UPDATED: A doggone good store

Sloppy Kisses just got a big wet one from Pet Product News International, a trade newsmagazine covering the pet industry.

The local designer pet boutique
and dog bakery, owned by Melanie Dallas, won an international retail award presented by the magazine for "Outstanding Specialty Store." Dallas has two store locations, one on Broadway and one in Clifton Park Center.

The award is part of the magazine's prestigious Retailer of the Year award program and is given to a select few in the industry, according to a press release from the company. As part of the award, Sloppy Kisses will be profiled in the August 2010 issue of the magazine, and Dallas will be
given a seat on the company's advisory board.

UPDATE: In response to Rebecca's comment below, I called Sherri L. Collins, editor of Pet Product News International, so she could fill me in on how retailers are selected for this award.
She told me that retailers respond to an award application published in the magazine and available on its Web site. They submit information like videos, photos and previous awards they’ve won. Then, a six-member panel of editorial staff and, sometimes, "outside consultants," sits down and reviews the submissions, makes calls and does some research. They evaluate winners on such criteria as:
-- employee training practices
-- promotion of companion animals
-- involvement with professional and service organizations
-- innovative promotion
-- community impact.

Ultimately the panel chooses one main winner and 11 special category winners.

Sloppy Kisses was chosen as one of the 11 in the "Outstanding Specialty Store" category, while For Your Paws Only, a store in North Conway, N.H., won the top award as Retailer of the Year, Collins said.

Sloppy Kisses owner Melanie Dallas her husband, Eugene, (store manager) pose with their chocolate lab Marley (chief taste-tester).

Photo by Mark Bolles - Creative Photo & Graphics.


Seven Horse Pub update; Props furniture

43 Phila building development continues

A Saratoga builder who recently renovated and opened the Seven Horse Pub at 43 Phila St. says he has more plans up his sleeve for the circa-1880 building.

Joe Mack, a general contractor who owned the Horseshoe Inn Bar and Grill until three years ago, said his new pub has space for about 120 people downstairs, and plans are in the making for a full-service restaurant and bar on the second floor of the building, which would seat 50 people.

“That’s why this building was so appealing to me. It needed to be renovated,” said Mack, who also owns commercial property in Ballston and Malta.

The building most recently housed 43 Phila Bistro, which closed in 2006. Mack bought it in January and opened the pub Aug. 5.

Tracing back the liquor licenses revealed that the building had housed some sort of bar since 1890, he said. In keeping with the character of the building, he hand-built a bar of red and white oak that seats more than 30 people.

The second phase of construction should be done next spring, he added.

“I’m working under a limited venue now, but as far as the actual pub atmosphere, I’m getting a lot of business,” Mack said.

The kitchen manager is Justin Moran, who worked with Mack at the Horseshoe Inn. Dinner can be had for less than $20, Mack said, with a menu of homemade seafood and Italian specialties, steaks, pasta and burgers. He also plans to offer brick-oven pizza as the restaurant gets under way.

Seven Horse Pub (581-0777) is open from 4 p.m. until late, seven days a week.

Props to take space at 514 Broadway

A furniture and home accessory shop is in the making at 514 Broadway, the storefront just vacated by Saratoga Mystique, a piano gallery that moved one door down in the Algonquin Building.

Owner Patricia Wizner plans to open Props next month and sell vintage, refurbished and new furniture, as well as accessories for the home and commissioned artwork.

“It’s kinda eclectic,” Wizner said of the pieces she’ll choose to fill the store — not quite antiques, but a mix of furniture and lamps in both vintage and modern styles.

Wizner said Props will be her first venture into the downtown retail world after a career as a loan officer. The business will complement her longtime work as an interior design assistant, she said, a service she’ll be offering out of the store.


Algonquin building still a hot spot for retail

Care for some Mozart with that muffin?

Saratoga Mystique, the piano restoration gallery that began a flurry of retail developments on the northern end of Broadway with its opening this spring, is expanding into a new space.

Owners Maggie and Michael Prisco scooped up the coveted corner spot in the Algonquin Building vacated earlier this month by Saratoga Army & Navy Outfitters, which is moving to a bigger store in Wilton. Saratoga Mystique’s new location is just one door down from its original address, 514 Broadway.

Maggie Prisco said the move came on suddenly when she and her husband learned that the space was opening up.

“We’re hopefully creating a destination spot,” for both food and relaxing music, Maggie said.

The “diversification” effort includes a renovation of the floors and walls, expected to conclude by Sept. 1. The store will reopen as half piano showroom and half café, with artwork and antiques for sale and a stage for classical and jazz performances.

Adding to the arthouse atmosphere is artist Dave Snyder, who is currently painting pianos at the gallery during business hours. Latin jazz band Las Manos is slated to perform at Saratoga Mystique’s grand opening Sept. 19, and “Midday with Mozart” will be a regular weekday event featuring live piano music for café patrons.

Futon specialists to squeeze in between clothing boutiques

Furniture designers Joanne and Nikita Grigoriev have been streamlining that favorite functional possession of college students and apartment dwellers everywhere for 25 years — the futon.

Within a month, the Richfield Springs couple plans to open a new store, Nikita Indoor Outdoor Convertible Furnishings, at 508 Broadway. It will be their second showroom (the other is located in Oneonta) and will complement their manufacturing facility in Richfield Springs.

The longtime business owners, who are natives of Toronto and also happen to be professional musicians, chose Saratoga Springs to set up shop over many other potential locations, they said. Citing the construction of the GlobalFoundries plant, Skidmore College and the city’s proximity to New York as pluses, the Grigorievs said it was Saratoga’s “healthy, vibrant economy” that won them over.

Their Nikita furniture uses all American-made materials and hardwoods, mostly derived from local forests. The products, which include futons and reclining chairs, are unique in that they adjust to a person’s shape and efficiently respond to movement when someone wants to lie back or sit upright, all without using springs, metal contraptions or screws.

“You can’t explain it; you just have to sit on it and lean back,” Nikita said.

Customers choose wood and fabric offered in the Nikita line and the designers create a piece of furniture for them. Most futons start at around $400 and can go up to the thousands, owners said.

The business is in the midst of expansion as the Grigorievs look to expand their brand, with West Coast locations in mind.

“We’ve been green and sustainable all along,” Joanne said. “The market has finally caught up to us.”

Wondering what will be opening in the storefront Mystique vacated a couple doors down from Nikita? Here's a hint: It balances out the ratio of clothing and furniture stores in that building.
Check back soon for an update.

Keeping the House in the family

A Malta establishment known for its pizza since the 1960s is changing hands once again, but staying in the family.

After a 27-year run, Publik House proprietor Tim Squadere sold the restaurant and pub on Route 9 to his nephew, Joe Squadere III.

“He was looking to retire and I wanted to buy it,” Joe said.

The 42-year-old Malta resident left a career in commercial financing — or “jumped off the corporate wagon,” as he put it — to return to the restaurant business that he’s known since he was a kid.

“We’re keeping it in the family,” he said, adding that his mother does the bookkeeping and his grandfather, 90-year-old Joe Squadere Sr., still works five days a week at the restaurant.

As a new owner, Joe doesn’t plan to make any changes to the building or the food, save adding a few more dinner specials, like fresh fish, when autumn arrives.

“I kinda wanted everything to stay because we have a really good local following,” he said, noting that the business has seen continually good numbers over the years, protected from the recession by its realistically priced menu items. “It’s a casual dining atmosphere, so I don’t think it’s hitting me as far as it’s hitting your seafood houses and steakhouses, your $25- and $35-a-plate prices,” he said. “With GlobalFoundries coming and all the construction workers, I expect to stay real strong throughout winter.”


Business in Excellence Program

Sen. Roy McDonald recently announced a new district-wide program to recognize Rensselaer and Saratoga County small business owners for the significant contributions they make to our communities.

“During this time of economic hardship we realize that large companies sometimes become too big to sustain themselves, leading us to recognize the importance of our small businesses that provide services while employing local people in our communities,” McDonald said. “In Upstate New York the small farms, corner grocery stores, and all small businesses play a significant role in maintaining the character of our communities.”

The first recipient of the award was John Murphy, owner of the Snowman ice cream shop in Troy. The Snowman has been in operation since the early 1950s and is well-known among residents of the Lansingburgh section, and the city of Troy as a whole.

Utilizing original recipes, the Snowman has grown to offer mobile catering for private parties, school events and public concerts in the town of Brunswick and Powers Park.

“The Snowman, like many small businesses in Rensselaer and Saratoga counties, is a staple in the community,” McDonald said. “Many residents have discovered that these types of small businesses help to create a local identity of which they can be very proud.”

Saratoga County businesses: If you're interested in how recipients are chosen for the award, call McDonald's Albany office for more information, 455-2381.


Local eateries bust up two corporate chains

Boca Viva to open on Broadway

Taking the place of the former Subway at 458 Broadway is a new café for the health conscious.
Boca Viva owner Sandro Ribeiro opened the first business of its kind, a seasonal sandwich and coffee shop in Lake George, in May. Now he’s expanding into Saratoga with a year-round operation that will offer fresh-baked bread, locally grown food and organic coffee imported from his property in Minas Gerais, a Brazilian state.
The family-oriented restaurant is currently undergoing a color transformation and the installation of a coffee “tower,” a state-of-the-art machine that will serve up Nespresso drinks. Wireless internet, new seating for about 20 people and art-adorned walls will beckon to those who like to relax over a cup of coffee or a simple, freshly prepared meal, Ribeiro said.
“I like to make them something special and see them leave here very happy,” he said.
Boca Viva (or “mouth life” in Portuguese) is expected to open within a week.

Doc's takes on tacos

An alleyway taco stand is doing its part to foster friendly competition among late-night eateries, including the “fourth-meal” giant, Taco Bell.
Doc’s Steakhouse general manager Dean Holtby said he “just wanted to offer something different” on Putnam Street during the summer season, so he turned some extra space in the back of the restaurant — formerly used as a delivery truck garage — to open Doco’s Tacos.
The hole-in-the-wall stand faces Putnam Den in the Diamond Brady Plaza and is open from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. Wednesday to Saturday.
Authentic tacos and burritos are made to order, Holtby said. Some specialties coming from the kitchen shared with the steakhouse are cilantro lime cabbage salsa and homemade chips.
“This is something that I think was lacking in town,” he said.
But will Doco’s outlive the summer?
“It might break off into its own entity,” Holtby said, adding that his plans are dependent on what this season brings. “We’ll stay as long as the weather will cooperate.”



(Young up-and-coming business owners)

I collect a lot of business cards while pounding the pavement for this job, and I've noticed a trend lately: A whole lot of young people are opening up small businesses in Saratoga County.

Of the dozens of business owners I've spoken to in the last few months, at least one third of them are younger than 30. The golden age for opening a business seems to be 26.

Recent statistics show, and the word from authoritative sources is, that economic development in Saratoga Springs has been mostly recession-proof, so the increase of new businesses here isn't surprising.

But explaining the age trend is another story.

One theory is that people in their 20s are finding fewer and fewer jobs to apply for while competition for those jobs has increased rapidly. An obvious solution to that problem is to go into business for oneself.

Here are two recent SUNY Plattsburgh grads who are doing just that:

Justin Cerone (left) and Adam Morrell (right), both 23, have been collaborating on video projects since college, and now they both work as videographers and editors at News Channel 13 in Albany.

On Wednesday, they won a video contest sponsored by CDTA that challenged them to creatively demonstrate "why ride" CDTA buses in two minutes or less. The video is awesome, and it's shot in downtown Saratoga. Check it and the other entries out here and see if you can catch a glimpse of a recognizable building on Broadway toward the end.

Morrell and Cerone were excited about their achievement when we talked earlier today, but the focus of our conversation shifted toward their even more exciting plans: to open DreamBig Media Group, a company that would provide promotional video services to local businesses, in much the same way their "Catch Our Rhythm" video promoted CDTA's bus system.

Don't know where their office is going to be yet, and their Web site is under construction, but I'll post the details when they're available. You can read the whole story in Thursday's paper.

Also, feel free to chime in on why you think so many 20-somethings are breaking into the business world here in upstate New York.


Rainy day fun?

This arrived in my e-mail today.

It kind of reminds me of grade school, the Discovery Channel and Disney World, all rolled into one Sims-style video game.

Like Disney World, Wonder Rotunda also costs money to get into, but I bet it's not as much fun.


A carrot for your thoughts?

Apparently, I have a new four-legged friend at the track.

Although I've spent considerable time there lately in my first summer season as a Saratogian reporter, I have yet to meet her.

I'm not talking about the two shaggy Labradors I saw last Sunday at the Open House Pet Walk, or the statuette Rachel Alexandra, who rode atop second-place winner Melissa Schaefer's straw hat yesterday during the Hat Contest.

No, I am talking about Miss Matzo, a 2-year-old filly living at Saratoga Race Course. She tells me, via e-mail, that she is owned by Cathy and Elliott Masie and lives in Seth Benzel's barns at the track.

She says:

You know, there are over 1,900 of us horses here in Saratoga for the meet ...
We have a few perspectives ...
* We love Saratoga. The air, the fans and the track surface.
* We are all business horses. In other words, there is a business perspective to how we conduct ourselves at the track.
* And, we have an interesting life ...

Hmm ... I'm thinking Miss M. would make a good 5W candidate. Any thoughts on what to ask?

She is also probably the most technologically advanced horse in Saratoga, but that's not surprising, considering who her owners are. Keep up with her "thoughts" on life at the track on Twitter: missmatzo.

Equine fans might also enjoy this .

That's all for now ... I'm headed back to the track to brush up on that oxymoron of oxymorons: journalist math.

Consignment: A pay-off for both parties

A bath and body care business in Franklin Square is spreading its wings into the world of consignment and getting a boost in business as a result.

Queens native Robyn Colonell opened Aroma Bird downtown in 2005 and is among the growing ranks of local store owners who say they’re seeking to offer customers more for their money at a time when people have less of it to spend.

“I go above and beyond for my clients,” Colonell said. “I’m here seven days a week.”

In June, she took over the space vacated by Sunflowers florist shop and added consignment to her growing list of offerings. A full room in the suite is devoted to men’s and women’s clothing, shoes and accessories.

“If clients want something new, it makes it more affordable,” she said of the service. Consigners receive 50 percent of the sale price of their clothing.

With the addition of the consignment shop, Aroma Bird is more like three businesses in one: In a maze of comfy back rooms, one can get relaxing hair, nail and spa services. Up front, Colonell sells a line of candles and body care products that she makes on the premises, plus handmade jewelry, herbal teas, clothing from Indonesia and prayer flags, among other items.

Colonell said she’s noticed a trend toward vintage clothing and jewelry in recent years, which means steady growth for the consignment business.

“It’s only gonna get better,” she said.

Check out the store’s Facebook page or call 583-3888 for more information.

Soulful art house opens on Van Dam

Jessica Golden has a positive attitude about her family’s new business venture: all competition is healthy competition.

Golden, 26, is the local half of a pair of sisters who are running a new art gallery downtown. At House of Creative Soul, Golden is director while her sister, Kristy Golden Urgo, acts as marketing guru and Web master from her home in Philadelphia.

Golden said her family bought the property at 38 Van Dam St., which includes apartments in addition to the gallery space, from glass artist Gary Zack this winter. It opened in late July after a series of renovations to the building. A grand opening is planned for Aug. 20, and will feature a variety of mediums including photography, painting, sculpture and furniture.

The paintings are largely contemporary and abstract, in line with Golden’s personal tastes.

“We’re going in a different direction than equine art,” she said. “We’re open to everything.”

Cross-marketing is forefront in native Saratogian’s business strategy. She plans to use the spacious two-floor gallery as a venue for art classes and musical performances, all while working with other local gallery owners to share artists if their work fits the space, she said.

“The idea here is to market with everyone and get a flow of different types of artists,” Golden said. “It’s a pay it forward attitude.”

Call 226-0010 for more information.

New mom opens baby clothing store on Phila Street

Here's an interview I did with Jennifer Marcellus, the owner of Miss Scarlett boutique at 19 Phila St. yesterday afternoon.

When did you open the store?

I just opened the store Saturday night. I just relocated here from San Diego, where I lived for 14 years. I grew up here and went to high school in Saratoga and moved back a few days ago with my fiancé, Ben Hailstone, and my daughter, Scarlett, who is 4 months old.

Why did you decide to move back and open the store?

Well, I had the baby and so I wanted to be closer to my family. And also, for the last four or five years, I’ve noticed a definite need in Saratoga for different brands at lower price points. This is a designer boutique and most of the items are at least 45 to 65 percent off of retail prices. So it’s got the boutique feel, but at an outlet price.

Where is the clothing from?

Most of the lines are from California. I have an assortment for everyone, I think, as far as children’s clothes go. I have some stuff that appeals to grandmothers and some funkier clothes. Our main focus for women is premium denim. We’re offering it at half of what its retail price is — between $50 to $70 for brands like Blue Colt, Hudson, Sacred Blue and 1921. Now, because of the economy, we’re trying to offer things at a lower price point.

What is it like returning to Saratoga after so many years?

I haven’t even had a chance to think about it, I’ve been so busy. I’m most nervous about the snow. I haven’t lived here since 1991. I graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City with a degree in fashion buying and merchandising and then moved to the West Coast and then back here.