Moving the music off Broadway

Saratoga Guitar is stepping off Broadway after more than 16 years and heading to the city’s West Side, where cheaper rents, more parking and more retail space await.

Owner Matt McCabe says he loves his storefront on Broadway, but a combination of factors, including the rising cost of doing business there and the inconvenience of parking on the main drag, has given him good reason to move.

Another good reason is that the demand for music lessons and repairs keeps growing, McCabe said.

“We’ll pay less rent on the West Side and that’s a welcome thing, but we’re tripping over ourselves in our current spot, that’s been the primary thing,” he said.

The new location, at 60 West Ave., Suite 4, next to Treasures consignment shop, will double Saratoga Guitar’s current space and provide extra lesson rooms. And there’s the parking lot, of course.

“If your customers can’t get to you (because of a lack of parking), you can’t pay the rent whether it goes up or down,” McCabe said. “Parents of the students are elated about our moving so they have easier access to the shop for lessons.”

Renovations will start in October and a move-in date is planned for November. But Saratoga Guitar will remain open at 438 Broadway until the end of the year, when McCabe’s lease expires.

However, Saratoga Guitar will continue to have a downtown presence. McCabe said he will set up a small shop in his original location at 8 Caroline St., which he’s maintained as a storage and studio space since opening in June 1994.

He plans to man the Caroline Street shop, which will carry supplies, accessories and instruments. His chief technician, Ed Cox, will be in charge of operations at the new West Avenue store and lesson center, where one or two new employees could be added in 2011.

“We’re basically looking to expand the services, expand the space, expand the parking, everything except the expense,” McCabe said. “The area’s grown in the 16 years I’ve been in business. There’s been a rise in interest in lessons and in music in general, so we’re trying to meet those needs.”

For more information, call 581-1604.


Updated 9/24: Mid-week roundup

China Wok closed for renovation

The doors of China Wok on Broadway have been papered over for about a week, and a sign there says the take-out eatery is closed for renovations until Oct. 1.

A notice from the city's Design Review Commission also hanging on the doors shows that the DRC approved new doors for the restaurant. It looks like restaurant owners received permission this month to install a one-door aluminum entrance to replace the current two-door storefront.

On a recent venture in there for a pint of curry chicken, I noticed they'd repainted the walls and generally spruced up the look of the whole place.

Check back for an update next month.

Sorelle Gallery leaves Shoe Depot

Sorelle Gallery, owned by Sandra Pelletier, has jumped locations downtown a couple times in its short life, opening first in the Chindamo Building on Phila Street in 2009 and then moving to a bigger space as a tenant in the Shoe Depot on Broadway last winter.

Now the fine art gallery is moving once again -- and possibly outside the Spa City. 

Owner Pelletier said Friday she's looking for a new location in the Stuyvesant Plaza strip mall in Albany. At the same time, she's hoping to set up another shop somewhere on Broadway in Saratoga Springs. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, customers can contact her at 584-0600 or http://www.sorellegallery.com.

Maestro's move

Maestro’s chef and owner John LaPosta says his plans for expansion are official: The cozy Broadway bistro will move next door, into the 4,000-square-foot first floor of the Rip Van Dam building, next spring.

“It’s our fifth year and we’re busting at the seams here. We need the space so desperately,” said LaPosta, who opened Maestro’s in May 2006 at 371 Broadway.

The move will quadruple Maestro’s current seating space, giving the restaurant a 90-seat dining room and a full bar with about 20 seats, plus 50 seats outside on the building’s covered stone patio.

“Locals have been telling me they can’t wait to see people back on that porch,” LaPosta said of the pillared Rip Van Dam building. “It’s what the building should be. It’s just a magnificent building and a perfect canvas for us.”

He plans to start renovating the space in March, when the financial services firm that currently occupies the spot moves out. Renovations will last about 2-1/2 months, during which Maestro’s will stay open at its current location, LaPosta said. He expects to close the original restaurant and reopen in the Rip Van Dam in mid-May.

The location includes a basement where Speck Boutique is now, and LaPosta said that space could one day become a wine bar with live piano music.

Last fall, LaPosta had considered moving to the old Doc’s Steakhouse restaurant (now Pacific Grill) on Putnam Street, but said he heeded the advice of customers who told him moving off Broadway would be a mistake.

A more spacious restaurant won’t mean changes to the atmosphere, menu or prices his patrons enjoy, but it will add to everyone’s comfort — diners and employees — LaPosta said.

“We’re not changing the feel, we’re not changing the vibe, but you won’t have people sitting right on top of you,” he said.

For more information, call Maestro’s at 580-0312.

Saratoga Mystique leaving Algonquin

Owners of Saratoga Mystique, the piano gallery and café at 516 Broadway, are vacating their space in the Algonquin building by the end of September, citing an inability to keep up with the rent after a slow summer season.

“We just can’t do it anymore in this location, and we’re considering several places to move,” said Maggie Prisco, who owns Saratoga Mystique with her husband, Michael.

In the meantime, they plan to carry on their business, with Maggie teaching voice and piano lessons and Michael selling, tuning and restoring vintage and contemporary pianos from their home facility in Gansevoort. The couple was doing as much before they opened the storefront business at 514 Broadway in spring 2009.

After a few months at that location, they moved one door down into a bigger space with hopes of expanding Saratoga Mystique into a piano bar of sorts. It offered coffee, snacks, live music and lessons in addition to selling pianos and other instruments. Over the winter, the Priscos operated a kiosk in the Wilton Mall.

Business at the store is by appointment only through the end of the month. Call 701-0308 or 210-4505 for information.


Augie's celebrating six years in B'Spa, 20 years in biz

A Ballston Spa institution, Augie’s Family Style Italian Restaurant and Bar, is celebrating a milestone this month.

Owner Augie Vitiello opened the original restaurant in the New York City suburb of Larchmont 20 years ago and is marking six years of business in Ballston Spa.

While he’s since sold the original restaurant he opened Sept. 10, 1990, Vitiello maintains close contact with the new owner, who began working for Vitiello as a dishwasher when he was 14.

“It’s something to be proud of,” Vitiello said of the 20th anniversary of the Augie’s name. “A lot has changed in 20 years. … If you would have told me 20 years ago that I’d be living in upstate New York with four children and away from the Bronx where I was born and raised, I would have said, ‘You gotta be kidding me.’ ”

Now, however, that’s his happy reality.

Vitiello, 44, runs the restaurant at 183 Church Ave. with a staff of about nine people, while his wife, Lisa, stays home with their four children, ages 2 to 9. They made the move to the area in 2003, looking for a slower pace in life.

“We fell in love with the area and bought land here. It’s better up here than I ever would have expected — people are very appreciative and we couldn’t have done it without our customers,” he said. “With so many choices in the city, people don’t have the whereabouts to stop and say ‘thank you,’ but here, people would thank me all the time for opening up in Ballston Spa.”

Aside from regular renovations and a possible slight expansion, major changes aren’t in Augie’s future, Vitiello said.

“I like the idea that the restaurant is cozy and small and when people walk in they feel a buzz,” he said. “You can smell the garlic cooking in the kitchen, and you don’t have that in a cavernous space. We want to keep it that way.”

For more information, go to www.augiesrestaurant.com or call 884-8600.

Pipits of Saratoga opening in Franklin Square

A local woman with a flair for art and entrepreneurialism plans to open a gallery for antiques and home goods this fall.

Jeanne Van Patten of Saratoga Springs is busy setting up a shop called Pipits of Saratoga at 6 Franklin Square. She’ll sell a mix of crystal and pewter dinnerware imported from Italy and France, as well as antique furniture and collectibles.

The idea, when customers enter the pistachio-hued rooms with hardwood floors in the Victorian building, is to make them “feel as if they’re walking into a home, but to know that everything’s for sale,” Van Patten said.

“I just got tired of always having to buy beautiful things from Neiman Marcus and Macy’s. Why should we have to shop online or go down to those stores?” Van Patten said. “Saratoga doesn’t have a source for fine crystal or dinnerware. The idea is to bring some of the finer things here.”

Van Patten named the store after the brown bird of the same name.

Her friend, local antiques expert Ronnie Serlin, has signed on to collect and price antiques for the shop, Van Patten said.

The building at 6 Franklin Square is home to several other businesses, including the Lily Saratoga bridal boutique, with which Van Patten plans to share an interior doorway so customers of both stores can walk between them.

Van Patten, 52, grew up in Clifton Park and has lived on North Broadway in Saratoga Springs for the last decade with her husband, Robert Reed. She’s a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology and the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Saratoga program.

She serves as the president of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s fundraising arm, the Action Council, and has two grown daughters.

For more information about Pipits of Saratoga, e-mail Van Patten at lJeanneVP@aol.com.

Sonny's & Jeff's closes doors

A popular pizza establishment in Ballston Spa closed over the summer.

Sonny and Jeff’s Restaurant, located in the Carousel Village Plaza on Doubleday Avenue, was a favorite of many local diners during its nearly four-year run, according to plaza manager Cheryl Smith.

She said the restaurant’s owner, Jeff Youngs, closed the doors for good at the end of July and had planned to move to Boston, citing serious health issues. Youngs could not be reached for comment.

“They had a great following and it was a good fit to the plaza,” Smith said. “We look forward to getting another similar restaurant in there.”

There are a couple other vacancies in the Carousel Village Plaza, where My Other Kitchen and Allstate Insurance were, but new businesses, such as New 2 You Consignment Boutique and Sanders Meat Market, seem to be doing well.

Mama Mia's to add Italian cafe and pastry shop

The owners of Mama Mia’s Pizza and Café on Ballston Avenue were in luck when their next-door neighbor moved out earlier this summer.

Giuseppe and Lauren Grisio are looking to pair their 7-year-old pizzeria, located in the Price Chopper plaza, with a traditional Italian café and pastry shop now that the Dream Sleep Mattress Outlet has moved to Washington Avenue and left a vacancy.

The cafe will feature Italian coffees and espresso, homemade Italian pastries and bread, plus gelato, beer and wine, at both bar and table seating.

A lounge in the back could seat 70 for birthday parties, bridal showers, sports team banquets and the like.

“We were turning away a lot of parties,” due to lack of space at the restaurant, said Lauren Grisio.

The Grisios are planning a January opening in the nearly 3,000-square-foot space. They expect to hire about 10 new employees to staff the café.

The family-oriented Mama Mia’s restaurant already serves espresso, homemade bread, tiramisu and cheesecake. The café would be an extension of its old-world ambiance, but with earlier opening hours, owners say.

“For the local people, it’s easier to come over here,” rather than go to Albany, Latham or Schenectady for an authentic Italian café experience, Giuseppe Grisio said.

For more information, call Mama Mia’s at 583-7783 or go to www.mamamiaspizzaandcafe.com.

Eighty Twenty opens second consignment store

A local businesswoman with a charitable streak has expanded her consignment store from Gansevoort to downtown Saratoga Springs.

Sharon Byrne opened the original Eighty Twenty consignment and gift boutique in the Old Church at 217 Ballard Road more than a year ago, selling clothes and accessories for women and children, plus a few items for men.

Early in August, she opened a second location at 18 Congress St., where Freihofer’s Bakery Outlet had been until last winter.

At both shops, she sells “like new” clothing, jewelry, handbags, furniture, home decorations and more.

Many items still have the original tags attached and tout brand names such as Banana Republic, Ann Taylor and Talbot’s.

Consignors take a 50 percent split of sales and can leave items on the shelf for 60 days.

“In these economic times, people are looking for ways to save money, get dressed and look spectacular, and to not do it for a price that breaks the budget,” Byrne said.

A longtime city resident, Byrne’s interest in consignment shopping began years ago when she was stretched thin herself, raising three sons, going back to school for a degree in accounting and business administration and caring for her disabled husband.

Now, with help from her oldest son, Wally Hunter, she’s forging into the Spa City market while continuing to use the business as a charitable vehicle: Items that have passed their 60-day shelf life are donated to nonprofits such as the New York State Brain Injury Association, Saratoga Hospice and the Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Center of Saratoga County.

Byrne also donates clothing to local families in need on a case-by-case basis.

New plans for the business include a $4 rack on Thrift Thursdays and a Saturday RV shuttle starting in September, which would make stops at Skidmore College and elsewhere in town, then travel between the two Eighty Twenty stores.

Consignors should continue to make drop-offs at the Ballard Road store, which will remain open for the time being, Byrne said.

A grand-opening event will be held at the Saratoga Springs location next month, with a fashion show, radio broadcast and fundraiser.

Look for details in The Saratogian.

Store hours and consignment guidelines can be found at www.eightytwentyboutique.com. For more information, call 583-0802.