Chez Sophie transforms into Union Grille tonight

As of tonight, Chez Sophie is officially ending its run at the Saratoga Hilton. Union Grille, headed by Andy Brindisi, will start operations tomorrow.

Chez Sophie owners Cheryl Clark and Paul Parker plan to move with their children to a French vineyard. Read their farewell letter to customers here and check out The Saratogian's coverage of that story in June here.

I'll be attending the Union Grille opening Thursday at 5 p.m. Check back here an update tomorrow and look for a full story in Friday's paper.


Double duty for D’Andrea’s

Shawn Dowd and Rory Wilson have turned their lunch crowd into their dinner crowd by opening a second pizzeria in Ballston Spa.

D’Andrea’s Pizza is leasing the old Domino’s location at 223 Milton Ave., just past the fire house at the corner of Ford Street, in addition to its location at 33 Caroline St.

Dowd said a large slice of his Spa City lunch crowd works in the city but lives in Ballston Spa, so the demand for a second restaurant there was already in place.

“We’ve been looking for a second location,” said Dowd, who plans to run the Ballston Spa restaurant while Wilson stays in Saratoga Springs, where D’Andrea’s has had a following for 15 years.

Customers can expect the same menu, the same specials and same free delivery. One change, however, is the 15 or so new faces who have joined the staff behind the counter and on the delivery route.

“They all seemed to be pretty excited — the ones that came from Saratoga,” Dowd said of his customers. After the Ballston Spa restaurant opened Tuesday, business started picking up late last week, Dowd added.

For more information, call 584-3632 (Saratoga Springs) or 309-3353 (Ballston Spa).

Photo credit: Erica Miller/The Saratogian

UPDATED: A hazy opening

The word from my cubicle neighbor here in the newsroom, AB, is that according to a sign on the storefront, Smoke and Fire is closed until its grand opening ... which is who knows when. Just thought you'd like to know.

From last week:

A Caroline Street mainstay has transformed into a slightly different version of itself.

What was Manifest Station for 10 years at 42 Caroline is now Smoke and Fire, owned by Theresa Sheffer of Saratoga Springs. Sheffer had managed Manifest Station for three years and took it over from its former owner, her sister, Charity Cannon, for its reopening this fall.

She runs the shop with her boyfriend, Loren Mahar, in addition to being a mother of three.

The store is mostly empty at the moment, save for a small collection of pipes and a large hookah displayed in the window.

Sheffer plans a grand opening of Smoke and Fire in October and is working on stocking the shelves with tobacco products, rolling papers, incense and other accessories.

Local artwork and photography will be on display and a back room is expected to be transformed into a glass-blowing studio, where local glass-blowers will create products for the store, Sheffer said.

For more information, go to http://www.myspace.com/smokeandfireny.

Mare to become The Metro, again

A longtime local developer is heading back to the site where he spun tunes in the ’70s — but this time he’s acting as manager.

Scott Morgan, of Morgan Builders near Saratoga Lake, said he has plans with business partner Fred Sharifipour to return 17 Maple Ave. to its former state as The Metro.

The business is currently listed for sale ($300,000) at loopnet.com and Morgan says the pair plans to buy it from Peter Paquet.

The multi-venue music house — which on an August night can put out enough amp to be heard throughout a five-block radius — has a history of being made over and over again, as a dance club, pub, bar and restaurant.

Most recently, the nightclub/restaurant Mare ran in conjunction with Twilight Grille, the one-time burger joint operated by Casey and Alex Herrera. The Grille opened and closed over the course of about two months this summer. Mare itself appeared to have closed in the last few weeks.

Previously, it was Luna Lounge.

In its next materialization, the establishment will be simply, in Morgan’s words, “less of a restaurant, more of a pub.”

Look out for a new menu, live bands and themed entertainment nights: open-mic Wednesdays, Skidmore Thursdays and Monday night football.

Morgan expects an Oct. 1 opening; lunch starts at 11 a.m. and the party is on Thursday through Saturday nights. For more information, call 330-4996.


I scream, you scream ...

From 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. today, Cold Stone Creamery on Broadway in Saratoga will be a local host of the company's eighth annual "world's largest ice cream social."

The event benefits Make-A-Wish Foundation of America, and has Cold Stone Creamery stores in the Capital District and throughout the United States, Guam and Puerto Rico raising money by selling an original ice cream creation made by a 5-year-old wish child, Jack.

His concoction, made of sweet cream ice cream with brownies, sprinkles and fudge, will be served in exchange for a $2 donation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Donations made today and all month long will benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Northeast New York, an organization that grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.


Prestige Services wins national award

A Saratoga County Company, Prestige Services, has been named by AARP to receive one of 50 awards for “Best employers for Workers Over 50."

Included on the list were two other organizations from the State of New York – Cornell University and the YMCA of Greater Rochester.

Prestige offers older workers the ability to phase into retirement. While this program is not formalized, the company deals with each case individually. Forty-six percent of the work force at Prestige is age 50 and older.

Prestige is headquartered in Clifton Park and provides vending, food service, cffice coffee, elderly nutrition programs, child nutrition programs and operates several Subway stores.

From left to right: president Eddie Hicks, customer service representative Janice Hicks, Asst. Director ENP Melanie Dumlao and Human Resource Manager Mike Janczak.

Curtain Exchange moving down the street

Local drapery and bedding source The Curtain Exchange is planning a move from one end of Broadway to another.

Store manager Chris Reinhardt says The Curtain Exchange, which is one of a franchise of dozens of stores in the United States, is aiming to consolidate business because of the economy.

The store plans to move from its current location at 358 Broadway and share space with Stockade Oriental, at 543 Broadway, by mid-October, Reinhardt said. Stockade Oriental is a carpet business owned by Deborah Barthold, who just happens to be related to Reinhardt and The Curtain Exchange owner Catherine Remillard.

“With the rough economic situation that we’re all in right now, we thought that we’d consolidate because we have the same type of customers,” Reinhardt said. “Why not save on some rent and be in one building?”

Reinhardt said she hopes the consolidation of space will better serve clients during the height of the curtain-shopping season, which happens between September and December as people ready their homes for the holidays.

The Curtain Exchange offers custom and ready-made curtains and shades that range from $450 to $4,000, in addition to bedding, design consultation and in-home services. For more information, call 587-4818.

"Green" discussion at Virgil's

A new forum for those interested in discussing environmental issues has sprung up in downtown Saratoga Springs.

The group, known as Green Drinks, is part of an international network of people who get together informally in local venues for drinks and discussion about topics such as climate change and renewable energy.

The network is active in more than 600 cities worldwide and has 18 chapters in New York state alone, including three in New York City. The Spa City chapter of Green Drinks was formed this summer by Keith Forbes, a local climate change and sustainability analyst who works at Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC).

“My aim is to get people who work on environmental issues or those who are interested in environmental issues to have an open discussion,” Forbes said.

He stressed that it’s neither a networking happy hour nor an activist group, but an informal discussion held by people with a common interest in the environment.

“People come together and talk about a common interest with the goal being inspirational and intellectual,” Forbes said. “If at the end of each meeting everyone left a little more excited about what they did, I think the meetings would achieve their purpose.”

The group meets the fourth Tuesday of each month from 8 to 9 p.m. at Virgil’s House at 86 Henry St.

“We’ve had a high of 12 (attendees),” Forbes said, adding that the meetings are open to all and the only rules are that the discussion be on a non-attribution basis.

Green Drinks will meet at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22. Anyone interested in attending should RSVP to kforbes "at" gmx "dot" net.


Pizza on Broadway expands; Factory Store update

Pizza on Broadway doesn’t serve just pizza. And with its newly expanded dining room, there are at least two reasons for patrons to sit down and relax over hearty Italian lasagna or a hot parmesan sub.

Mike Calvi, 24, who co-owns the restaurant at 384 Broadway with his parents, Tony and Janet, said a storage space between the restaurant and Raina’s jewelry shop was transformed this summer into a new dining room, which opened in time for Travers weekend in late August.

The long, narrow room features hardwood floors and elegant wall decorations and can accommodate about 30 people in addition to the seating at the front of the shop, Calvi said.

“I anticipate more of a family style” dining experience, he said of what customers can expect of a visit to Pizza on Broadway.

The space is also available for large parties or events. Table service isn’t currently offered, but Calvi said he expects to take on more wait staff for that in the future, as well as add to the already expansive menu.

“I say, you come in and if you have the time, I’ll make you whatever you want,” he said.

The expansion also doubled the size of the kitchen, leaving Calvi and his staff more room to prepare food for catering orders.

The Calvi family, of Westchester, bought the building and opened the New York-style pizza shop in July 2008.

Call 306-6911 for more information.

Broadway clothing outlet plans fall grand opening

The Factory Store, one of a chain of upstate apparel outlets known for branding its locale, has been quietly doing business on Broadway since Memorial Day.

Merchandise includes embroidered sweatshirts depicting horses, history and springs, while some are tie-dyed and emblazoned with “Saratoga.”

Ron Brown, owner and co-founder of Brown & Sons Inc., said the 328 Broadway store is the newest addition to his Mohawk-based company, which has shops in Cooperstown and Old Forge.

So far, Brown reports that business has been satisfactory despite the lack of advertising he’s done.

“My expectations were subdued due to the economy and all, but we’re pleasantly surprised,” he said.

A fall grand opening event is planned at the store.

For more information, call the local store at 584-2028 or the Mohawk headquarters at (315) 866-5150.


Hannaford kicks off annual school fundraiser

Three-month fundraiser offers shoppers the chance to support local schools

Hannaford Supermarkets announced today that the ninth annual Hannaford Helps Schools program is under way, giving shoppers in five states the opportunity to raise money for their favorite school.

Since 2001, the program has brought in more than $5.6 million to participating schools in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. Hannaford Helps Schools, open to grades K-12, allows shoppers to raise money for educational activities and equipment – such as computers, sports gear and playgrounds – by simply buying eligible products between Sept. 6 and Dec. 6.

For every four products purchased, customers receive three “school dollars” that are equivalent to cash and can be turned in to the school or placed in special collection bins at any Hannaford store.

In addition, Hannaford will designate a weekly “extra credit” product. If customers buy three qualifying items and the “extra credit” option, they’ll automatically receive four “school dollars” at checkout. There is no limit to the number of products that can be purchased during each shopping trip.

“With education budgets tight everywhere, Hannaford Helps Schools will provide much-needed funds that the schools choose how to use,” said Evan Harding, Hannaford marketing specialist. “And the ‘extra credit’ item is any easy way for customers to offer even more support.”

Approximately 2,700 schools will participate – the same number as last year – and will receive their share of the proceeds next March. In 2008, those schools were granted more than $1.4 million, comprised of in-store collections of $1.3 million, plus $1,000 from Hannaford to the top-earning school aligned with each store.

This year’s program will feature about 900 eligible products, including 35 Hannaford brand items and goods from partners such as Kellogg’s, Clorox, Heinz FF, Hormel, Ocean Spray, Gorton’s, Bush’s Beans, King Arthur, Bayer, McCain, New World, Simply Asian, Coke, Hershey, Nestle Beverage, Purina, Tyson, Campbell’s, Sylvania and Knouse.

About 25 percent of eligible products earn at least one star under the Guiding Stars system, which helps Hannaford shoppers find the most nutritious foods in the store quickly and easily.

Foods with one, two or three stars provide good, better and best nutritional value, respectively. Schools that took part in the 2008 program are automatically registered and will receive their 2009 Hannaford Helps Schools kits by the last week of August.

To see if your school is registered, or for more information, visit www.hannaford.com/hhs.


A New Leaf on Beekman; restaurant news

New Leaf joins Beekman Street community

The newest artisans’ haven on the West Side is half gallery, half store. Located at 30 Beekman St., New Leaf Contemporary Art Gallery and Gift Boutique opened Sept. 2 with an aim to give local artists a place to display and sell their wares while they stay in the studio and keep creating.

Owner Jeromy McFarren, a student of the arts and a native of Greenwich, says retailing handmade and local products is important to keep money circulating within the community.

“If you invest in a place, it becomes more sustainable,” McFarren said. “It’s hard for people to make a living as artisans. People need to realize how important it is to have art in the community.”

New Leaf carries designer art, shoes, felt headbands, ceramics, makeup, bags, knitted products, jewelry, pillows and a variety of other unique gift items. The gallery in the back of the shop features paintings, sculpture and mixed-media art with a contemporary pop feel, McFarren said.

Crafters at New Leaf receive a 60 percent share of profits from the sale of their goods, while gallery artists get70 percent. Interested artists may contact McFarren about selling their work at newleafgallery@gmail.com. For more information, call 636-8026.

PHOTO: New Leaf Jeromy McFarren owner holds a ceramic teapot, one of the products in his new shop handmade by a local artisan.

Take-N-Bake eyes multiple new locations

The Take-N-Bake joint, at 327 Milton Ave., Ballston Spa

Economical and eco-friendly, I Love New York Take-N-Bake Pizza opened in Ballston Spa this May with a new twist on takeout: selling raw, made-to-order pizzas ready for customers to pick up, take home and pop in the oven.

“This is the best for this economy because it’s cheap,” said Vera Camaj, who co-owns the restaurant with her husband, Vinny, and cousins Robert and Anthony Lulgjuraj.

The family will open a second location in the Mohawk Commons in Niskayuna this week, and they anticipate expanding to Saratoga and Clifton Park later on.

“We’re planning a couple more stores by the end of the year,” Camaj said. “We’re hoping it’s going to be Saratoga and Clifton Park.”

By 2010, Camaj said the Take-N-Bake trademark will most likely have more than four shop locations.

The concept “take it and bake it” offers customers a hearty meal that can feed a family for $10 or less. Owners say less waste is created because there are no pizza boxes used, and they give two reasons why it’s cheaper than most pizzerias: First, food is sold raw, so there’s no sales tax; and second, there are no overhead costs associated with equipment, such as cooking ovens or multiple staff members, since it’s a family-run business.

For more information, call 884-0500.

DZ Restaurants expands outside Saratoga

DZ Restaurants, which owns Forno Bistro on Broadway and Chianti II Ristorante on Division Street, announced it will add a third eatery to the list this winter.

Pasta Pane, a rustic Italian bistro, is expected to open in Clifton Park by the end of December or beginning of January, said Nancy Bambara, director of operations for DZ Restaurants.

Pasta Pane will be located in a former Applebee’s space at 18 Park Ave. Further details are expected to be released later this fall.


Obama's back to school address

President Barack Obama will address the nation's students Tuesday with a speech designed to help them get "focused and inspired to begin the new academic year."

Read my local coverage of the event here.

According to the Department of Education, he'll be challenging students to work hard, set educational goals and take responsibility for their learning.

The speech will be broadcast at noon at the White House's Web site and on C-SPAN.

The Department of Education has also made the speech available for schools to show via satellite.

Since Saratoga Springs City schools don't start up until Wednesday, I'm not sure what, if anything, the district may do to provide students with access to the speech or followup with discussion/activities.

The first board meeting of the school year is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the Geyser Road Elementary School, so I expect to hear about it then. Find coverage of the board meeting here.


New Leaf's grand opening Saturday

On Thursday afternoon I had the pleasure of checking out the newest art-lover's haven on the West Side and meeting its owner, Jeromy McFarren.

In prelude to a full review of his shop, New Leaf Contemporary Art Gallery and Gift Boutique, which will appear in Monday’s Tuesday's column and blog entry, I'm spreading his invitation to the store's grand opening Saturday, Sept. 5 at 7 p.m. It's at 30 Beekman Street, in the bright yellow building that Lioness Boutique recently vacated. (By the way, that store is now on Spring Street in the Congress Building, just off Broadway and right across from the park).

New Leaf carries products that are all handmade by local artisans, with everything from designer art shoes to felt headbands, ceramics, knitted coffee mug cozies, makeup and unique tote bags. That's not to mention the art gallery in the back! It's worth checking out. You might even see me there.

For directions and more information, go to www.newleafart.com or call 518.636.8026.


What's up, Doc's?

UPDATE: When I spoke Laura LaPoint on Wednesday, she gave me the official word that the restaurant had closed as of Sunday. Read the full article here.

Last Friday, The Saratogian ran an article penned by reporter Emily Donohue saying that the company that owns Doc's Steakhouse, known as AGirls LLC, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Owner Laura LaPoint said the restaurant's revenues have been down consistently since 2007, and while the bankruptcy filing was in process, she said she had no plans to close the business at that time.

As I reported here last month, LaPoint is also looking to sell the restaurant, which has been a fixture at 63 Putnam St. for years. It's been on the market since February, says Realty USA listing agent Joe D'Agostino.

After we received an online comment from a reader who said they'd noticed people packing up the bar at the restaurant yesterday, photographer Erica Miller and I took a walk down the street today to check it out.

Turns out that the impressive collection of liquor that can usually be viewed through the restaurant's front windows is, in fact, gone. It also seems that the restaurant hasn't been open at all for the last couple of nights.

Photo by Erica Miller/The Saratogian

It doesn't mean for sure that Doc's is no longer open for business. And what of the side-alley taco stand that just opened up last month? (My calls to LaPoint seeking an answer were unreturned Tuesday evening.) But it does seem likely that a business that's filed for Chapter 7 would have to forfeit its liquor license. Chapter 7 filings do not include a repayment plan to creditors, as Chapter 11 filings (like the The Saratogian's earlier this year) do. Instead, a bankruptcy trustee gathers and sells the debtor's nonexempt assets and uses the proceeds to pay creditors. A Chapter 7 filing often results in a loss of property, according to the U.S. Courts bankruptcy site.

For now, nothing is for sure. We'll wait and see what news surfaces in the coming days. I certainly hope that the absence of alcohol doesn't mean bad news for Doc's.

UPDATED: New sheets and burritos

Linen annex makes temporary home on Spring Street

An Albany-based linen store, Antara Home, has set up a second, temporary shop at 7 Spring St., across from Congress Park.

Store president Rajesh Singh said he brought marked-down Italian-made bedding from the Albany store to Saratoga Springs to sell in the linen annex, as he calls the 300-square-foot shop.

Originally, his plan was to do just one month of business in the space he’s renting from Shoe Depot owner Frank Panza. However, after a better-than-average “welcoming reception,” Singh said he’s considering keeping a more permanent presence downtown.

“I think there’s certainly a need for this type of business in Saratoga,” he said, adding that many locals who’ve stopped by have shared his opinion.

The airy, relaxing new shop only sells bedding, while the home store on Broadway in Albany offers table textiles, furniture, decorative items, carpets and lighting. Antara Home has been open for about two years, Singh added.

Antara Home’s linen annex is open daily through track season. After Labor Day, hours will be noon to 7 p.m. Thursdays and Saturdays.

Esperanto dining room up and running

Esperanto’s new dining room finally opened earlier this month, and owner Will Pouch says daytime business is picking up as he had hoped.

“We’ve seen some new faces in there,” he said.

Pouch reported having to turn would-be customers away from his former location at 6-1/2 Caroline St. because of lack of space. The little restaurant in the Walbridge Building is now operating next door to its old spot, with twice the space for sit-down dining. The kitchen and staff quarters remain where they were.

“We’re completing the last bits of decoration and fixing up the raw space in the back room,” he said.

So why wasn’t the expansion officially done until track season was well under way?

One of the eight panes of glass in the storefront were broken accidentally and had to be re-ordered, which took weeks, Pouch said.

Esperanto is open seven days a week at 11:30 a.m., with late-night weekend hours. Call 587-4236.

Next week, look for updates on a couple of other businesses in the Broadway and Spring Street vicinity.

The old Esperanto restaurant is all boarded up,
with the shiny new storefront to its right.
To know what's planned for the basement space below,
we'll have to wait to hear back from
building owner Bill Walbridge.
A 1920s-esque jazz club, perhaps?