Saratoga-Adirondack Job Service Employer Committee offers hiring seminar

For companies having a difficult time finding employees, the Saratoga-Adirondack Job Service Employer Committee (JSEC) offers a breakfast seminar from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. April 4, “Nontraditional Resources for Finding Great Employees.” The location will be Longfellows Restaurant, 500 Union Ave. The cost is $5 per person and includes coffee, juice, fresh fruit and muffins.

The seminar will teach firms about programs available to locate workers. Participants will also become familiar with the New York State Adult Career and Continuing Education Services--Vocational Rehabilitation (ACCES-VR) mission, whom is assisted, services provided to achieve employment outcomes, how ACCES-VR helps disabled individuals with the job-placement process, how ACCES-VR works with employers and financial incentives for employers who hire people involved with ACCES-VR.

Companies will also learn about the program Jobs for Heroes--The Returning Heroes Tax Credit. Participants will get an overview of each plan, and also gain insight into what these programs have to offer for businesses and how they can help firms find great employees.

Speakers include Melissa Strauss and Leslie Carroll. Strauss has a B.S. in special education from SUNY at Buffalo and an M.S. in vocational rehabilitation counseling from Virginia Commonwealth University. She has worked in the field of vocational rehabilitation assisting disabled individuals with becoming employed since the late 1970s. She has been a certified vocational rehabilitation counselor for NYS ACCES-VR for 11 years. She serves adults in Saratoga County and special-needs students in two high schools in Washington County.

Carroll has a masters of science in psychology from Chadwick University and a Family Development Credential from Cornell University. She provides counselor support at the Women Veterans' Retreats at Wiawaka Holiday house on Lake George each year. She is presently a counselor for veterans at Saratoga Veterans Housing, Employment and Lifeskills Programs in Ballston Spa and is herself a veteran of the United States Navy. She has done crisis intervention with veterans, teens and adults. She has worked with the Crisis Action Network as well as the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.

The Saratoga-Adirondack JSEC is a joint project of the New York State Department of Labor and of employers in Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties. JSEC offers breakfast seminars every other month on topics of interest to business owners and human resource professionals.  The $5 cost for the program goes directly into a scholarship fund for BOCES students living in the three counties who are continuing their education beyond high school. Longfellow’s owner, Steve Sullivan, donates the space and the meal in support of this scholarship program. The all-volunteer Steering Committee coordinates the seminar topics and the scholarship program.  For more information about JSEC, the scholarship program or the Steering Committee, call Kimberly Haviland at the New York State Department of Labor at 743-0925, ext. 8887.

Cancellations due to inclement weather will be aired over local television and radio stations’ Web sites.

This is an Equal Opportunity Employer/Program. Auxiliary aids and services are available upon prior request to disabled individuals.



Binx baby store opens on Beekman

Binx - Saratoga Springs, NY 
Since 2010, Ilissa Goman has run her baby business, Binx, from her home. Now she’s opened a space for retail and classes at 74 Beekman St., calling the store a baby-planning service and retail store for all maternity and baby needs. The shop’s slogan is “From plus sign to potty training,” and the store is a resource for all kinds of families, from pregnancy through raising toddlers.
Goman sells various baby gear, including clothes and toys, and offers such services as breast pump rentals and sleep consulting.
“It’s great to have our own space, and be able to hold classes and story time for children,” Goman said.
She called her business neighborhood of Beekman Street an up-and-coming area with good neighbors.
“Our store is one of a kind,” she concluded. “There’s nothing like us in the area.”

Eastside Deli and Pizzeria has closed its doors

The Eastside Deli and Pizzeria at 223 Lake Ave., across from the East Side Recreation Area, has abruptly closed. Its display cases are empty, although its chalked-up menu remains on the boards, along with drawings of hamburgers and pizza slices.

The company’s Web site, http://www.eastsidedeliandpizzeria.com, shows its account has been suspended. A call to the deli’s telephone number, 587-2545, connects to a voice message offering to send you on to other similar businesses.

There must be pizza out there somewhere.


Congress Plaza Hallmark moving to Malta

This spring, the Hallmark Store in the plaza at 76 Congress St. will close March 27 and begin a move to the Shops of Malta. The shopping center on Route 9 in Malta, anchored by a Price Chopper and a CVS, will give a section of the drugstore’s space to the new Hallmark. The gift store’s owner, John McNiven, is seeking more traffic for his business and looking forward to the new tenants coming into the plaza.

“We are going to remodel our Malta space and be able to offer more product lines,” he said. “We’re hoping to get in there by early May.”



New train-themed restaurant rolls into Ballston Spa

The Fast Trax Food Co. has opened a train-themed family-friendly restaurant at 885 Rt. 67, Ballston Spa, in front of Curtis Lumber in the building formerly occupied by Christa’s Breakfast and Lunch. 

The completely remodeled location is serving a varied menu of sliders, wraps, salads, quesadillas, gourmet macaroni and cheese, fresh bakery items and more

The train theme is loosely based on the old story of “The Little Engine That Could,” and the restaurant is intended to encourage positivity, the possibility of all things and healthy goal-setting. Also in development is a children’s book that includes the restaurant’s main character and mascot named Max.

The restaurant presently has five employees and is open Monday through Saturday from 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.


The Center for Economic Growth offers ExporTech program

Recognizing that exporting is becoming the fastest-growing market segment in today’s manufacturing economy, the Center for Economic Growth (CEG) is offering a program, ExporTech, that leads firms through the process of embedding an export acceleration system. Merging strategy with results, ExporTech prepares small or medium-sized companies for global-market growth. 

Michael Stone, founder and president of Stone and Associates, will facilitate the spring 2013 ExporTech. A team of export experts will help participating company executives move quickly beyond planning into actual profitable export sales. The program is aimed at both new-to-export companies and those that have done some exporting, but have not fully exploited global opportunities. 

“You can’t put a price on the value of this program,” said Barbara Biller, president of intelliTech. “The contacts, resources, and knowledge I gained saved us tons of time and tens of thousands of dollars.” 

CEG is one of 10 Regional Technology Development Centers (RTDCs) in New York State. The organization fosters economic growth throughout the 11-county Capital Region, as well as in a significant portion of the Tech Valley corridor. As an independent not-for-profit group, CEG works with diverse members and partners to advance the ability of the region and its assets to succeed in the global marketplace. In addition to New York State Office of Science, Technology and Academic Research funding, CEG is supported by its dedicated members, the National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP), and National Grid.

Many companies are turning internationally to offset declines in domestic sales, according to CEG. ExporTech helps teams build a robust export plan within three months, providing resources that help firms move rapidly to market, leads, sales and payment. The program teaches international strategies and success factors based on real-world company research. 

Customized to the specific learning needs of participants, each workshop is limited to six to eight participating companies to provide sufficient time and attention to each company’s particular challenges. The companies meet for three one-day sessions over a three-month period, and in between sessions, participants work on developing their export plans.

“As Tech Valley’s New York State RTDC and NIST MEP center, CEG is pleased to continue to help Capital Region manufacturers build successful export strategies by bringing ExporTech to the region,” said Jeffrey Lawrence, CEG’s executive vice president of technology.  “ExporTech is measured for impact and outcome, as are all MEP programs, and recently, the average increase in sales for program participants in North Carolina was $750,000, and Wisconsin was about $900,000. We are looking forward to helping Capital Region manufacturers pursue similar growth metrics.”

Companies that have gone through the ExporTech program report significant impacts to their bottom lines. The program saves the average company more than 120 hours of labor by navigating the firm through the international growth process.  All these sales increases and cost savings yield an impressive return on investment for participating companies.  The estimated average gain in operating margin is 10 times the typical investment of staff labor time and program fees.

FedEx has been a partner at the national level for several years and once again has committed to sponsoring the ExporTech program, including an offer of support to help qualified participating companies execute their strategy once ExporTech is completed, based on the FedEx/U.S. Commercial Service alliance. This support may include funding Gold Key services, in-country market research, International Buyer Programs or other appropriate services.

For more information, including location, dates, cost and an application for the program, contact Louise Aitcheson CEG’s director of business development. 

“This is a proven program with a track record at 450 companies in 25 states,” she said. “The program’s small workshop size and customized format focuses on merging strategy with results. Throughout the program, local experts knowledgeable in all aspects of exporting are brought in to provide information and guidance. ExporTech’s customized agenda and small group discussion format ensure that companies learn strategies that specifically apply to their business. In the final work session, a panel of experienced international businesspeople reviews and provides feedback on each participating firm’s export growth plan.”

Bill Burwell of the U.S. Commercial Service in Baltimore said, “ExporTech is a faster way to get new-to-export successes. Some 20 percent to 30 percent of participants generate measurable results quickly, compared to the 12 months it typically takes for companies with which we work.” 


Hattie’s Chef Jasper Alexander named in “Best Chefs America” book

Chef Jasper Alexander of Hattie’s Restaurant has been honored as one of the country’s top culinary talents in the inaugural edition of “Best Chefs America,” a 386-page coffee-table book released March 1. The book is the ultimate chef’s guide to chefs, a first-ever peer review of United States culinary professionals.

“I am thrilled to be nominated by my peers and included in ‘Best Chefs America,’” Alexander said. “This recognition is truly an honor, and gives me yet another reason to be appreciative of my fellow professionals and chosen profession. I’m especially thrilled at the timing, as we are celebrating our 75th year in business at Hattie’s. I’d like to think Miss Hattie would be proud.”

The chosen chefs were extensively interviewed by their fellows and “Best Chefs America” analysts. These analysts conducted more than 5,000 confidential telephone interviews with chefs who were nominated by other chefs, culinary professionals and food enthusiasts across the country. The interviews consisted of a series of proprietary questions, and software was used to aggregate the data. Chefs earning the highest scores among their peers in their region were included in the guide.

The results were compiled into the book, with chef listings broken down geographically and alphabetically. “Best Chefs America” also features expert photography, and highlights emerging culinary trends and ingredients uncovered during the interviews.

Elizabeth Fishburne, “Best Chefs America”’s lead analyst, said, “Chefs themselves truly understand what it takes to be successful in this competitive industry, and ‘Best Chefs America’ offers them a forum to express their views. Based on the overwhelmingly positive response from more than 5,000 participating chefs, it is clear the chef world was ready for us.”

“Best Chefs America” costs $75 and can be bought online at http://bestchefsamerica.com/book/.

See www.hattiesrestaurant.com and www.hattieschickenshacks.com for more information on Hattie’s restaurants.



MacLeans buy Russo’s space; will expand Circus Café


Christel and Colin MacLean, the owners of Circus Café, have announced they have purchased the space adjacent to Circus Café, formerly known as Russo’s Restaurant. The new space is to be named The Crown Grill at Circus Café and will represent an expansion of Circus Café.

“The Crown Grill will be upscale casual, and will offer guests a separate and distinct dining experience from Circus Café,” said Colin MacLean. “While Circus has a fun, whimsical French Circus theme, The Crown Grill will have more of a Polo Ralph Lauren feel with rich fabrics, oriental rugs, decorative wall coverings, leather seating and ambient lighting.”

Although there will be some crossover between the Circus Café and The Crown Grill menus, each will have its own signature dishes. Instead of popcorn on the tables and the homemade cotton candy dessert found at Circus Cafe, The Crown Grill will serve flatbreads at the start of the meal and will be announcing its own special signature dessert. Lunch features at The Crown Grill will include gourmet farmstead grilled cheese sandwiches and a select short list of signature burgers, as well as creative salads, pastas and sandwiches. The dinner menu at The Crown Grill will focus on fine hand-cut steaks, roasted vegetable entrées, fresh seafood and a selection of handmade pasta dishes, among many other offerings. An extensive wine list composed of well-priced selections by the bottle and glass will be available. A lively bar with martinis, single-barrel bourbons and whiskeys will also be a focus.

In preparation for the expansion, the MacLeans hired Executive Chef Steve Kerzner, who most recently held the Chef de Cuisine position at Prime at Saratoga National. Prior to that, Kerzner was with 677 Prime, and Prime Bar and Grill, all part of Mazzone Hospitality.

Christel MacLean said, “Steve’s excellent culinary background, stellar training, terrific personality, and ability to connect with both the casual dining and upscale casual dining is remarkable. Steve is a great fit, and we are thrilled to have him with us.”

The MacLeans and Kerzner plan minor tweaks to the Circus Café menu as well, including the addition of new items that guests enjoyed as specials.

“This is something we do every year on at least a couple of occasions,” she added.

The two spaces will be accessible to one another via several openings, including an eight-foot-high arched pocket door in the rear of the restaurant, which will be opened for catering, large parties and special events.

“The concept of an expansion into an adjacent space that has its own identity and shared kitchen facilities is one that is tried and true, and offers guests and the restaurant increased flexibility and also cost efficiencies,” Christel MacLean said. “What is great in this case is that the Russo’s space has a very large, updated kitchen that is about three or four times the size of the kitchen on the Circus side.” She added, “We will likely use the Circus Café kitchen for prep, salads and homemade desserts; and also for the very busy nights in town like Victorian Street Walk, First Night, Hats Off and Final Stretch.”

It is anticipated that The Crown Grill will be open by May 1. The MacLeans said they were grateful to their landlord, Jim Hogan, who held the space from the time Russo’s closed in November until they wrapped up negotiations to purchase the majority shares of Circus Café and sell their shares in Sperry’s. That transaction was finalized last Wednesday. Key staff additions to Circus Café and The Crown Grill are: Ronnie Bever, general manager; Melissa Fantasia, director of media relations and graphic design; and Bart Stephens, operations manager. The Crown Grill will share the same hours as Circus Café, and will be open for lunch, dinner and late-night bar seven days a week. For more information about Circus Café, located at 392 Broadway, and The Crown Grill, located at 390 Broadway, please visit www.circuscafe.com or call 583-1106.



Local plastic surgeon helps patients and charities


Dr. Jeffrey Ridha’s services range from rhinoplasty—nose jobs—to hand surgery for rheumatoid arthritis, a disease that can cause severe inflammation in the joints and deform fingers. He performs reconstructive and cosmetic surgery at 83 Railroad Place, where he has had a practice for the past year. 

Some of his commonest procedures are breast and abdominal surgery, such as breast augmentation and tummy tucks, he said. Less invasive choices such as Botox injections and fillers are also gaining in popularity.

Dr. Ridha’s practice also includes an assortment of medical aesthetic services performed by his lead aesthetician, Jennifer Camper. These include facials, chemical peels and laser treatments.

“A good plastic surgeon will work with patients, meeting with them several times before any procedures are performed,” Dr. Ridha said. “I want to be sure the patients are doing this for themselves, not for anyone else. Their safety and well-being come first.”

Patients want to look as good as they feel, he said. They want to look youthful and refreshed, not necessarily young. He encourages natural aging, embracing one’s age while showing minimal signs of harsh aging. Appearing healthy and feeling contented helps patients’ outlook on life.

“Considering the emotional maturity of patients is important,” Dr. Ridha said. “We very seldom will do cosmetic surgery on anyone under age 18, unless the circumstances are unique.”

Accidents often cause children to need reconstructive surgery, however. Jumping on the bed and running into the corner of coffee tables are two danger zones, and so are older siblings and dog bites. 

American children have ready access to health care, but abroad, in the poorer countries, finding a plastic surgeon is more difficult for kids in need. Dr. Ridha has visited countries such as Ecuador on mission trips to work with children who have cleft lips and palates. He also did burn reconstructions.

“It was the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had in medicine,” he said. “I want to do more of these trips. As I’m of Iraqui descent, I would like to go to the Middle East to help children injured in the war there. Burns are a big issue.”

During his career, Dr. Ridha has worked to increase knowledge and appreciation of the plastic and reconstructive surgery field, an area of medicine slightly tarnished by urban legends and reality TV. Through his practice, his charitable work and his medical writing, and by example, he strives to give his field the respect it deserves.

“Integrity is so important,” he said. “I hold myself to the highest safety and ethic standards. Each surgery I perform is the most important thing I do.”



Cake shop has opened in Clifton Park Center Mall

In February, Coccadotts Cake Shop moved from its temporary kiosk to its new location at 22 Clifton Park Center. This store is Coccadotts’ second Capital Region location. The cake and pastry business opened its first store in Colonie in 2007. It also opened a location in Myrtle Beach, S.C., in March 2012.

Coccadotts, owned by Rachel Cocca-Dott, achieved local celebrity when the owner appeared on an episode of the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” in August 2011. 

Each cake shop offers the same wares: gourmet cakes, cupcakes and tiered cakes, in all possible flavors of cake and colors of icing. The cupcake collection includes Maple Bacon, Pumpkin Cheesecake and Grape Soda. If you’re truly adventurous, try Chicken Wing.

“We’re doing well in the new location,” Cocca-Dott said. “We’re meeting a lot of people.”


Next Summer to open this summer at 422 Broadway


After losing their Algonquin Building space in January, Matthew Slaughter and his mother, Kathy, co-owners of the Next Summer home-design store, searched for a new location to lease. 

“We were so nervous,” he said. “We felt like such a part of Saratoga Springs, and we were afraid we wouldn’t be able to find a place. Then our realtor told us there was one space left in the new Bonacio building, the Washington at 422 Broadway. We signed the lease March 1 and are so thrilled.”

The Washington, being constructed between Cantina and Lillian’s restaurants, will house Northshire Bookstore and Kilwins chocolate on its first floor. Next Summer will be on the side behind Kilwins on the first floor, Matthew Slaughter said. A lit, landscaped and heated walkway with benches will lead from the confectionary to the housewares and lifestyle store. 

“We plan to hold different events in that area,” he said. 

Being in the center of town and being in a Bonacio building is perfect for the Next Summer co-owners, who have also had a Bolton Landing store since 2008. Matthew Slaughter describes his wares as eclectic, ranging from a custom-made wooden puzzle of a Saratoga Race Track postcard to a sterling silver necklace in the shape of Lake George. Next Summer also offers all manner of contemporary dishes, vases, gifts, scarves and jewelry: “supplies for a good life,” as the store’s slogan says.

The shop has a great following of locals, Matthew Slaughter said, and he was looking forward to gaining the summer tourists as customers.

“Also, we have a large staff we couldn’t do without,” he said.

The Washington is due to be completed in mid-July; then its tenants will open.


Ban plastic bags


Bring Your Own Bag (BYOBag) Saratoga is a group of citizens working to reduce unnecessary plastic waste. They encourage shoppers to bring reusable bags as an alternative to disposable plastic bags. 

BYOBag has a Facebook group and page, with shared information on conservation. Alex Chaucer, a GIS instructional technologist at Skidmore College, has also written a signon.org petition against plastic bag use, addressed to Saratoga Springs Mayor Scott Johnson.

“On average, plastic bags are used for 12 minutes, yet they will stick around for thousands of years as trash, polluting our waterways and harming animals,” Chaucer wrote in the petition. “You have a choice. Let's join together to stop this disposable consumer culture that is destroying our planet. It's time to bring your own bag, Saratoga.”

Currently, there are 443 signatures. 

“The outpouring of support from the community is great,” he said. “We have support from some local politicians as well.”



Super-Bounced out of the Wilton Mall; looking for a home

After the Wilton Mall did not renew Super Bounce’s lease, the play area closed down Feb. 24 and has not yet reopened in a new location. The company is keeping its customers posted, though.

On its Facebook site, Super Bounce wrote, “Attention loyal Super Bounce customers, I regret to inform you that we were forced to close down Sunday, Feb. 24 at 6 p.m. We are, however, feverishly looking for a new location in the Saratoga Springs area and will post details about the new location when one is found. Thank you for your loyalty over the past three wonderful years.”

All Super Bounce passes can be used at the firm’s two other locations in Rotterdam and Pittsfield. The company also wrote, “All you have to do is call us at 265-3911, and we'll arrange for the refund of the unused punches on your card.

Super Bounce Wilton Mall - Saratoga Springs, NY

Impressions of Saratoga closed for spring cleaning

Impressions of Saratoga - Saratoga Springs, NY 

Impressions of Saratoga will be closed for renovations through March 14. Staff will be cleaning, rearranging, painting, doing some computer upgrades and making a complete inventory of the store, just in time to kick off the Saratoga 150 celebration in style. Employees will be in the shop working if needed, and as ever, Impressions is open 24/7 online.

The store will reopen March 15, in time for its SPIN-2-WIN game of luck. Stop in and check out the shop’s new face, and possibly win one of its great St. Paddy’s Day discounts or prizes.



Parting Glass rumors refuted on both sides

Coldwell Banker Commercial Prime Properties - Cohoes, NY
As the Pavilion Grand mixed-use hotel goes up at 30 Lake Ave., rumors have swirled about the Parting Glass right next door at 40-42 Lake Ave. Will the Parting Glass be torn down to make more space for the hotel? Will the Irish pub be sold to Coldwell Banker Commercial Prime Properties of Cohoes, the owners of the Pavilion Grand? Will the two buildings be connected by a covered walkway? 

Kenneth M. Raymond Jr., a broker/owner of Coldwell Banker Commercial Prime Properties, said none of these reports are true.

“We have no plans to connect to the restaurant at this point,” he said. “People have been reaching out to us to take over the Parting Glass, but right now, we are focusing on getting our building out of the ground.”

Clay Howell, marketing manager at the pub, spoke more firmly.

“These rumors are absolutely untrue,” he said. “The Parting Glass has been part of Saratoga Springs for 32 years, and we hope to be around for many more. The restaurant is not for sale—we are not being bought out or sold. We aren’t connecting to the hotel, either.”



Four Saratoga Springs restaurants plan to bring back Chefs 4x4

The Chefs 4x4 dinners began many years back in Spa City, spread to parts south such as Albany and are now coming back, courtesy of the intrepid chefs of Capriccio Saratoga, Javier’s, One Caroline Street Bistro and The Wine Bar.

Javier Rodriguez, owner of the nuevo Latino restaurant Javier’s at 17 Maple Ave., explained how the collaboration works.

“We will have all four chefs working at one restaurant once a month,” he said. “We will have a prix fixe menu, and each chef will prepare one of the dishes on it.”

A prix fixe menu is a collection of predetermined items presented as a multi-course meal at a set price. For instance, one evening a restaurant may offer a prix fixe menu of escargot for the first course, beef bourguignon for the second course, a cheese platter for the third course and crème brûlée for the dessert course.

The four chefs are currently meeting to decide on dates, courses and desserts. More information will be coming soon, Rodriguez said.


Chris Millis's movie "Small Apartments" is both peculiar and poignant

Small Apartments (2012) Poster

Here's an independent film with everything you never expected in a 90-minute story: a hero who spends the entire movie sans pants; his stoner neighbor who wears eyeliner and invents a project every day; his dream girl next door who has pink hair and wants to be a Vegas dancer; and his jerk of a landlord, who's dead.

The seeming homicide--or suicide--or accidental death of the evil landlord brings the attention of several cops (bumbling and otherwise) and a fire inspector with a clearer view of the situation than any of the players.

The players in Small Apartments are a surprising cast of Hollywood stars and fine actors moving up in the movie world. Lead Matt Lucas, who is British, though you would never know that from his perfect American accent, is best-known for "Little Britian,"a character-comedy sketch show he co-created. He's also played Tweedledum and Tweedledee in Johnny Depp's eccentric Alice in Wonderland, and Cousin Tom in Shaun of the Dead.

The stoner neighbor is played by Johnny Knoxville, and Billy Crystal, who had never before done an independent film, is the fire inspector. More characters are portrayed by James Caan, James Marsden, Amanda Plummer and Juno Temple, among others.

Lucas's pet is played by a spry little dog named Nugget. He has a great monologue.

Every character faces challenges throughout the story: surviving loss; reaching goals; changing in deep, painful ways. Quirky though they are, the movie's people tug at your heart. They may be so strange as to be startling, but you end by caring about them and cheering them on.

Native Saratogian Chris Millis wrote the novel on which Small Apartments is based at the 23rd annual International Three-Day Novel-Writing Contest, which he won in 2000. After the book rights were optioned, several years passed before casting and production began. Meanwhile, Millis got his master's in creative writing and wrote the book's screenplay himself.

He was on set every day during the 20-day shoot in Los Angeles, thrilled when Crystal told him, "You write good, kid. You’re funny."

See for yourself. Bring popcorn and Moxie cola.