
For more, visit Instagram @whats_in_westchester_ny.