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Thursday, 19 March 2020 11:45

Turning Water into Beer

SARATOGA SPRINGS — In honor of World Water Day, Artisanal Brew Works will release a limited-edition beer on March 22.

World Water Day highlights the importance of freshwater, showing the connection between water and climate change. The goal is to bring awareness of how to use water more efficiently and adapting to those habits.

Artisanal Brew Works partnered with Saratoga PLAN, Preserving Land and Nature, to create a one of a kind beer that’s only available for a limited time. Owner of Artisanal Kurt Borchardt said he’s excited about the fundraiser. 

“We like to do that kind of stuff,” Borchardt said. 

The beer, named the World Water Day IPA will be offered until the single batch runs out. He said a portion of proceeds would go to support Saratoga PLAN. 

“Our intention with this collaboration is to bring awareness to the community by connecting the dots between water conservation and all of the systems that rely on it, not just nature,” said Alex Fylypovych, PLAN’s Community Engagement Manager in a press release.

As a brewery that focuses on achieving unique flavors in beer, Borchardt stepped up to create the IPA. He added that in early summer, another beer would be released to donate to the Saratoga Auto Museum. 

The brewery opened in July 2016 as a New York State Farm Brewery, meaning 90 percent of raw materials came from NYS farmers. However Borchardt said grain was becoming expensive, they were limited on hop choices and they didn’t want to pass cost to the customers. 

“They love the idea of local but then they look at the price and ask why it’s so expensive,” Borchardt said. “It was really hard to compete like that and we wanted to make certain styles of beer, so directionally we changed our focus from being exclusively a farm brewery to a dual license.”

The brewery is still certified as a NYS Farm Brewery, so each year the brewery has to use a certain amount of farm materials. In addition, the brewery also has a microbrew license, which is what more breweries have. 

“Once we did that we started ramping up our creativity because we weren’t constrained by ingredients anymore,” Borchardt said. “That [license] allows me to use ingredients form all over the world.” 

The brewery now aims to target unique flavors in the beers they create, like a chocolate caramel truffle stout, and figure out what ingredients they can use to achieve that. He said they perpetually try different hops, water chemistry and different grains to achieve a specific flavor. 

“I like the fact that were not static and were flexible in a lot of different ways. Clearly the different beer styles we make are reflective of that,” Borchardt said. 

He added that over the winter, he focused on creating sour beers. He said most sours give an off flavor that he didn’t enjoy, so he focused on eliminating that over the winter until he figured it out.

Published in Business
Thursday, 19 March 2020 11:36

Designing With Memories

SARATOGA SPRINGS ­— What began a career in fashion turned into something above and beyond what Virginia Fretto, owner of Razimus Jewelry, ever thought she would do. 

Fretto designs and creates custom pieces of jewelry made from keepsake fabrics. Memorable garments such as wedding gowns, baby quilts and a grandfather’s tie can now be worn and remembered forever.

“So talk about fulfilling, I get to be creative and help people,” Fretto said. “The best part is this feeling and sense that I’m doing something bigger than just design.”

However, Fretto never imagined herself designing with such keepsake items and said it was something that happened naturally. 

“It was just something that happened organically. I started having clients ask me if I could make them something out of an important garment and the more I said yes to it, the more fulfilling that felt,” Fretto said.

Fretto started Razimus Jewelry after she and her husband moved to New York for a job opportunity. In Boston, Fretto said she handled the corporate social responsibility at Hearts on Fire, a diamond dealership. After experiencing the corporate side of business, Fretto searched for a creative outlet and thus her business was born.

Fretto began her store with design collections of eco-friendly fabric jewelry, which she sold through a number of boutiques in the capital region. She said her store combines two passions: fashion and jewelry design. 

Starting three years ago, Fretto noticed requests for custom keepsake jewelry more often. After placing a small listing on her website about such items, Fretto started to shift the business focus in Feb. 2019.

“This is a big transition for my business,” Fretto said. “The beginning of last year it started to become more of a request and something I started to realize was a service and a gift that I can provide to my clients.”

The store now holds the focus of custom designing. Fretto said they work with clients to transform fabric pieces such as a great grandmother’s apron and design it into jewelry that can either be a special gift for someone, or can even serve as memorial gifts.

“It’s really such a beautiful way to honor a loved one or preserve a memory, and there aren’t many options out there to preserve loved ones clothing after loss or to transform your wedding dress after the big day is over. I have found a really unique niche, and it is touching so many lives. I am just so thrilled that I can use my creative skills to touch so many families & people through fabric jewelry design,” Fretto said. 

Fretto uses a variety of different materials to create these custom pieces. They use everything from sterling silver to precious stones and a majority of their pieces are made with solid copper, brass, stainless steel or pewter. Fretto wanted to offer enough materials in case a client had an allergy to one of the metals. 

Once a request in sent in via mail or online, Fretto and her team get to work. She has two women who work at home as contract employees. They do the sewing and beading of the designs as they come in. 

“We really like that [work] dynamic. It’s conducive to moms who stay at home or people that have multiple jobs or different issues of flexibility in their schedules,” Fretto said. “It’s something that we can continue to grow and add more artisans in the area and it’s really lovely because I get to kind of work and feed off of all these other very creative women.”

Working with memorable garments creates a sense of honor in Fretto and said every story she hears holds a place in her heart. She even had the privilege of watching people open the box with their new bracelet or necklace and the tears that are shed don’t come from sadness. 

“There’s a certain comfort and happiness that I know I’m providing and it’s a beautiful thing. I feel like I’m actually offering a service that was not planned but has become a really beautiful part of this journey,” Fretto said. 

Operating largely through her website, Fretto said she also occupies a small portion of the Palette Cafe on Broadway. Requests for the custom pieces can be made online, in store, or through the mail. 

“I’m able to use the talents that I’ve had and kind of keep developing them and keep innovating,” Fretto said. “And not just in a way that’s serving me as a creative outlet, but that I know is actually providing something so meaningful as the end product to the client.”


Paying it forward is a great way to help businesses around the community after being shut down during this outbreak. In response to this outbreak, and as a small business owner herself, Fretto created an idea to help pay it forward.

Fretto dedicated a portion to her website to help other small businesses. A portion of sales from any purchase on their website will be used to make another purchase from a small business in the local community. She wants to encourage other small businesses, in any way they are able, to use a portion of that sale to continue the cycle and make a purchase from another small business. 

For example, once a bracelet is sold, Fretto will use those funds to purchase a delivery meal, local farm produce, toiletry, clothing, cleaning or other handmade products produced by a small business owners. She will then donate said product to Wellspring, a non-profit organization whose mission is to help survivors of relationship abuse and sexual assault.

The idea is to help generate some needed revenue and support in the community. While upholding social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19, anything ordered will be mailed directly. Bracelets can range in price from $40 to $90. 

Published in News
Thursday, 12 March 2020 11:10

iRun LOCAL Expands Saratoga Running Tours

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Starting this week, iRun LOCAL owner Jamie Mastroianni plans to expand their historic three mile running tour.

The Saratoga Running Tour was created to offer a unique and healthy way to visit historic destinations around the city. The idea started six years ago when Mastroianni opened shop. After consistently going back to that idea, she finally created the running tour group.

“I just kept thinking...this town is so cool wouldn’t it be neat to have a tour where people could go and see a couple different sites in a reasonable amount of time and have someone locally that can tell them where to go,” Mastroianni said.

Participants will be led on a three and a half mile sightseeing tour that totals one hour. The cost is $30 per person, but Mastroianni said they do offer group discounts. At first, she picked dates when the tour would be offered, but Mastroianni said people started coming in to request them. Since then she aims to create the tours as the demands happen.

“Most of the time the tours happened because someone walked in and said ‘we’re here on vacation or here for a convention; could you take us on a tour,” Mastroianni said.

The tour would start on Broadway at the store and run to places such as the old arts district on Beekman Street, the racetrack and East Avenue.

“We talk about the railroads and how the railroads got started,” Mastroianni said. “The visitor center used to be a drinking center for all the water reservoirs and all the different springs. There used to be a tasting room in there.”

Because the tour is only an hour-long, hitting all of the historic destinations proves difficult, but Mastroianni said the tours could be customized. The tour could be shortened or lengthened, or a walk and not a run. However, Mastroianni said it’s the best way to see Saratoga in a limited amount of time.

This past Tuesday, Mastroianni met with the Saratoga Springs Downtown Business Association to present her running tour as a service that iRun LOCAL offers.

“So we can grow the tour, this is just the start of it,” Mastroianni said. In the future Mastroianni hopes to target bachelor and bachelorette parties as well as create more tours, like a brew tour, if the demand is there.

Mastroianni aims to bring dedication to assisting people of all different athletic abilities and help them meet their fitness goals while connecting with their local community. To do that, she plans to offer different events throughout this spring and summer. For one event, Mastroianni said they have a runner who leads their sunrise five miler that happens 5:30 a.m. on Thursdays during the warmer months.

The Ladies Run Squad, which happens on Tuesdays and Thursdays, is an eight-week training program to help develop running skills as well as learn about running in another event iRun LOCAL offers.

“We offer different classes throughout the year called the ‘I Run Healthy’ series. Every month we bring in a guest speaker,” Mastroianni said.

In February, an individual who competed in an Ironman came to the store and shared basic triathlon training and how to get started with the Ironman’s. In March, they will host a class on how to run trails and in April, they have a nutritionist coming in.

“We’re packing our events calendar pretty heavy this year. We are trying to make it a consistent event calendar so people know when we are having stuff and we can get the word out,” Mastroianni said. “Everything is open to anyone that wants to meet and connect with other people or be inspired by them.”

On March 19, they are hosting a happy hour fun run. It’s a free event where Mastroianni brings in one of their footwear manufacturers. They bring in demo shoes so participants can run in a pair of shoes that aren’t their own to try them out.

Published in News
Thursday, 12 March 2020 10:54

Peddling for a Purpose

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Two police officers from the Saratoga Police Department will bike from Philadelphia to Washington D.C. to honor officers lost in the line of duty.

Officer Angela McGovern and Officer Caitlin Freshwater will bike an average of 280 miles for the Police Unity Tour. The tour started in 1997 to bring public awareness of law enforcement officers fallen during the line of duty and to honor their sacrifices.

“The purpose of the ride is to raise awareness for officers who have died in the line of duty and to also raise funding for the National Law Enforcement (NLE) memorial and the [NLE] museum,” McGovern said

This will be the third year McGovern will participate in the tour. She will bike to honor NYC detective Brian Simonsen, who was shot and killed last year. Freshwater is biking for her first year in memory of Sgt. James Carter, who was killed in 1978 by a drunken driver in Massachusetts.

“It’s a good experience,” McGovern said. “It’s a good challenge for me but it’s a good refresher every year of why I take this job because it can get overwhelming or you can be like ‘why am I doing this’ but it’s just a good reset button.”

McGovern discovered the tour when she started attending police week five years ago. Duringpoliceweek, she met with officers who had participated in the tour and knew she wanted to try it herself. She signed up for the tour three years ago when she worked for the City of Troy Police Department.

“It’s nice to have a thing for just us,” McGovern said.

Throughout the tour, bikers will stop along the way for breaks and for small ceremonies. McGovern said they have a motorcade escort and a supporter crew who goes ahead of the riders. The supporter crew helps by checking in the rider’s bags to the hotel for the night and by offering snacks and meals during breaks.

“We do a lot of ceremonies too. We ride by some places where officers have died or by some police stations or parks with memorials in them so we’ll stop at those along the way and do little ceremonies,” McGovern said.

In order to be a rider, McGovern said they have to be active or retired law enforcement or immediate family of a fallen officer in the line of duty.

“A lot of times we’re riding with survivors which is pretty cool,” McGovern said.

The tour will begin on May 9 and go until the 12, which McGovern said are always the dates no matter what day they fall on. She said May 13 is the kickoff for police week so all bikers have to be in Washington D.C. to start police week off with a candlelight vigil.

The vigil, which McGovern said is one of her favorite parts of police week, is a ceremony that gathers the family of fallen officers. Everyone is escorted to the National Mall and when night falls, the whole crowd lights candles.

“One person lights it and then you pass it and you just see the whole mall light up. It’s really moving and awesome to see... that’s my favorite,” McGovern said.

Police week is filled with events such as a 5k run, a parade with vintage police cars and an area called tent city where vendors set up with a bar and can enjoy live music. According to the Unity Police Tour website, the tour started with 18 riders and has since grown into nine chapters consisting of roughly 2500 members nationwide.

McGovern and Freshwater had to raise a minimum of $2000 or they get booted from the tour because it’s so popular. McGovern said registration opens early fall and within the first day there is a waitlist.

McGovern said donations could be made by check or online until April 1. They are also going to host a fundraiser on March 28 from 12-3 p.m. at Kings Tavern on Union Ave, Saratoga Springs.

“That’s the best way because the site doesn’t tell us who donates and it’s hard, I want to be able to thank everyone so the best way is to come to the fundraiser,” McGovern said.

Published in News
Thursday, 05 March 2020 13:49

Electronic Bike Store Cycles into New Location

BALLSTON SPA — Mission Electric, a store that specialized in selling electronic bikes, also known as eBikes, announced its opening of a second location.

EBikes are bicycles that are built with an electric motor. Each bike can host a small motor that assists with the rider's pedal power, and up to a larger motor with moped-style functionality.

“Any municipality that has an infrastructure that suffers from too many vehicles can benefit from eBikes. People being able to run errands, commute to work and enjoy fresh air everyday without getting into a car and traffic makes for a better community overall,” said Jim Bethell, manager of Mission Electric.

Mission Electric started in Providence, RI by Saratoga Springs native Tyler Justin in 2018. After becoming established in those two years, Justin announced a second opening for the store in Ballston Spa.

“We here at Mission Electric have always been fans of alternative, sustainable transportation. We want to rethink the way we move around our cities,” Justin said in a release. “We started Mission Electric to bring eBikes and e-transportation to the masses. It’s good for the planet, good for people, and good for our communities. Our mission is to create a greener and healthier world through eBikes.”

The store, located in The Factory at 20 Prospect St, Building 2 Suite 215, Ballston Spa is currently open with limited winter hours. Bethell said for the time being, the store will stay open Wednesday through Saturday and other times by appointment.

“You can haul many things with an eBike Cargo Bike. Groceries, farmers' markets, recycling, trips to the hardware store just to name a few,” said Bethell.

Bethell is a certified Bicycle Technician and is also Bosch eBike certified. The store currently has bikes on display that are available for test rides. Mission Electric features three brands including: Riese & Muller from Germany, Gazelle from the Netherlands and Tern from Southern California. Also available will be Benno and Bulls, which are currently sold in their Rhode Island store.

Each bike will feature Bosch mid-drive motors with a variety of transmission options and accessories to choose from. For more information visit www.missionelectricbike.com.

Published in Business
Thursday, 05 March 2020 13:24

Sewer Project Backed-Up

BALLSTON — After beginning the Ballston Lake Sewer Project in 2015, Town of Ballston officials hope to start the $17 million construction of the system this spring.

However, attaining a $5 million grant has halted the project until further notice. 

The town received notice about being awarded a $5 million Water Quality Improvement Project (WQIP) grant for the Ballston Lake Sewer project the week of Dec. 16, 2019. On Jan. 3, 2020 the board received a letter from the Director of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) stating the Office of the State Comptroller (OFC) would review the DEC’s paperwork. Once approved through OFC, the DEC would provide additional information to the Town of Ballston to create the contract. 

“We knew in December that we got the grant. The biggest concern we have is the construction season. Our contractors who have bid have all said they will hold the price until May,” Wes DeVoe, sewer committee member.

After the $5 million grant has been awarded, the board plans to have a $1.8 million contingency. According to the last meeting minutes, Ballston Town Supervisor, Eric Connolly said given the stage of the project that he is comfortable with that contingency.

Project funding was awarded as follows: $2.55 million grant Water Infrastructure Improvement Act (WIIA), $5 million grant WQIP, $7.65 million loan, $2.55 million loan from NYS Environmental Facilities Corporation Additional Funding. Total combined funding to total $17,754,661.

The project construction was approved in October 2015. A resolution was passed in October 2018 that capped what the town could pay at $12.8 million. Originally estimated at $12.5 million, bids for the project first came in at a cost millions higher than anticipated. 

“We chopped it into five pieces and we sent out bids to five companies. Some parts are small and others not so we broke it down that way. So we did get more bids,” DeVoe said. 

DeVoe said the initial bid on the project was around $10 million. The total bids the town has now totals $17 million but the additional $7 million added to the project is from NYS.

“So the dollar that the people voted on does not change or go up. Homeowners around the lake, also known as the sewage district, can expect about $900 in increased taxes,” DeVoe said.

During the February meeting, Drew Hamelink, chairman of the Sewer Committee, said they have received written price locks with the three largest contractors, locking up roughly 93 percent of the project costs through May 1. The remaining contractor gave a lock until Feb 1, which has since been extended by six-weeks.

In 2015 the sewer committee and town board selected Adirondack Mountain Engineering PC to operate as the project-engineering contractor. President of the company, Ed Hernandez did not attend the meeting.

Ballston Lake was added to NYS Priority Water Bodies List in 2012 as an impaired water body. The list defines a water body that cannot support uses. 

As part of the solution to mitigate the impacts to the lake, town officials proposed a goal to construct a sewer collection system for any equivalent dwelling units (EDU) adjacent to the lake including Main Street and Buell Heights. 

EDU are defined as one single-family residential household. There are 700 parcels in total, with a number of the properties adjacent to the lake on the east side lying within the town of Clifton Park. 560 EDU in Ballston and 91 EDU in Clifton Park. 

The Town of Ballston adopted a Sewer Use Law through which all properties located within a set distance of the completed sewer main will be required to connect to the system. DeVoe said any EDU in Clifton Park would not be required to hook into the system but the two towns have been working together. In fact, there are two representatives from the Town of Clifton Park on the Sewer Committee board as well as residents in the sewage district and Ballston Town members.

Each EDU would be responsible for installing a grinder system that could cost the homeowner up to $5,000 for installation. 

“The current cost of the Saratoga County standard is $5,300 list price,” Hamelink said.

However, a sliding scale discount can be put in place that allows a 30 percent discount in the first year that slides back each year by five percent.

The proposed 2015 sewer district included parcels around the lake on the east side from East Side Drive and Schauber Road to Lake Road extending to Eastline Road. On the west side of the lake, it included Westside Drive from Mill Road and Main Street, Glenridge Road, Whites Beach Road, Powers Lane and Outlet Road to a connection point on Lake Road. Also included is Buell Heights neighborhood.

Properties along the lake would utilize a low-pressure force main and would require each service connection to be equipped with the grinder pump station. 

Sewers in the Buell Heights residential subdivision and along Main Street are anticipated to be conventional gravity-type. Wastewater collected in these areas would flow by gravity to a new pump station located on or near Main Street in proximity to the stream. 

Published in News

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Each morning Staci Snider opens the doors to SNIDER Fashion and is greeted by a store filled with her own designs. 

Snider said her designs are about creating clothing pieces that go above and beyond the typical clothing found in a fashion boutique. Opening her doors on 18 Congress St. to the public in April 2019, Snider said she has since created relationships with not only people in her community but across the states. 

“It hasn’t been a year but I have really good local customers so its been really nice. I haven’t done any marketing or PR but the company is starting to grow by word of mouth. Then the people that come in stop by quite a bit, so I see them weekly,” Snider said.

Snider said that having a store filled with her own design makes it easier to connect with her clients. Since she knows the clothes so well, styling and fitting the clothing for each customer is easier. She operates with a “hands-on” approach that allows her to tailor designs to fit each customer individually. The sizes range from women’s 0-16 on average, but Snider said her clothing could be made outside of those restrictions.

“It’s good and easy knowing that everything in the store is mine. It’s easier for styling and for helping people because I know the clothes so well. It allows me to readjust the garment to their body type,” Snider said. “It’s very different. I do in-house alterations, hemming and even if we have to add more fabric into a garment I will.” 

Currently Snider is working on pushing out her Spring 2021 line of clothing and said everyone is anticipating her new collection. Due to the current health issues overseas, her production has been slowed down. Snider said the Coronavirus tied up toggles that she had included in her designs and now has to wait for them to be disinfected, shipped and then disinfected again once arriving to the states. 

“Thank goodness I’m a designer that produces in the United States, because most designers produce overseas so they might not be able to ship their spring collection,” Snider said. 

Along with pushing out her spring designs in mid to late March, Snider is looking to welcome students starting early summer 2020. She said a lot of her clients stop by the store with kids who approach Snider and ask about the fashion industry. She said young girls in particular approach her on sewing and design tips, which she hopes to teach them this summer.

“Now I can start getting a little bit more involved with community stuff, so my first is going to be a kids class,” Snider said. “It’s going to be fun.”

Published in News
Thursday, 27 February 2020 12:14

Supporting Local at Old Saratoga Mercantile

Schuylerville ­— Starting this week, Old Saratoga Mercantile, located at 1120 NY-29, Schuylerville, will offer growler refills and begin baking their own fresh bread, adding to the store’s organic products.

Christina Myers, owner of Old Saratoga Mercantile (OSM) will offer to fill growlers (62 ounces), growlettes (32 ounces) and grenades (16 ounces).  They also currently offer a selection of 183 craft beers breweries drop off in store.

“There is no Budweiser in here; it’s all hard to find, rare, really nice craft beers,” Myers said. 

They will also start baking fresh bread in store once a week to add to the bakery items.

Myers created OSM after she found herself growing tired of constantly reading food labels to find fresh, farm-to-table products to provide for her family. While searching, she found herself reflecting on the days before the commercialization of agriculture when each community had a general store and people didn’t need to read food labels.    

“People weren’t adding food coloring or high fructose corn syrup then,” Myers said.  “Those were the products that I was getting but I was getting them all over the place so thought I should just make a store myself.”

Since opening in August 2017, OSM has become a family-oriented one-stop shop for people in tune with where their food comes from. 

“My customers, I think, have a little bit of a different thing going on. They’re here because they are incredibly in tune with their food sourcing and that’s why they come to us,” Myers said.

The converted dairy barn carries a variety of fresh produce, dairy products, meat, eggs and other goods from over 120 local venders, farmers and artists. Customers can find common names in store such as Saratoga crackers as well as non-brand items like handmade knit hats that Myers buys from a single mom once a week. 

“This is how we put it together,” Myers said. “It’s difficult to coordinate and although time management is the most challenging piece, it’s probably the most rewarding because there are 120 people that are excited to be in here. We’re putting food on their table and they’re getting a good opportunity to offer their things.”

Along with the capital region farmers and vendors, Myers said she sources products from Vermont. If the products are not available locally or the local produce contains ingredients such as food coloring or high fructose corn syrup, Myers won’t bring the products in.

The family currently grows fresh produce in a 3000sq ft. high tunnel. Myers said they are big winter growers although they have farm year round. Currently they grow spinach, kale, arugula, lettuces and Asian greens, all heartier greens that can be grown in a tunnel up north. She said they don’t heat the tunnels so the family doesn’t grow produce such as tomatoes year round.

For the remainder of the year, OSM grows lots of garlic, zucchini, squash and other organic vegetables. 

“We grow weird things like mini spaghetti squash and heirloom tomatoes…things that you won’t find typically anywhere else,” Myers said. 

She added the family tends to take a step back during the summer because they noticed that their customers are so in tune with where the food comes from, they grow produce in their own gardens for themselves. 

The family is also in the process of building a second high tunnel to keep up with the demand in store.

“This spring we will be putting in a second tunnel. That’s going to give us a little bit more growth. At the moment we cut almost every single day because we sell out in our store every single day,” Myers said. 

Along with cutting produce every day for customers, OSM supplies to a few restaurants on a small scale such as Hamlet and Ghost in downtown Saratoga. With the new tunnel, Myers said they hope to support more restaurants and stock shelves in store to provide for more customers.

Myers said OSM sees a mix of regular and new clients and enjoys doing special things for them. She said one particular customer each week prefers the smallest package of chicken because she’s feeding just herself and doesn’t want to end up with the biggest chicken. So Myers saves the smallest package in the back each week for her. 

“Everyday I’m talking with people that are equally passionate for good food and for supporting local,” Myers said.

For more information about Old Saratoga Mercantile visit oldsaratogamercantile.weebly.com.

Published in Business


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