Summer season will be last for El Mariachi

After five years of operation on Route 9, the El Mariachi restaurant will close at the end of the track season because of lack of business, owners say. 
 The location at 2955 Route 9, which is equidistant from both Saratoga Springs and Ballston Spa near Northway Exit 13, is one of three Mexican eateries run by Albany-based restaurateurs Patty Bermejo-Bhola and Freddy Bhola. 
 “That location has been very challenging,” said Bermejo-Bhola, who’s been in the business with her husband for 15 years. “We’re not in the town, and I think once people are in the town they stay in the town.”
The couple opened the restaurant in July 2005 after customers asked for an El Mariachi location “up north,” she said.
But they decided in January not to renew their lease and will close their doors once this summer season is through. Some employees will transfer to Albany but others are looking for new jobs.
“Traffic is just not enough there,” Bermejo-Bhola said. “It’s great now in the summer months, but the winter months are very quiet.”
Property owner Sam Leveni had managed the lease nearly all five years until the property was turned over to Adirondack Trust in 2010, Bermejo-Bhola said.
“After the economy went down, and we learned that he had lost the property at the beginning of the year, and that was another part of the decision,” she said.
Two other El Mariachi restaurants are located at 289 Hamilton St. and 144 Washington Ave. in downtown Albany, where business is steady, Bermejo-Bhola added.
The couple is also planning to open a new tapas and tequila bar in Albany called Blue Agave.

Mexican import shop open

El Jardine, an open-air tent shop selling imported Mexican goods has sprung up on Church Street between Carpetland and Saratoga Signature Interiors.

It’s run by Syracuse-based businessman Peter Flaherty, who has teamed up with Saratoga Signature Interiors owner (and his fiancée) Nancy Smith to use the 22-by-48- foot lot next to her store at 82 Church St. as a seasonal base to sell his unique, handcrafted wares.

Flaherty travels to Guadalajara, in western Mexico, to shop for his goods, then imports them to the United States to sell throughout the Northeast. El Jardine, the tent shop, is an extension of his two stores in Syracuse. He originally sold imported goods through a catalog business, but opened the first store in 2006 because of an excess of oddball items that had arrived in his delivery truck.

“The Mexicans are very honest and hardworking,” Flaherty said. “But if you order, say, 50 clay pigs, you might get 100 or you might get 20. I would open my delivery truck and find whatever the Mexican families and artists had made by the time the truck had to leave.

“I have a lot of unique items that I believe will fit into the horse (theme) and festive heart of what Saratoga is,” he added.

There are hand-thrown pots, fireplaces, water fountain walls, hand-carved wall hangings, garden planters and decorative art pieces for lawns and patios.

The highest-quality pieces fetch as much as $1,400.

Most of the items are handmade by Mexican artisans whose families have passed the craft down through generations, Flaherty said.

Many are created using reconstituted scrap metal and wood, rocks, clay or a combination of those materials.

“I enjoy the Mexican art because it’s fun, it’s different and it’s a fun business to be in,” said Flaherty, who has been importing goods for 11 years.

His interest in the culture and the artwork began while visiting his mother, who lived on the Mexican coast.

The more relaxed pace of the Mexican business world also fits his style, said Flaherty, who calls himself a semi-retired businessman.

“As fast-paced and direct as our society and our business is, in Mexico, “mañana” as tomorrow doesn’t necessarily even mean tomorrow,” he said.

El Jardine also sells decorative tents like the one Flaherty has set up shop under.

The colorful tents are imported from India and can cost anywhere from $4,500 to $10,000.

El Jardine will be open through the summer and fall. For more information, call Saratoga Signature Interiors at 581-0023.


Local nonprofits and the use of social networks -- tell me your story

I'm looking for sources for a story on local nonprofits and their use of social networking tools.

Any employees, members or fundraisers out there who have used tools like Twitter, Facebook, blogs, LinkedIn, etc., to spread the word about your cause or raise money?

Whether the result was successful or not, I'd like to talk to you. Please e-mail me at mnicosia@saratogian.com, post a comment below or call me at 583-8729, ext. 216.


Mexican imports shop opening on Church Street

This Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., check out the opening of El Jardine, a new Mexican imports shop at 82 Church St.

Syracuse-based businessman Peter Flaherty has set up a tent in a 22 by 48 foot lot between Carpetland and Saratoga Signature Interiors, where he will be selling his handcrafted artware and goods through the fall, with the intention to move full-time to Saratoga in the near future, he said.

The tent shop is an extension of Flaherty's two stores in Syracuse. He originally sold imported goods through a catalog business, but opened the first store in 2006 because he had an excess of oddball items that had arrived in his delivery truck from Mexico.

"The Mexicans are very honest and hardworking," he told me today during our interview. "But if you order, say, 50 clay pigs, you might get 100 or you might get 20. I would open my delivery truck and find whatever the Mexican families and artists had made by the time the truck had to leave.

"I have a lot of unique items that I believe will fit into the horse (theme) and festive heart of what Saratoga is," he added.

El Jardine's grand opening event will include door prizes, refreshments and a live broadcast by STAR 101.3 FM. A 20 to 70 percent off sale on select items at Saratoga Signature Interiors will be held at the same time.

For more information, call Saratoga Signature Interiors at 581-0023. Look for a full story in Monday's edition of In the Biz, both online and in print.


Local software company releases iPhone app for kids

Parents looking to entertain their children on a long car ride or while waiting in line at the grocery store might take interest in this new app developed by local software company Axeva, located in Clifton Park.

The 99-cent app, called Colortoons, allows children to color pictures of cartoon animals, like dinosaurs, cows and monkeys, on the iPhone or iPod Touch. According to a release sent by the company, the app features "22 professional quality animal cartoons and 32 vibrant paint colors. Children can fill in large portions of the cartoons with the paint bucket tool or color on top of them with the paintbrush tool. There is also a blank canvas option that allows for limitless creativity."

Parents can save their children’s creations on the devices or disable the save function. (But who wouldn't want to digitally preserve their children's genius artistic creations forever? Time for a GB upgrade.)

For more info, go to http://www.axeva.com/colortoons or search for Colortoons in the iTunes store.

Pictured above is a screen shot of a sample Colortoons creation, from the Axeva website.

On a related note, this insightful NY times piece on our increasing tendency to tether ourselves to technological gadgets sources a family with a second-grade girl who has her own iPod Touch, laptop computer and portable DVD player. I bet she would like this app.


Updated 6/14: Mango Tree Imports changing locations

Update: Here's a picture of the new location provided by owner Kim Andersen. Look for a full story in tomorrow's Saratogian and at saratogian.com

Mango Tree Imports, Ballston Spa's combination fair trade store and Capital Region Language Center, is relocating into the village.

A note on its website says the business is moving to 12 Washington St., "Art Alley," June 28.
A grand opening event (think fair-trade wine) is planned for 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, July 2 during the village's traditional First Friday celebration.


La Sartoria of Saratoga relocating

The steep price of rent on Broadway is driving another downtown business to relocate, even if only across the street.

La Sartoria of Saratoga, the Italian suit and fancy dress mainstay at 506 Broadway, will move a few doors down to 489 Broadway later this year, owners Vincenzo Montesano and Jennie Keleman say.

Montesano said he worried the annual rent increases during their tenure in the Algonquin building would soon hit customers in the pocket.

"The landlord wants New York rent. This is not New York. We’re just trying to save money," said Montesano, a lifelong tailor who moved from Italy to the U.S. in 1973.

"It think it’s going to be better to save on rent so it can flow on to the customers," added Keleman, who owns the ladies’ half of the shop, where special occasion dresses, jewelry and accessories are sold. She also owns the gift and coffee shop at the Saratoga Hilton.

Montesano opened La Sartoria, Italian for "the tailor shop," in the ground floor of the Algonquin in 2002 after establishing the business in Clifton Park a few years earlier. He remodeled the space that had been a coffee shop into the elegant men’s wear and ladies’ wear store that it is today.

It offers custom suits starting at $999, ready-made suits starting at $199 and tailoring, as well as men’s ties, shirts and shoes.

The new location above True Tattoo Studio on the first floor at 489 Broadway offers the same floor space (2,200 square feet) and six customer parking spaces in the back, Montesano said.

Building owners RoseAnn and Sal Cigna, of Dutchess County, completed a major renovation of the two upper floors last year and they’ve been looking for tenants ever since.

While the first floor is currently set up for offices, Montesano said he’ll make cosmetic changes later to accommodate La Sartoria’s wares.

Keleman and Montesano said they hope to open the new space in August as a showroom for designer duds while holding clearance sales at the existing shop through September.

They plan to officially switch over Oct. 1.
For more information, call La Sartoria of Saratoga at 226-0641 or 226-0492.


Finish Line Restaurant and Bar open on Route 9

Dan Reilly and Guido Bieri have opened Finish Line Restaurant and Bar on Route 9 after working together for years at Bruno’s on Union Avenue.

The eatery, located at 2961 Route 9 next to the Roosevelt Inn & Suites, was known as Roosevelt Bar & Grill before closing last season.

“We’ve always talked about trying to get a place of our own,” said Reilly, a resident of Saratoga Lake who’s spent his career in the food service industry. “This is our dream.”

Reilly trained as a cook with his mentor, Jimmy Poggi, at Melody Manor on Lake George. Guido, a native of Switzerland, worked as chef and manager at Bruno’s for 18 years, Reilly said.

The partners officially opened the racetrack-themed restaurant May 14 and are serving breakfast and lunch from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. seven days a week. Brunch is served until 2 p.m. on Sundays. Dinner will be served and a full bar will be open when the restaurant receives its liquor license.

The menu includes sandwiches, burgers and breakfast in the theme of “classic American home cooking,” as well as Italian dishes.

“The Finish Line’s location south of the city offers ample parking and serves as a convenient before- and after-track meeting place, especially for people from Malta, Round Lake, Clifton Park, Mechanicville and the Ballston area,” Reilly said.

There’s no website, but look up The Finish Line Restaurant and Bar on Facebook for more information and photos. Call 584-1900 for reservations.