Bloomin' once again

An iconic Route 9 restaurant is back in business in time for track season.

Bloomers: An American Bistro reopened Tuesday night after a two-month hiatus while some renovation work was completed and the owner went on vacation, a spokeswoman at the restaurant said. She hurriedly explained that she had no time to provide further details about what's new, what with the track crowd flooding the place, but check back next week for what a thorough update.

Bloomers is located at 2853 Route 9 in Malta. Call 584-4484 or go to www.bloomersbistro.com for more information.


Pizza for a Purpose

I've gotten to know a few of the good folks over at the Franklin Community Center in the course of my reporting, and I know they're working hard to help the less fortunate in our community.

This week FCC is fundraising with the help of West Ave Pizzeria. Twenty percent of the proceeds from your order at the restaurant today through Sunday will go directly to the center to fund programs.
Follow this link for more info and to print out a coupon.

Honing the art of the mini story

Outerzone expands into multi-venue

Nothing to do on a rainy summer day? Laser tag and arcade games are two options found at Outerzone, a family-run business in Congress Plaza that’s been around for 11 years. With the recent addition of a 3,000-square-foot dance floor and a concession stand, it’s now more of a multi-venue, Outerzone Manager Stephanie Duell says. A bouncy bounce play area for toddlers is also new.
Duell, who helps run Outerzone with her father, owner Gordon Duell, and other relatives, said the expansion was their effort to appeal to a wider range of ages and boost business.
“We’re just trying to create some more revenue any way we can,” she said. “It’s a slow process, but we’re hoping when school starts it will pick up.”
Kids in grades six through eight can party on the glow-in-the-dark dance floor from 8 to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights for $10; $15 includes the dance session and a game of laser tag. Duell said the space looks and feels like a nightclub, with a colored light display flashing along to the latest hip hop music.
“The dance (floor) was another fun, safe thing to do for teens, to get them off the streets,” Duell said.
She said the family is looking to build a new entertainment facility at its 66,000-square-foot property near Cramer Road on Route 9 in Malta. The venue would include two indoor go-cart tracks, laser tag, six birthday party rooms and a giant “ballicity” climbing course for adults and kids.
Outerzone plans to vacate its current rental space at 82 Congress Plaza and move to the new facility once it’s built, Duell said, which could take about a year.

General surgeon closing practice

After 17 years as a solo practitioner, a local general surgeon is liquidating his business and heading south. Dr. Howard Yeaton, 57, who has operated Saratoga General Surgery since 1992, says he’s one of the increasing numbers of solo practitioners joining the ranks of a larger health care company for economic reasons.
“There is strength in numbers, economy in size,” Yeaton said, explaining how the costs of malpractice insurance have risen while reimbursements from Medicaid and Medicare have steadily gone down over the last 10 years. Competition from growing group practices was another factor in his decision to find an alternative to solo practice, he said.
“I’m making more than 30 percent less than I did 15 years ago for the same procedures,” Yeaton said.
He plans to take patients through August and close the doors of his Maple Avenue office for good on Sept. 1. Yeaton’s next venture will take him to Valley Health hospital group in Virginia, a state with a more “business-friendly climate for doctors” than New York, he said.
“I’m looking forward to it and it provides a huge amount of financial and job security,” Yeaton said, adding that saying goodbye to friends and colleagues in the Saratoga community would be the toughest part the move.


Every little bit counts

One bit of wisdom my mom always told me: Never go grocery shopping when you're hungry, because you'll buy a cart full of things you don't need.

The Hannaford Helps Fight Hunger campaign is making it so fewer local people will go in need this summer.

The campaign collected funds in the month of June -- National Hunger Awareness Month -- through $2 or $5 peel-off coupons that were placed at registers in 167 Hannaford stores in five states.

Overall, shoppers donated more than $94,000 through the coupons, and Hershey Foods contributed an additional $20,000.

Reaping the benefits of the campaign are eight northeastern food banks, including the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York in Latham, which will receive $19,197. The donation is expected to provide 75,000 meals for local people.

While food pantry shelves in Saratoga seem to be doing ok for the time being, food banks everywhere have seen a 30 percent increase in demand for their services this year, Hannaford said in a press release. The recession is making it harder for thousands of people to afford food, and more middle-class and working-poor families are seeking help.

“Hannaford works hard all year to educate the public about hunger in the community, and makes regular donations and provides technical assistance to food banks throughout our market area,” said Michael Norton, director of corporate communications at Hannaford. “There is so much need right now, though, that we decided to do something extra this summer.”


A dry week for the beat

After a burst of expansions and openings in the last couple months, it seems like there's comparably little happening on the business beat as we head toward track season. Behind the scenes, I know it's a different story as business owners and front-line workers gear up for an influx of visitors to the city.

Here at the Saratogian, the phone hasn't stopped ringing and we're getting ready for what's bound to be an exciting six weeks of reporting (by both the sports and news departments) from the track.

To tide you over, here's a few biz beat happenings:

Back down to four

The Subway on Broadway closed. Head up to the new South Broadway location if you're
in the downtown area and hankering for a footlong.
Check back soon for info on what's next for that space.

Mortgage broker teams up with American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society is getting a boost from a local man who’s combining business with charity. Brent Coye, a senior mortgage broker at Safe Harbor Capital Group LLC, has designed an Affinity Plus Program that gives re-financers a deal while contributing to cancer research. Coye waives the closing costs related to a loan or refinancing agreement and then makes a donation to the American Cancer Society when the loan closes. The donation depends on the amount of the loan.
“People are looking to save with the refinance boom — we looked at it as a two-fer,” Coye said, “a way we can connect with the ACS and help people.”
Coye said the idea stemmed from Safe Harbor employees who had seen the devastating effects of cancer up close, in the lives of friends and relatives. Helping others who struggle with the disease is important, Coye said, especially when times are tough for many families in the area.
The program has raised thousands of dollars for the ACS since it began in March.
The affinity program is available in New York and Connecticut. For more information and to find out who is eligible for the program, call (631) 776-7500, ext. 22.

Spa Fine Art gallery opens on Broadway

Spa Fine Art joins the downtown arts scene at 376 Broadway. The gallery opened earlier this month after being converted from the former Stacey’s souvenir shop.
Spa Fine Art store director Cynthia Bradford said the gallery completes a triangle of stores, with the other two locations, both called Sheldon Fine Art, located in Naples, Fla., and Newport, R.I.
The art at the Broadway location comes from a variety of national artists. Sculpture, jewelry and prints of polo horses share the space with classic landscapes, still lifes, animals and ballerinas.
“There’s a lot of events (in Saratoga) that we thought would match up with our stable of artists,” Bradford said. She plans to display different art depending on the season to cater to those interested in racing, the New York City Ballet, the Philadelphia Orchestra and other Saratoga staples.
The gallery is open year-round from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, with extended hours once racing season begins. For more information, call the store at 587-2411.


Hattie's: "Not just fried chicken"

Here's some good news coming in late, fresh from my cluttered inbox.

Jasper and Elizabeth Alexander and Jaime Diaz of Hattie’s Restaurant (45 Phila St.) this month officially opened Hattie’s Catering Company.

“Catering is something we always wanted to do,” said Elizabeth Alexander. “We started out with our Annual Mardi Gras Ball and picked up a few small caterings around the Capital Region. Well - word of mouth spread and soon we started getting calls for major benefits. ... In this economy – I’ll take it!”

Hattie's Catering Company is a full-service catering and event planning company available year-round to personalize corporate, social and private events. Catering is available for in-house lunch events throughout the year as well as semi-private functions on the porch (seasonal). Take-out catering is also available. Contact Elizabeth at 584-4790 for pricing, availability and menus.

Hattie’s is now open seven days a week at 5 p.m. Tuesday Tastings take place every Tuesday from 5 to 7 p.m. on the patio. A different free “spirit” tasting will is featured each week.


You can't have just one

Update: Check out Andrew Bernstein's take on the Chip Wars, as we've dubbed last week's fried snack food drama. It seems that Danny got more publicity than he bargained for when he stopped by the office hawking his potato chips last week.

Not one, but two local business owners are selling their versions of the "original" Saratoga potato chip, invented here (as legend has it) in the Spa City by George Crum in 1853.

Danny Jameson of Saratoga Specialties Company, and John Knotek, owner of the Saratoga Salsa and Spice Company, both recently alerted me to their newish products, which are sitting side by side on shelves at Impressions of Saratoga (among other stores).

Saratoga Specialties Company began marketing Moon Brand Original Saratoga Chips this month, which come in a groovy box -- a rendering of the actual historical box that exists at the Saratoga Springs History Museum, Jameson said.

Here's a segment from the press release:

Saratoga Specialties Company now has future plans on opening a fully operational combined manufacturing and warehousing facility in the area that will bring manufacturing and delivery jobs to the region. Moon Brand Original Saratoga Chips are available for purchase at area Hannaford’s, EBI Beverage, Minogue’s Beverage, Impressions of Saratoga, Compliments to the Chef, Roma’s, Mango’s Deli, The Candy Company, Saratoga Springs History Museum, National Racing Museum and many other specialty stores throughout the Capital District.

As I reported here and in Monday's paper, The Salsa and Spice Company has been selling its version of the Saratoga Potato Chip since last fall. They come in 3 ounce paper bags with a sticker label. (Photo coming soon). Knotek said he's in the process of creating packaging that will show off the historical aspect of the product and is looking to market them widely in Saratoga and beyond. Currently, they're selling at Impressions, Putnam Market and the S&S Co. on Broadway. Some salsa and spice infused chips could soon be on the way. Yum.


Chips on shelves; McMurry No. 5

Saratoga Salsa and Spice Co. markets Saratoga potato chip

Just in time for summer cookouts, the legendary Saratoga potato chip is showing up on more store shelves downtown. As the story goes, the favorite fried snack of many Americans was created right here in Saratoga Springs by local chef George Crum in 1853.
Saratoga Salsa and Spice Company (398 Broadway) began selling the chips last fall and this summer teamed up with downtown businesses to market them more widely. Owner John Knotek said the chips hit shelves at Putnam Market and Impressions of Saratoga in the last few weeks.
“Our goal was to create a chip that honors … its birthplace in Saratoga and its impact across the country,” Knotek said.
Knotek and business partner Rick Monaco plan to expand distribution through the area and beyond Saratoga Springs, and eventually move production of the handmade chips from a “top secret location” to a local site. They’re also in the process of creating packaging that will show off the Saratoga chip’s unique history and plan new flavors to complement the store’s selection of salsas, rubs and hot sauces.
It could be that Spa City’s in for some potato chips with attitude.

McMurry ranks No. 5 in America's Best Places to Work

McMurry, a marketing communications firm with locations on High Rock Avenue and in Arizona, was recently named No. 5 out of 50 “Best Small and Medium Companies to Work For in America” by the Society for Human Resource Management and the Great Place to Work Institute.
“It’s very exciting. It’s something that the staff takes a lot of pride in,” said Luke Meyers, a strategic communications specialist who works in the Saratoga office.
Meyers said 37 employees were polled last October and asked a variety of questions on their interactions with coworkers, management and office culture. It’s the fifth year McMurry was named among the top 10 on the list, and the second year in a row it was named No. 5.
“There’s not much hierarchy,” Meyers said, explaining what makes the company stand out among others in the U.S. “Everyone works very closely … we have a lot of fun, we do group outings.”
Founded in 1984, the McMurry company does custom media, content design, editorial and interactive design online for clients in the financial services and health care industries.


Calling all business owners!

Hey, all you new business owners and those moving, expanding, closing, or making big changes:
I want to know what you're up to so I can add it to this blog and/or my weekly business column in The Saratogian's print edition.
Contact me at mnicosia@saratogian.com or call 583-8729, ext. 216.



A morale boost from the Chamber of Commerce

Joseph Dalton Jr., president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, sent in some good news recently:

Every time you open a newspaper or turn on a radio or television, it’s bad economic news. The bad news gets repeated over coffee, on the street, and in the office so often it creates a real “fear” of the future.
What we don’t hear is that in Saratoga County, 93.7 percent of our adult residents are employed in an economy that does not rely on a single employment sector.
We don’t hear that the local banks do almost no foreclosures due to bad mortgage loans. We don’t hear that 2,000 construction workers will soon be on the Luther Forest site building a $4.2 billion building to employ over 1,200. (MN's note: riffle through The Saratogian archives and you will find plenty of coverage on Global Foundries and how many jobs the micro chip plant is expected to create. Here's the latest.)
We don’t hear that we have the lowest per capita county taxes in the state.
We don’t hear that we continue to be the fastest growing county in upstate.
We don’t hear of all the national awards and accolades the county has received for quality of life.
And there are dozens of other positive points we don’t hear.
The “fear” has caused many people to freeze, to pay bills late, to hold off on purchases, and to adapt a “bunker attitude.” And once that happens the “fear” grows and grows.
Most of us can do a little to combat that down feeling — buy a hot fudge sundae, treat your daughter to a new dress, take a grandchild to SPAC’s lawn performance, pay that bill when it arrives, buy some plants, or have the oil changed in your car.
Sure, they are little things, but with over 200,000 of us in the county the economy will improve even just a little, but more importantly some of that fear and negativity will go away.

Positive developments here and in B'Spa

Saratoga Army and Navy moving down the road

In case you missed the massive yellow sign in the window of Saratoga Army and Navy Outfitters, the store is moving Aug. 1 from the corner of Broadway and Ellsworth Jones Place down to Exit 15, where it’ll share a plaza with Five Guys Famous Burgers and Fries. The move will double the store’s size to 3,000 square feet.
“Our customers have been begging us to do this forever,” said owner Brett Reihs, who opened the store 12 years ago. The majority of customers who shop at his Saratoga Springs, Clifton Park and Niskayuna stores are contractors seeking work clothing, boots and other gear, he said, and the shop at |516 Broadway is inaccessible to many of them who live on the outskirts of town.
The much-anticipated move will allow Reihs to clear out old inventory and offer more of a selection at the new store.
“The economy isn’t as bad for our business as it is for some businesses,” Reihs said. “Guys have to have work clothes.”

B’Spa’s Midtown Wine now carries fair trade spirits

What’s a fair trade? Good wine for a good cause.
Since May, Midtown Wine and Spirits in Ballston Spa has been carrying two lines of certified fair trade wine from Argentina: Ecologica and Santa Florentina, which owners Jim and Pat Dorey buy from an Elmira distributing company.
Store manager Judy Pecoraro said the store’s move follows in the footsteps of many businesses in the village, as the Ballston Spa Village Board of Trustees passed a resolution to go fair trade just last year. Ballston Spa is the only town in New York state that is registered as fair trade, Pecoraro said.
The sale of the fair trade wine supports fair labor conditions for the farmers who produce it, a fair price for local consumers, direct trade and environmental sustainability.
“It’s only fair that people are ensured fair wages — we get fair wages,” Pecoraro said. “We want to help our community do its part in contributing to global fairness.”
Find out more about fair trade at http://transfairusa.org.

Spa City Cupcakes expands sweet offerings

As it marks its first birthday, Spa City Cupcakes is evolving into more than a one-stop shop for those with a sugar craving.
Owners Rachel and Joe St. Martin recently moved the shop a few doors down to a bigger location in the Downstreet Marketplace on Broadway, which affords them the space to expand their offerings and their purpose.
“We wanted to create a place where people could come here and sit down and enjoy a cupcake and a drink,” Rachel St. Martin said.
In addition to a variety of new cupcake flavors like coffee, root beer float and strawberry banana, the shop now offers stuffed Rice Krispie treats, chocolate chip cookie sandwiches and gobs (otherwise known as whoopee pies). A French press service is coming to the menu soon, too. And, four friendly new employees are on hand to assist customers in flavor selection, the St. Martins said.
Wi-fi access, atmospheric music and expanded seating are all the more reason to stop and smell the frosting in the cheerful bakery/café. Really hard-core cupcake fans might be interested in new merchandise like originally designed T-shirts, artwork and mugs all featuring the trademark treat.
In their effort to use customer feedback to grow their business, the St. Martins also do catering, host birthday parties and plan to offer baking classes for kids ages 5 and up this fall.
“We want to be part of the community,” they said.
Summer hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Call 321-0758 or check out the Web site (currently under construction), www.spacitycupcakes.com.