For the love of Dog (s)

A fairly new -- and controversial, it seems -- initiative to make downtown Spa City more dog-friendly than ever (which I reported on last fall) is officially launching in a couple weeks.

The Dog-Friendly Downtown Program (DFD) allows shoppers to identify businesses that allow dogs inside via a decal displayed in the window. To date, over 30 businesses have signed onto the program, say organizers Melanie Dallas, of Sloppy Kisses, and Adrianna Flax, of Saratoga Arts.

They have a slate of events lined up Saturday May 15 to kick off the program.

From the press release:

Area dogs and their owners are invited to participate in the DFD Scavenger Hunt and Doggie
Yappy Hour.

Scavenger Hunt, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., downtown

Participants (both human and canine) are tasked with visiting as many DFD
businesses as possible to answer a canine-related question specific to that business. Scavenger
Hunt participants must answer at least seven questions correctly to be eligible for the prize raffle, to be held as part of the culminating event of the day, Doggie Yappy Hour.

Doggie Yappy Hour, 3 to 5 p.m., Putnam Den, 63A Putnam St.
Mayor Scott Johnson, his wife Julie and their new dog will be recognized and will give out prizes donated by DFD businesses to Scavenger Hunt participants.

Scavenger Hunt ballots are available at Sloppy Kisses at 493 Broadway. They can also be downloaded at www.dogfriendlydowntown.blogspot.com.
The event will take place rain or shine.


Circus Cafe turns 6

Just in time for Derby Weekend, Circus Cafe is holding a birthday party for itself this Saturday, May 1 to celebrate six years in business.

The festivities at 392 Broadway will begin at 4 p.m. with happy hour(s), live music, giveaways and complimentary appetizers. Partiers can watch the Kentucky Derby on the big screen and top off the evening with karaoke.

For more information, call the restaurant at 583-1106 or go to http://circuscafe.com/


Ed Lewi Associates names new veep

Steve again. Another item for you, regarding Ed Lewi Associates' naming of a new VP. The firm handles media relations for events at Saratoga Race Course and plenty of other Spa City and Saratoga County organizations.

The Clifton Park-based firm made news recently when Mark Bardack purchased the business from founder Ed Lewi and his wife and business partner, Maureen Lewi.

This item will appear in print in an upcoming compilation of business briefs:

— — — — —

Ed Lewi Associates announces new vice president

CLIFTON PARK — Ed Lewi Associates announced that Lisa Audi has been named vice president of the full-service marketing and public relations firm after serving as its director of marketing for the past six years.

Audi succeeds Mark Bardack, who recently became president after purchasing the firm from its founder, Ed Lewi, and his longtime business and marriage partner, Maureen Lewi.

In her new role, Audi will assist in client recruitment and development, personnel management and in the adoption of new communications technology and strategy, including social media. She will also maintain direct oversight of the firm’s advertising and promotions departments.

“Lisa is an invaluable asset who possesses superior knowledge of the advertising and marketing fields, and is a seasoned management professional,” Bardack said. “Lisa will be a core contributor to the growth of our firm as we continue to meet the communications needs and challenges of our clients, evolve with new and emerging technology, and mirror the expansion that we anticipate throughout the Capital Region.”

For the past six years, Audi has helped build and execute marketing plans for Saratoga Race Course, Northeastern Fine Jewelry and numerous other agency clients. She has also managed many of the region’s high-profile special events, including the annual Open House at Saratoga Race Course, the Sports Foundation’s Scholar Athlete awards dinner, and functions to benefit the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.

Prior to joining Ed Lewi Associates, Audi served as general manager of a pair of SMG properties: the First Arena in Elmira and the New Haven Coliseum in New Haven, Conn. She was director of marketing for eight years for the Pepsi Arena – now the Times Union Center — in Albany.

Audi is a member of the board of directors of the Sports Foundation of the Capital Region and also serves as a contributing member to Circle of Life, a summer camp for children with diabetes.

Audi is a graduate of LeMoyne College in Syracuse where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science. She lives in Colonie.

Buy Local Bash set for May 2 at Proctor's Theater in Schenectady

Greetings! Stephen Shoemaker, online editor at The Saratogian, here. Mareesa invited me to contribute to the blog so items can get posted when she's off.

Here's a press release for an event that might be of interest to those who favor locally-owned businesses:

— — — — — —

“Buy Local” Bash Promises Free Drawings, Fun--Opposite the Schenectady Greenmarket

On Sunday, May 2, dozens of local businesses will offer samples and free drawings for gift baskets at the “Buy Local Bash” at Proctor’s Theater in Schenectady.

The free event is sponsored by Capital District Local First, an organization that is dedicated to the locally owned, independent business community in the Capital District. It is an affiliate of BALLE, the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies.

The Buy Local Bash will be held from 10am to 1:30pm in Proctor’s Theatre, where the Schenectady Greenmarket has been held all winter. On May 2, the Greenmarket will move outdoors to the area in front of City Hall.

“There will probably be over a thousand people at the two events,” said Greg Salamon, head of the Schenectady hub of Capital District Local First and an organizer of the event. “On that Sunday morning we’ll have two major events anchoring both ends of Jay Street with people going back-and-forth between them. Plus the Jay Street merchants will all be open as well.”

Salamon is also the owner of Ambition Café and head of the Jay Street Merchants association.

"We'll also have Joe Condon, who will do drawings for gift baskets," said Nancy Gould, president of Tough Traveler, a local firm that designs and manufactures luggage, backpacks, and other bags. "Tough Traveler will be giving away a Jiff Bag, Sprite Hip Pack, and Fitness Duffel. You can see pictures of them on our web site (www.toughtraveler.com). Plus there will be merchandise from other local stores in the gift baskets.”

Joe Condon is a radio host on WROW-AM-950 and WYJB-AM-B-95.5. There will be local musicians and dozens of tables with people from various small businesses from around the Capital District, with samples and give-aways.

“Locally owned independent businesses give back so much to the community,” said David Hess,” a board member of Capital District Local First and the event organizer. “They not only provide employment and services but also make donations to nonprofits and participate in all sorts of community events. Especially in a down economy, people need to be aware of how they can channel some of their consumer spending to the independent sector of our local economy.”

There will also be local musicians, including musicians from George Soros on classical guitar and the Jaqui Kraus trio.

“People can listen to the music and speakers, and they can also wander around and look at local businesses that are showing some of the special items and services that they offer," said Paulina Manzo of Plina Design, another Capital District Local First board member who has helped organize the event.

Another organization that has supported the event is the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation. “We are very happy to support this event that will draw wide public attention to the many improvements and new businesses in downtown Schenectady,” said James Salengo, executive director.

The event will take place between 10am and 1:30pm inside Proctor’s Theater on Sunday, May 2. The web site of Capital District Local First is www.capitaldistrictlocalfirst.org.


Reader inquiry

A Milton resident called me today to say her credit card statements have been mysteriously missing from her mail for the last couple months, and the post office doesn’t have an explanation.

She’s wondering if anyone else in the area has been missing statements from CareCredit or Best Buy lately. If so, let us know by e-mailing mnicosia@saratogian.com or calling the newsroom at 583-8729.


Joint grand opening event on Beekman Street

Feneex owner Francelise Dawkins (left) and Ashley Gardner, who owns Common Thread, (top) are planning a combined grand opening event for their respective new stores this Saturday.

Check out Dawkins' fabric arts studio (30 Beekman St.) and Gardner's expansive yarn collection (55 Beekman St.) during the event from
4 to 7 p.m. Saturday.

Food, drink, door prizes and discounts can be found at Common Thread. Customers can also participate in an interactive community fiber collage project.

Check this story on the new businesses from last month.

For more information, call the stores: Common Thread at 583-2583; Feneex at 698-3711 or go to www.francelisedawkins.com.


Ain't that yogurt dandy

Philip Levitas wants to grow a new culture downtown - yogurt culture, that is.

The 38-year-old Rockland County man moved to Ballston Spa recently along with his folks, Lawrence and Diane Levitas, looking to apply his service-industry and art school backgrounds to a local venture.

The family will run Plum Dandy at 419 Broadway, the space that housed the Italian café and gelato shop until its owner changed locations in January.

"I’ve been visiting Saratoga for years, and the area has really developed," Levitas said. "With our frozen yogurt concept, it seemed to fit.

The "concept" includes a self-serve frozen yogurt bar with healthy, sweet toppings - fresh fruit, granola, cookies, etc. - plus non-dairy sorbet and smoothies. Asian Bubble tea, a drink made of fresh-brewed tea, milk, flavoring and tapioca pearls that is served hot or cold, adds a twist to the menu.

"Plum Dandy is not a dessert destination only," Levitas said, noting that the yogurt is non-fat, low-calorie, certified pro-biotic and kosher. The idea is to appeal to health-conscious customers who might be looking for a cold meal on a hot summer day, and a laidback atmosphere in which to enjoy it, he said.

Renovations to the shop have been under way for a couple of months, and those familiar with the space when it housed Eugenio’s Café Gelato will find new indoor and outdoor seating and the addition of a public restroom that is handicap-accessible. Levitas said he’s maintaining the existing character of the space, with its brick walls and wooden floors, while brightening it up with modern décor.

Free wi-fi access and a mix of alternative and electronic tunes on a new stereo system will round out the shop’s chill vibe.

"It’s a gathering-place model like Uncommon Grounds or Starbucks, where we encourage people to stay in and enjoy themselves rather than just have a take-out product," Levitas said.

May 15 is the target opening date. The Web site, www.plumdandyyogurt.com, is under construction.


UPDATED 4/30: Guido king to party at Mare Saturday

Update: I hear that Ronnie never showed up ... hmm .. was anyone there?

Fans of "Jersey Shore," get ready -- the brawny Ronnie Magro is in da house.

Or he will be Saturday, according to management at the Mare nightclub at 17 Maple Ave.

Magro, a 23-year-old Bronx native of reality TV fame, has agreed to host a "grand opening" event Saturday at the club. The party starts at 8 p.m. on the patio. Ages 21 and older are welcome.

"Jersey Shore," which is gearing up for its second season on MTV, is a documentary-style soap opera that follows the drama-filled lives of a group of Italian-Americans (a.k.a. guidos and guidettes) living on a beach house in Seaside Heights.

According to the show’s Web site, Magro is "a lover who just wants to have a good time."

So I'm guessing the superfluous muscle mass is just a façade for his cuddly bear nature?

Call Mare at 583-6955 or look up Mare Nightclub on Facebook for more information.

UPDATED 4/9 Something new at old Doc's Steakhouse

Update: Michael Smith, a spokesman at the New York State Liquor Authority, told me today that the owners of Shanghai Grill, at 175 S. Broadway, applied to transfer their liquor license to 63 Putnam St., the former Doc's Steakhouse. The application was filed March 12, and a hearing on Monday will determine if it is approved, Smith said.

Earlier this week, a peek through the locked, paper-covered doors at 63 Putnam revealed red wooden partitions and wall shelves that have been recently constructed. I could hear the buzzing of a chain saw and through my tiny viewing panel, it looked like a lot of renovation was happening.

Doc's owner
Laura LaPoint declared bankruptcy last year and closed the restaurant's doors just as the summer was winding down.

Shanghai Grill hasn't been open long in the South Broadway location, but owner Jeff Chen has built a loyal clientele at the original Latham restaurant, serving Chinese, Japanese and Thai cuisine.

Moving the Shanghai Grill downtown would leave another building empty on South Broadway. Local business owners there expressed concerns last year about bouncing back after a major road repair project in the spring and summer of 2008 detoured traffic away from their storefronts.


Tips 'n Toes now on Ballston Avenue

Longtime local nail artist Joanne H. Roulier has moved into new digs at 280 Ballston Ave.

The location, a small room that adjoins Design ’n Colors Hair & Body Salon, is meant to offer her more traffic, said Roulier, whose nail business is called Tips 'n Toes. She moved her polishes, brushes and other tools from a suite on Seward Street, where she had worked for the last year.

“I needed to be closer to downtown. This is my last stop,” said Roulier, who gives manicures, pedicures and hot stone treatments along with other specialty pampering services for hands and feet.

The established Design ’n Colors salon is owned by Jimmy Fortino. A massage therapist also rents a space in the brick building, making the venue a one-stop-shop for hair, body and nail services.

For more information on Roulier’s work, call 581-TIPS (8477).

Personal scanner not necessary

You’ve got thousands of dusty old photos piled in boxes in your basement, and the thought of transferring them to a more durable format is overwhelming. Or you don’t have the right tools to do the job.

That’s where Visual Recollection comes in.

Thomas Dragonette and Daesha Harris, both 30, are renovating a rented second-floor space at 43 Washington St. for their new business, Visual Recollection. The location is an aging building owned by the First Baptist Church, on the corner of Washington Street and Railroad Place.

Inside, the pair will gather customers’ photos, negatives and slides and transfer them to a permanent format using scanning, retouching, restoration, digital capture and archiving techniques.

“Anything that can be digitally preserved” is game, Harris said.

Unlike online services that often auto-scan photos after you ship them off to another city or state, the Visual Recollection team keeps materials in the studio and carefully scans them by hand so customers can be assured their keepsakes will be safe and intact, Dragonette said.

The business name refers to “the experience of recalling a memory sparked by a mental picture, as well as the actual act of recollecting/reorganizing tangible images,” the owners said.

Harris and Dragonette moved back to their hometown of Saratoga last summer after spending time in San Francisco, working in their respective fields of music production and photographic art.

In the future, their space in the turreted brick building could host art shows, Harris said. From the start, they’ll display work by local artists on the walls and use the space as a working artist’s studio, where Dragonette will record music and Harris will work with photographs and film in addition to the business.

A grand opening reception is planned for 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, April 10, at the studio. For more information, e-mail info@visualrecollection.com or call 937-8379.


G.R.O. @ 80 West

That's a grand reopening at 80 West, from noon to 7 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, April 3.

Check out the goods with new owners Tara and Mary Lou Imrie and Melanie Hiller.

Refreshments will be served all day long at the shop, at 510 Broadway in the Algonquin building.

For more info, go to 80westofsaratoga.com.


Dream Big's new Web site

My pals and fellow 20-something peers in the media industry, Justin Cerone and Adam Morrell, are celebrating the launch of their new Web site for their video production company Dream Big Media Group.

I interviewed Morrell and Cerone about their adventures as entrepreneurs back in October when they were just getting the business off the ground.

They started with a dream and a couple of cameras, and now they have half a dozen professionally produced video projects displayed on their site and are courting clients all over the Capital Region.

Keep up the good work guys!

Check out their blog, connect on Facebook and view their video work on Vimeo.

Spoken boutique grand opening

Pam Worth, of Wilton, celebrated the grand opening of Spoken Boutique in the Mabee building, at 27 Church St. on Thursday.

Worth's clothing, jewelry and accessories store is the successor the high-end maternity store Haute Mama.

“I’m catering to someone my age who wants to put something on and feel fabulous,” the 47-year-old Worth said in an interview in Feburary. “Customer service is my foundation, and I think that’s lacking in some stores.”

As an incubator business, Spoken has five years to establish itself in the Mabee building before Worth’s agreement with Adirondack Trust requires her to find a new venue.

For more information, call the store at 587-2772.