Giving thanks, working harder for social equality

The last few months been full of new experiences for me as a reporter. Many have been positive ... milling with city officials during my first election night in the field, shooting video for a story on nanotechnology in Ballston Spa, rocking out to the Beatles as interpreted by Skidmore College students, are just a few recent events of many I could name.

Some have been negative experiences ... standing next to blood-stained cement at the scene of a near-fatal motorcycle accident, picking up the phone to call the parents of a young woman killed in horrible car crash, taking flak from people who didn't pay their taxes, drove while drunk or were charged with various crimes.

But taking the good with the bad is all part of this job.

I want to take a moment to reflect on two very different experiences I had within one short week during October that struck me because of the incredible polarity between them.

This fall, I visited the Shelters of Saratoga homeless shelter for adults on Walworth Street and spoke with good people who have faced more adversity than most. I was welcomed into and ate lunch several times with fellow Saratogians at the EOC Soup Kitchen at the Presbyterian Church on Circular Street. There, I listened to their eye-opening, often gut-wrenching stories of abuse, addiction, violence and poverty, interviews that eventually served as the foundation for a series of stories on homelessness in Saratoga.

A few days later, I toured 38 High Rock, a luxury condominium project that I have literally watched rise from the ground, from the view out of my apartment window during the last 10 months. I was whisked from floor to floor as officials touted the glamorous amenities residents there can enjoy when they move in this winter -- private indoor garages, tens of thousands of square feet of custom designed rooms, private patios complete with a bar and lounge ... the list goes on and on.

These new condos are nice for sure, and continued development in hard economic times is one of many good things Saratoga's got going for it -- but anyone who's willing to pay $1.3 million to live in one of them for 6 weeks out of a year ultimately, I think it is safe to say, doesn't have any sense of many year-round residents' struggle to make ends meet.

Visiting the shelter one day and then touring the condominium project a few days later felt like it might to immerse your head in a sink full of hot water and then immediately plunge it into a sink full of ice water.

In short, I would have rather been taken on a tour of a new, affordable housing project that will meet the needs of people who make less than half of the city's median income. Hopefully that will happen one of these days in the not too distant future.

The experiences reminded me to approach every day and every tough interview with gratitude and compassion, because I have a lot to be thankful for. So, here's giving thanks to all those compassionate people and organizations in our community that work hard to help those for whom a million dollar condo will never be attainable.

Thanks Franklin Community Center, Shelters of Saratoga, the Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services, Mother Anderson's Shelter, Saratoga Housing Authority, Saratoga County Housing Alliance, Gloria LaPorta at the soup kitchen and everyone at the Economic Opportunity Council.

Feel free to add your comments below to express thanks for the many I've left out.

DBA Bag Day Promotion

The Downtown Business Association is shifting into high gear as the holidays roll in.

Bag Day starts Saturday, Dec. 12. and this year the program has been extended to three days instead of the usual one day.

Other Bag Day dates are Saturday, Jan. 16 and Saturday, Feb. 13.

Basically, shoppers can pick up handled paper bags from more than two dozen participating businesses during the Victorian Streetwalk, Dec. 3, and bring them shopping on each of the three dates. Shoppers will receive 20 percent off one item from each business, so long as the item fits in the bag.

Happy shopping, happy Thanksgiving, and look out for a nice fat entry of juicy business news when I return next week!


... keeping the sugary blog posts coming

From the Chamber of Commerce:

Sundaes Best Hot Fudge Sauce is celebrating eight years in business this month with the launch of a new cherry-flavored hot fudge sauce. Chazzy’s Cherry was named after co-owner Katie Camarro’s nephew Chaz, who loves a cherry on top of his hot fudge sundaes along with a dash of cherry juice.

Other sauces include Original Dark Chocolate Hot Fudge, Marilyn’s Mint, Russell’s Landing Raspberry, Olivia’s Orange, Howard’s Hazelnut, Jean’s Java and Patty’s Peanut Butter.

With the opening of the company’s kitchen at the Wilton Business Center on Northern Pines Road several years ago, owners Katie Camarro and Jeff Shinaman continue to do research and introduce new products.

Sundaes Best are available in more than 450 stores and restaurants across the country, internationally in London and in multiple shops in and around Saratoga Springs.

For a complete list, go to www.sundaesbest.com. For more information, call 584-4036.

Saratoga Cheesecake Company

A new source for New York-style cheesecake has found a home in the area.

Kristina Kasky, of Waterford, founded Saratoga Cheesecake Company last year and has recently begun supplying cheesecakes to area restaurants.

Kasky, 35, is a mother of three who holds a degree in cosmetology and says she has been baking for years.

“I’ve done it since I was a child and decided to take it one step further,” she said. “I was a stay-at-home mom for nine years and I just decided it was time to do something.”

She bakes three days a week out of a commercial test kitchen in her home to produce 13 to 21 cakes each day. Each 10-inch cake is frozen, boxed and distributed to restaurants like Longfellows and the Olde Bryan Inn.

The company serves about 25 clients regularly, Kasky said.

She would like the wholesale business to eventually support a specialty shop downtown, where she would sell cakes and other baked goods.

The current selection of cakes features flavors like caramel apple, cookie dough, pumpkin, carrot and Irish cream, many decked out with elaborate toppings, cream and sauces.

For more information about Saratoga Cheesecake Company, call 858-8363.

Fueling the cupcake craze

What’s the color of bubblegum, sounds like a sock hop and smells like strawberries and cream?

It’s Bettie’s Cakes, Saratoga’s latest cupcake café to open in the Downstreet Marketplace, and it comes with a retro twist.

In the newly renovated space at 454 Broadway, customers can cure their sweet tooth in authentic-looking vinyl booths while a jukebox plays ’50s tunes. Soda pop, root-beer floats, soft serve and, of course, freshly baked cupcakes are served by “Betties” — waitresses wearing saucy hairdos and colorful aprons.

Owner Lorraine Murphy is the lead “Bettie,” and works alongside her husband, John, and her 13-year-old daughter, Shawnee, in the shop.

She says her purpose through the cupcake café is to “try to bring back a wholesome feel and glamour of the ’50s” by appealing to families and children.

“It’s about family coming together to have that quality time,” she said Sunday as the café filled up with parents and their small children clamoring over their favorite flavor of frosting.

The couple said Saratoga is, to them, a prime spot for such a specialty business.

“A lot of people are addicted to cupcakes,” Murphy said. “The kids can come in and virtually design their own cupcake.”

The Murphys, who live in Clifton Park, have established themselves as entrepreneurs in the area — Lorraine as an artist through her pinup photography makeover service, First Impressions
(Note: Avoid visiting this site while at work ... you might get some raised eyebrows) in Clifton Park, and John with Core Physical Therapy in Guilderland.

They run Bettie’s with pastry chef Molly Hartley and a small crew, who produced about 1,000 cupcakes of all sizes Saturday for the store’s grand opening.

Message cakes for special occasions and birthday-cake-sized cupcakes are available in addition to cupcake sundaes, mini cupcakes, cookies and themed merchandise designed by Murphy.

Another facet of the business is a mobile cupcake café the Murphys plan to set up in Guilderland this December. Hot drinks and baked goods from the Saratoga shop will be sold out of a restored 1963 double-decker British bus, which could travel throughout the region from event to event, Murphy said.

Bettie’s Cakes is open from noon to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from noon to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

For more information, call 894-1179.

Above: Kera Wasserback, one of the "Betties," shows off some cakes during the shop's grand opening this weekend. Photo by Erica Miller.


Pink Paddock to move to greener pastures

The Pink Paddock's hot pink storefront will be moving down the street in December, a sign outside the shop says.

At the boutique's future new home at 358 Broadway in the Granite Palace, Lilly Pulitzer fanatics shoppers will find more fitting rooms and about three times the space.

Employee Emily Carnevale tells me the move will enable the store to become a Lilly Pulitzer Via Shop, meaning it will stock a bigger variety of the brightly hued designer dresses, skorts and tees branded by the New York socialite who popularized the "preppy" look in the 50s and 60s.

Currently, the store offers select clothing and accessories for women and children. It opened at 380 Broadway in 2005 and is owned by Kimberly Burton and Steve Snyder.

For more information, call the store at 587-4344.

Bettie's Cakes update

Bettie’s Cakes opened Sunday in the Downstreet Marketplace on Broadway with owners Lorraine and John at the helm.

Cupcakes, hot drinks, soft-serve ice cream and ice cream floats are on the menu in the 1950s style shop.

The “cupcakery café” takes the place of Spa City Cupcakes, which closed last month.

Look for more about Bettie’s later this week in The Saratogian and at www.saratogian.com.

SeekingSitters new to area

Lori Flynn doesn’t take chances when it comes to babysitters for her two children, ages 8 and 3.

It was with that concern for safety and security that Flynn, a New York City transplant, recently opened the Capital Region franchise of SeekingSitters, a national babysitting service with its own in-house private investigation company geared toward giving parents peace of mind.

“As a parent, it’s so important to know that who you’re leaving your children with is a safe person,” Flynn said. “That’s why I wanted to bring it to this area. I just thought it was a service that was definitely needed.”

SeekingSitters has a couple hundred franchise locations in more than a dozen states. Potential sitters and families who need a babysitter can use the extensive Web site to either apply for a job or join as a member. Both sitters and families are screened, and sitters are guaranteed to have CPR and first aid training, Flynn said. Her franchise serves families throughout the Albany and Saratoga region.

“We have a very small sitting team now, with about eight to 10 sitters. As the need grows every day, we bring on a new sitter,” said Flynn, who runs the business out of her home in Delmar.

Services start at $12.95 per hour for one child, plus a $39.99 sign-up fee.

For more information, call Flynn at 763-7335, or go to her franchise site.

Haute Mama closed

Haute Mama, the Church Street boutique known for its chic maternity clothing, has closed because the recession has hit home, its owner says.

Sarah Otto, a stay-at-home mom who opened Haute Mama in the summer of 2007, officially ended the store’s nearly 2-1/2 year run on Friday so she can step into the role of family breadwinner after a company buy-out recently cost her husband his job.

“It’s not really the direction I was planning on going,” Otto said last week. “I want to let people know that this wasn’t a reflection of the business, but it was for my family.”

Otto, who lives in Glens Falls with her husband and 5-year-old daughter, said her store was sustaining itself but she hadn’t been drawing a profit during the last year.

Now both Otto and her husband are looking for jobs.

“The part that is hardest is leaving and not being involved with the Saratoga business community,” Otto said. “I feel very sad that I won’t be a part of that (any longer). I thank everybody for all the support that they’ve given me.”

A note on the store’s Web site directs customers with outstanding gift certificates to leave a message at 691-0395.


A Savage makeover

From The Broadway Salon, 445 Broadway:

Heather Savage, 29, was the winner of a free makeover hosted by The Broadway Salon on Halloween. See "before" and "after" photos of Savage below.

She was chosen "Today Show" style off the street last weekend and treated to a manicure, pedicure, makeup and hair cut by a beauty team at the Salon and then she enjoyed a mini shopping trip at Lifestyles. She'll also be dining at Cantina as part of the tri-business promotion The Broadway Salon initiated this year.

Savage is a former Saratoga Springs High School graduate and a sports enthusiast. She loves riding her motorcycle, hiking, biking and spending time with her family and her boyfriend, Jeff.

Wheatfields II

If you're anywhere south of Exit 9 Tuesday evening, consider checking out the new Wheatfields Bistro & Wine Bar in Clifton Park (The Crossing Plaza, 54 Crossing Blvd.)

The brand new eatery opening tomorrow is sister restaurant to Colleen and Tim Holmes' Wheatfields Restaurant and Bar on Broadway.

The Bistro opens at 4 p.m. for dinner.

For reservations, call 383-4444.

Check out photos of Wheatfields II (my name for it) at
and comment here to tell me how that delicious-looking food tastes!

Livin' the "Saratoga Life" online

An area events Web site, www.thesaratogalife.com, which launched locally four years ago, has undergone a complete redesign this fall, and advocates say it’s drawing more business their way.

TheSaratogaLife.com is a “comprehensive guide to all things shop-dine-stay and play in Saratoga,” according to local directors Annemarie Bradt and George Ehinger. The colorful, user-friendly Web site caters to advertisers, consumers and community causes.

Most significantly, it offers a guide for both locals and tourists of what to do around town by allowing businesses to create a profile including a summary, links to their Web sites, upcoming events, photos and customer reviews.

This service is $800 per year, Ehinger said, with options for shorter membership available too.

Currently, more than 60 local businesses have signed on, Ehinger said.

Another aspect of the site is Community Causes, where nonprofits can post their events and fundraisers for free. Saratoga Reads, The Children’s Museum and Double H Ranch are among the community groups signed on to promote their causes. Individual users can also join for free and post blog entries, business and restaurant reviews and information about sales or community events.

The Web site is run by The Local Life LLC, a company that operates nationally with similar locale-oriented online guides scattered throughout the Northeast.

In addition to Saratoga, The Local Life targets Providence, Rhode Island, New Haven, Conn., Arlington, Va., and Bethesda, Md.

For more information, contact Ehinger at george@thelocallife.com or Annemarie Bradt at 320-2537 or annemarie@thelocallife.com.

Community causes can contact community@thelocallife.com for more information.

Celebrating 12 years

The dedicated staff and members of Total Body Trifecta Fitness Studio celebrated a milestone Sunday, marking the 12th anniversary of the business’s opening on the West side of town.

As a small and unassuming studio at 61 Lawrence St., Total Body Trifecta has weathered the years despite roadblocks like fire and recession.

Longtime members laud the sense of community created there by co-owners Mary Anne Fantauzzi and Brian Bayly, who’ve worked together for more than 15 years.

“We figured we might as well do what we do best, which is teach class,” Fantauzzi said of the partnership with Bayly that began years ago at Saratoga Athletic Club on West Avenue.

“We decided we’d make a go of it,” Bayly added.

Both are certified personal trainers. Fantauzzi specializes in the New York City Ballet workout and Bayly is a practicing dancer himself, appearing locally in performances like “The Nutcracker.”

Along with about 10 other certified instructors, they teach fitness classes in everything from low-impact aerobics, pilates, kick-boxing, yoga, ballet and salsa, seven days a week.

They call Total Body Trifecta its own family, counting less than 100 people between staff and members, who range from college students to Baby Boomers; 99 percent of them are female.

The location of the studio has changed throughout the years, but the business has survived with adaptability, said Bayly and Fantauzzi, who both maintain non-related full-time jobs in the area.

A fire started by a curling iron in a former rented space on Lawrence Street burned that building to the ground, so Total Body Trifecta moved next door to the Freeman & Shea Plumbing building, a converted carriage house where oddities like an antique safe and original flooring from the Grand Union Hotel share space with mats and exercise balls.

Currently, the studio offers walk-in classes, class cards and month-by-month membership.

“We’re changing with the times to adapt,” Fantauzzi said. “This way, people have the flexibility to do a class without making a big commitment.”

Contact Total Body Trifecta at 581-8025.

In photo above, fitness instructors Mary Anne Fantauzzi and Brian Bayly pose in their studio Sunday.


UPDATED: Saratoga Health and Wellness opening with photos

The new Saratoga Health and Wellness center officially opens today.

The facility at 30 Gick Road has undergone months of renovation work to institute a completely new, original design scheme by owners Michael Lapolla and Nicholas Galuardi.

I wrote about the center in September, when Mike and Nick kindly showed
me around what was at that
point 7,200 square feet of dark,
dusty space — a cavernous shell
of a facility.

Now it's promised to be a bit lighter
and cozier, so I'd go over there
and check it out!

Saratoga Health and Wellness is a team of professionals, including Mike and Nick plus Erin Mattson and Rebecca Mahoney, that provides fitness, wellness, nutrition and exercise consulting services.

For more info, e-mail info@saratogahealthandwellness.com or call 306-6987.


Passing the peeler

Dan Bell has been prepping roots to make horseradish for the last 13 years, and he thinks it’s time he passed the peeler.

That’s why he’s selling Whalen’s Horseradish Products, a specialty food company he runs out of his home in Ballston Spa that has expanded into a full-time operation in the last decade.

“I think now’s the time, because I’ve got more work than I can handle,” said Bell, who is retired from the National Guard. “It’s gotten to be more than just a one-man business.”

Whalen’s Horseradish has been around since 1925 and is known for hand-prepared, coarse-ground horseradish made from roots grown in Mississippi. Products such as horseradish sauces, cheese spreads and mustard are distributed to a national customer base mainly through Bell’s established craft show circuit as well as via Web, mail and phone orders.

He also distributes horseradish products to about 11 specialty shops in the region, from Cooperstown to Glens Falls to Amsterdam.

Bell said the business is perfect for an entrepreneur or a retired couple willing to take the momentum he’s already created to the next level, by hiring staff and continuing the company’s growth. A local buyer would be ideal, Bell said, because they could keep the company’s current phone number and post office box.

“There’s a lot of advantages if somebody locally were interested,” he said, adding, “I wouldn’t mind working for them a day or two a week.”

The business itself is for sale for $90,000, which includes an established craft show schedule, a refrigerated trailer used to sell products out of at the craft shows, customer lists, recipes, a Web site and customer relations. An additional $30,000 worth of equipment is also available.

Contact Bell at 587-6404.

10 Lake Ave. tenant TBA

A new business has been taking shape under wraps for the last several weeks at 10 Lake Ave., right across from the police station and kitty-corner to The Saratogian's offices.

Numerous calls to Conboy & Mannion Contracting, the group that owns the building and occupies the second floor, have gone unreturned in recent weeks.

However, a cheeky sign printed in minuscule type now hangs in the paper-covered window at the street level: “A small note to let you know something big is on its way this fall.”

Stay tuned for a follow-up in a future post.

New Malta salon to hold open house

Artistic Hair Design & Spa of Malta recently opened and is now getting ready to celebrate its opening the right way, according to owner Karen Hulbert.

She’s hosting a grand opening event from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday Nov. 6 at the salon, located at 2511 Route 9 in Malta.

The event will include a live one-hour broadcast by a local radio station and demonstrations of new services such as lymphatic drainage, aqua detox, eyelash perming and tinting, permanent make-up and collagen face treatments.

Beauty mavens: Look out for door prizes and giveaways as well.

For more information, call the salon at 899-1001.

Pictured above: salon owner Karen Hulbert