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The Designers’ Studio Combines Client Vision with Collective Artistry
SARATOGA SPRINGS – In an average lifetime, studies show people will spend anywhere between one to four years in their kitchen. From cooking to cleaning, making drinks and socializing, there’s no doubt the kitchen is an integral – and arguably most used – part of the home.
For those looking to remodel, renovate, or simply add a bit of flair to their kitchen, that’s where the Designers’ Studio comes in. Created by Mary Alyce Evans, a well-known, award-winning kitchen and bathroom designer, the studio, located at 376 Broadway, offers a unique approach to the design process.
“The concept is that it’s a place where any designer can come and work with their client,” said Evans.
Complete with a variety of options in kitchen cabinetry and countertops, the showroom in the Designers’ Studio was built to give clients creative inspiration.
“That’s how displays should work,” said Evans. “About half of the kitchens we’ve worked on have been in the same color as the one in our showroom.”
Evans says gone are the days of boring kitchens with a plain appearance. Today’s clients are interested in both a practical and aesthetically pleasing kitchen.
“I’ve been working in kitchens for 42 years and they have really evolved,” said Evans. “There was no creativity. The idea was if you had 72 inches of space, you just fill it – period. We did lots of builder kitchens that were tiny and L-shaped. Nobody today would do that kitchen. They’ve gotten bigger, fancier, and more efficient. They’re a lot more interesting.”
Whether it’s for functionality, safety, a possible resale, or a change in style, the Designer’s Studio is able to translate ideas into 3-D renderings for clients to create the perfect kitchen. Evans says white continues to be a popular kitchen trend -- primarily for its modern look and clean lines.
“We also work with bathrooms, libraries, laundry rooms,” said Evans. “…anything that requires cabinetry and space planning.”
Evans says one of the biggest misconceptions about hiring a designer is an increase in cost, but with a variety of options from low-end to high-end in both cabinets and counters and the focused attention on their project from a professional, people get more bang for their buck.
“They end up paying less overall because they end up with something that’s better designed, functions better, looks better, and those things are worth something,” said designer Michele Ahl.
If a remodel or renovation simply isn’t in your budget but you’re hoping to give your home a little update, there are some simple, do-it-yourself projects that can help your home stand out.
“You can change faucets, sinks, order new countertops or paint your cabinets,” said Ahl. “Sometimes you can even get away with ordering new doors.”
“You never know when something simple leads to something else,” added Evans.
Visit the Designers’ Studio at www.376design.com to schedule a free consultation.
The Spa City Welcomes a New Addition to Its Shopping District
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Spa City has added another store to its historic downtown shopping district.
The Savory Pantry, a food and gift product store, is nestled among the boutiques and quaint shops at 486 Broadway and is open for business.
The shop features a variety of food-related items, gourmet gifts and pantry items, hand selected by the staff.
“We look for product that is made by small producers,” said Tina Kehoe Cheeks, chief operations officer of The Savory Pantry. “We know their story and we enjoy the products ourselves. Then we’re able to take the products and put it into gifts that people would be proud to give.”
Gift baskets don’t have to stay local, either. With The Savory Pantry’s mail-order system, customers are able to have gift baskets personalized and shipped anywhere in the country.
The Savory Pantry also prides itself on knowing where every item in the store came from and makes sure customers know as well.
“We think it’s very important to tell the stories of the people who produce the foods,” said Keeley Ardman DeSalvo, president and chief executive officer of The Savory Pantry. “It’s what they do. It’s their life work and so many people don’t know that. We’re trying to help those people bring their product to market.”
Customers can find everything from jams, hand-crafted pastas, specialty vinegars, olive oil, snack foods, chocolates, and more.
“It’s important for people to know what they’re eating and what they’re getting and why there’s a difference between artisan foods and those that are mass-produced,” said DeSalvo. “People are more conscious of what they’re eating.”
DeSalvo started The Savory Pantry 16 years ago in her home state of Arkansas and moved to Saratoga with her husband about eight years ago. The Savory Pantry opened its doors in mid-July, 1,400 miles away from its original location.
DeSalvo and Cheeks also have a blog called “Taste. Savor. Share.” where they share recipes, tips on how to use products in multiple ways, and general food knowledge.
“You can’t be afraid to be creative in the kitchen,” said DeSalvo. “We have unique recipes, great photography, easy tips for entertaining, that kind of thing on the blog. We also give shout outs to local restaurants we’ve enjoyed.”
As for their personal favorite items, DeSalvo says she enjoys chutney and wine jellies while Cheeks’ current obsession is with their pesto and strawberry chipotle jam.
Visit The Savory Pantry’s blog at www.SavoryPantryBlog.com
Around 1,200 People Waited For Autographed Copies of Clinton’s “Hard Choices”
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Nearly 1,200 people stood outside Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga Springs Tuesday morning, anxiously waiting for their turn to meet former Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Clinton visited Saratoga Springs to sign copies her newly released book, Hard Choices – ranked No. 9 on the New York Times best seller list. It’s is also her fifth book with publisher Simon and Schuster.
The ticketed book signing, which sold out in 12 hours, drew 1,175 people from across the region; many of whom had no problem waiting in line to meet the former first lady, former U.S. senator, and former secretary of state.
“We just moved here, but I’ve always been a huge Hillary fan from day one,” said Lara McBride. “I’m Canadian, my husband is the American. It’s the perfect time – I feel like Hillary is coming to welcome me!”
The crowd began lining up at around 8 a.m. Tuesday, with the line extending past the bookstore, down the block and around the corner. Friends Michele Martin and Cara Carley said meeting a potential presidential contender was worth the wait.
“I think we’re seeing the next President of the United States,” said Martin. “We’re going to be seeing the first woman President of the United States, I really do believe that will be the case.”
“I agree,” added Carley. “How many times do you get to say that you’ve talked with a President? Never – it’s very rare.”
Rachel Person, events and community outreach coordinator for Northshire Bookstore, says the book signing event ran smoothly and credits Northshire’s relationships with a variety of publishers in securing authors such as Hillary Rodham Clinton, Anne Rice, and Mitch Albom.
“The Northshire name really means something to the publicists that I’m dealing with,” said Person. “They know that we have a really strong track record of putting on big events, doing them well, bringing great crowds for authors and selling lots of books for our events.”
Tuesday’s event required the cooperation of various agencies including the Secret Service, Saratoga Springs Police Department, Saratoga Springs Fire Department’s hazardous materials team, and Hillary Clinton’s events team. The bookstore will reportedly pick up the tab on any overtime costs, according to Mayor Joanne Yepsen.
“People are so excited for these kinds of events and it’s a thrill to see,” said Person. “To me, that’s the really fulfilling part of doing this. Getting to meet someone whose words have really moved you – it’s a direct connection and it means a lot to people.”
Visit www.Northshire.com for future events.
Certified Reading Therapy Dogs Build Children’s Confidence
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Learning to read can be tough for some children, but at the Saratoga Springs Public Library, kids have a special supporter – complete with big brown eyes, floppy ears, and a wagging tail.
For the last few years, a schnauzer-poodle mix named Buck has been encouraging kids to read by being their loyal, supportive companion as they sit beside him and venture through a book.
“Kids sign up and they can come with or without their parents and read to the dog,” said Laura Clark, children’s librarian. “Of course, the dog’s handler stays with them. It’s really cool because the kids seem to be more relaxed reading to a dog, which amazes me.”
Buck works with Quinn, a Newfoundland, and both dogs become patient, non-judgmental companions for children who are learning to read or need more confidence to read out loud. Once a week, children can sign up for a 10-minute appointment to read a book of their choice to either Buck or Quinn.
“There was one little boy who wasn’t reading and his goal was to read a whole book to Quinn,” said Clark. “He finally did and his parents were so happy. These dogs really do help.”
Brothers Nicholas, 4, and Lucas, 6, each read one book to Buck. For their parents, Jennifer and Mike, Buck has been an integral part in encouraging their sons to read.
“They love it,” said Jen. “Nick loves to read, but this has gotten him more interested. He won’t read to us, but he’ll read to the dog.”
Buck’s handlers, Ann and Elizabeth Ashworth, say they see that often. Children seem to be more comfortable reading to Buck than to friends and family.
“It’s very rewarding work,” said Ann. “It’s about getting kids involved with books and comfortable with books and build their confidence. When they read to Buck, he doesn’t know – he’s not going to tell them if they missed a word or pronounced it incorrectly. It’s to build their confidence. It’s very non-judgmental.”
Cindy Penfold said her 7-year-old son, Michael, has been reading to Buck and other therapy dogs for a couple months and she’s seen a tremendous amount of growth.
“I think it’s fantastic,” said Penfold. “It’s great to help them be more engaged in their reading. It’s motivating and it helps kids get used to dogs. I think it’s an amazing program. The handlers are fantastic too – great dogs and great people.”
Buck is at the library every Monday at 2 p.m. during the summer; Quinn is on summer vacation. During the school year, he’ll be at the library every Saturday afternoon.
"It's a happy time," said Ann. "It's very relaxing. Age doesn't matter, ability doesn't matter, Buck is here to listen and be petted. He likes the attention. It's a fun time."
College Raising Funds to Finance New Science Center
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs is fundraising for the construction of a $100 million science center at the heart of its campus.
The project, known as the Center for Integrated Sciences, is a mixture of new construction and renovation designed to co-locate all nine departments and programs in the Physical and Life Sciences; including biology, chemistry, environmental science, geosciences, health and exercise sciences, mathematics and computer science, neuroscience, physics and psychology. Currently, these departments are housed in five different buildings across campus which presents challenges for those programs housed in different buildings.
Kimberly Frederick, chair and professor in the department of chemistry at Skidmore, says the CIS plans are a result of nearly a decade of thought and planning.
“The synergies that are going to happen when we can co-locate these facilities and departments and programs, is really going to cause, as President Glotzbach says, ‘spark an explosion of creativity,’” said Frederick.
More than 800 science majors, about 80 research students each summer, and every other student on campus will make use of the center. Frederick says the CIS will encourage interdisciplinary collaboration.
“The really important questions we face in today’s society aren't just a chemistry problem or a biology problem,” said Frederick. “They’re really at the interface. Things like global warming, healthcare, those things are at disciplinary interfaces. So we’re designing interdisciplinary clusters around shared passions, interests and facilities.”
CIS will be the college’s largest project since its move to the new campus in the 1960’s and 70’s. The initial blueprints show the facility will be 200,000-square-feet – representing a 43 percent increase over the total science space around campus now. It will house 23 teaching and 46 research labs, 22 instrumentation rooms, 41 project and preparation spaces, five technology suites, 15 classrooms and meeting rooms, as well as social, display, and other public areas.
The private liberal arts school has collected close to $30 million so far to fund the project and is pursuing a variety of funding sources to raise the money for CIS.
School leaders hope to begin construction in the next year or two, after all funds are raised.
Students Donate Over 200 Books to a School in Uganda
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Books are an essential part of a child’s life; but unfortunately for many children across the world, books are hard to come by. Thanks to Saratoga Independent School’s Reach Out and Read program (ROAR), a school in Uganda now has over 200 books to share with local children.
ROAR, now in its 11th year at SIS, is a program that encourages every child to reach their personal reading goal, while at the same time making it possible for them to enrich reading opportunities for other children.
“We want kids to learn that they benefit from people who give their time to our community and that they can do the same,” said Felice Karlitz, Director of Saratoga Independent School. “The children set their reading goal, but they usually surpass it every year.”
Throughout the year, students and faculty log the number of pages read – every two pages read are matched by one penny; at the end of the year, the money is used to buy a library of books for a non-profit organization that serves children. This year’s goal was to collectively read at least 200,000 pages of children’s books, and students were able to raise enough money to buy around 220 books.
“They love to read, so it’s not an incentive,” said Karlitz. “They’re benefitting by reading and enjoying books and improving their skills and at the same time, they’re helping someone else.”
This year the school chose to partner with The Giving Circle -- a volunteer-based, non-profit organization based in Saratoga Springs. The group works both locally and internationally and has built an orphanage called the Koi Koi House and The Kagoma Gate School in Wairaka, Uganda.
“Because of this school and because of books from Saratoga Independent School and all of the other people who help us, these children in Uganda have a brighter future,” said Mark Bertrand, Founder and Director of The Giving Circle. “We’ve been working over there for a little over a year now and these children are already speaking English. They can be teachers, they can be doctors; they can be whatever they want because of education.”
Ann Fantauzzi is a retired teacher who works with The Giving Circle and hand-delivered the books to children in Uganda. She says the village speaks Swahili as its native language, but the children are rapidly learning English thanks to the donated books.
“The teachers at Kagoma Gate and the children of course, books are something they just don’t see a lot of,” said Fantauzzi. “These are kids who have never seen beyond the sugar cane plantation they live next to. They have no idea what the world is like, so they couldn’t wait to get into the books.”
Gathered by children in Saratoga Springs and into the hands of children roughly 7,000 miles away, organizers say these books are benefitting both schools on opposite sides of the world.
“It’s a learning experience for the SIS students,” said Karlitz. “Every time we designate the recipient, a person from the organization comes and speaks to the kids, so they know what they’re working towards. You can see they have these moments of understanding a perspective that’s so different from their daily lives.”
Some prior recipients of books through the ROAR program include Saratoga Hospital, Project Lift, Center for the Family, Head Start, After the Fire and Double H Ranch.
To learn more about The Giving Circle or for information on volunteering, visit www.TheGivingCircle.org.
McKinley Griffen Design & Advertising Pays It Forward For Anniversary
WILTON – When McKinley Griffen Design & Advertising first opened its doors back in 1989, the world was changing; science and technology were making great strides, and the advertising business itself was evolving. Few things were certain and success wasn’t a guarantee.
Fast forward to 25 years later and Dennis and Connie Towers, the husband and wife creative team behind MGD&A, say the last quarter-century has been a wild ride. Before starting their own business, Dennis and Connie both worked for an advertising agency in Schenectady. Deciding to break away from the corporate world and start their own firm was something they dreamed of; and in 1989, they made it a reality.
“We ended up combining skills,” said Connie. “I have the advertising and design background and Dennis has the sales and marketing aspect. It seemed like a really great match.”
When MGD&A first opened, the Towers worked primarily with startup businesses – creating their logos, branding, advertising and publications with a focus on affordability.
“We understood what it was like,” said Connie. “The last thing a lot of companies had in their budgets was advertising; and not realizing that yes, you’re building your equipment and your staff, but you need to get the word out there.”
As time went on, MGD&A expanded their client portfolio. In the 1990’s, Dennis said the firm acquired a significant amount of sports-related clientele.
“At that time, we did merchandising agreements along with a sports logo,” said Dennis. “We did that with the Albany River Rats, an AHL team. That team went on for about 10 years and we just kept on with character evolutions and toward the end, added more characters. We had fun with that.”
The Towers also worked with the Kentucky Thoroughblades, some arena football and tennis logos, and other AHL teams around that time. While there isn’t an exact recipe for success written down in a manual somewhere, both Dennis and Connie say engaging audiences, resonating with consumers, and expanding markets while building loyal communities helped them excel in the market.
Sure enough, MGD&A was recognized for all of its work. From Addy and Nori Awards in communications, to industry-specific awards in financial, beverage, sports, healthcare, arts and culture, industrial markets and non-profit sectors, many were recognizing the firm and the Towers.
While many things have changed since 1989 for MGD&A, one thing remains the same – the Towers have consistently worked with non-profit organizations.
“We did work for Lake George Opera and Homemade Theatre,” said Connie. “We were doing their posters and such; then came the Glens Falls Hospital Foundation. It was a good mixture of things.”
To celebrate McKinley Griffen Design & Advertising’s 25 years of work, the Towers have created a way to pay it forward to non-profit organizations in the community by launching their “Good Works!” Matching Grants program.
Non-profit or tax-exempt organizations can apply for the program by completing an online form at McKinleyGriffen.com. Dennis and Connie will match agency hours to assist groups with any projects or initiatives they need help with.
"If all of our work could be for the greater good and the good of the community, that would be great," said Dennis. "That's why we're doing this program, to support the greater community."
GE to Launch Fuel Cell Plant in Malta
MALTA – Earlier this week, GE announced plans to create a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) pilot development just south of Saratoga Springs at the Saratoga Technology and Energy Park in Malta.
Deeming the pilot plant, GE Fuel Cells, a “separate, start-up company,” efforts are currently underway to ramp up an offsite facility with 17 fulltime employees under the direction of Johanna Wellington, GE Global Research’s Sustainable Energy Technology Leader. GE officials say they expect to increase staff to 30 employees by year’s end.
Solid oxide fuel cell technology is a game changing energy technology, according to GE, that will deliver more power output at a lower cost with low emissions.
GE’s Hybrid Solid Oxide Fuel Cell system combines a state-of-the-art fuel cell with industry leading gas engine technology to reach greater than 65 percent energy efficiency. The combination of fuel cells with a gas engine ensures consistent full power generation with higher energy efficiency than any current technology on the market. The system can also be operated as a combined heat and power plant with a conversion efficiency exceeding 95 percent.
GE’s Solid Oxide Fuel Cell emissions are lower than any conventional power generation plant and can generate 1-10MW of power; and unlike other systems, the new fuel cell is using stainless steel in place of platinum and rare metals.
“The cost challenges associated with the technology have stumped a lot of people for a long time,” said Wellington, advanced technology leader at GE Global Research and the head of GE’s fuel cell business. “But we made it work, and we made it work economically. It’s a game-changer.”
Wellington says that the fuel cell, which received financial backing from GE’s ecomagination program, can generate electricity at any location with a supply of natural gas. It can get going quickly, does not need new transmission lines and produces lower emissions than conventional power plants.
GE, the largest industrial company in the U.S., credits the advanced manufacturing coating breakthrough and system integration in the labs at GE’s Global Research Center in Niskayuna as the inspiration behind GE Fuel Cells.
How it works is fuel is pumped through a solid oxide fuel cell, generating the bulk of the electricity. The exhaust gases of the fuel cell are sent to the gas engine, maximizing the energy extraction from the fuel. Emissions are low and environmentally friendly, mostly consisting of water and carbon-dioxide.
Manufacturing equipment, fuel cell test stations and gas storage tanks, among other things, are already being brought to GE’s new plant in Malta.
Malta is already home to GlobalFoundries -- the $10 billion semi-conductor computer chip plant nestled in the Luther Forest Technology Campus.
Local Distillery Produces Hand-Made, Fine Quality Spirits
GREENFIELD – A new distillery in Greenfield Center, nestled at the base of the Palmerton Mountain Range, is quickly making a name for itself with its popular spirit – Pick Six Vodka.
Owner and Operator of Saratoga Courage Distilling Company, Serge Shishik, is a pharmacist by trade but is also a former bar owner. He says he wanted to make an affordable, fine quality spirit using local resources and dove right into building Saratoga Courage from the ground up – literally.
Shishik built the distillery on an 11-acre lot using eco-friendly materials and equipment to minimize its environmental footprint. Even the bottles used at the distillery are eco-friendly and only use about 65 percent of the glass of a normal bottle of the same shape and size.
The distillery is quiet, even on bottling days. Instead of relying on motors and electricity, everything from the blending, filtering, bottling and labeling is done by hand.
“Bottling and capping are done manually,” said Shishik. “We rinse every bottle by hand, we fill every bottle, cap every bottle and we sleeve every bottle with a PVC sleeve and then we slide it into the heat shrinker. After that, we put the label on it and then we package it up. From start to finish, we don’t use any electricity.”
The distillery produces a 100 percent corn-grain neutral spirit that is six times distilled and GMO free; and every spirit is made using the water source directly on the land.
“You can’t make good vodka without good water,” said Shishik. “We actually dug our own well. We put a lot of attention and detail into how we dug the well and how we cased the well to get down into really good quality water. We found unbelievable water.”
This fall, Saratoga Courage will launch a new line of moonshine called Devil’s Den, named after the Palmerton Mountains. The moonshine will come in two flavors – Apple Pie and Strawberry Jam.
“I wanted to make moonshines that were a little bit like us – like New York,” said Shishik. “Our Apple Pie is a very New York-ish apple with cinnamon to make it hot and to keep us warm in the winter. For Strawberry Jam, we wanted to do something a little different than just strawberry flavored moonshine, so we did some jam flavors in there as well. My daughter actually came up with the name for it, so we’re excited about that.”
Saratoga Courage is truly a family affair. Shishik says his family has been very involved and supportive of the distillery. In fact, his brother-in-law helped create the name for the distillery and Shishik’s cousin Rich Gabriel, a well-known thoroughbred and horseracing artist in Saratoga, designed both the Pick Six label and the Saratoga Courage logo. Plus, Shishik says everyone else pitches in wherever they can.
“It’s a trip,” said Shishik. “It’s a total trip, but it’s exciting and it’s fun.”
With the tremendous amount of success in the short time Saratoga Courage has been open; Shishik wants to pay it forward.
Every day during this summer's racing season, Saratoga Courage sponsors a promotional pick six wager and all winnings will be donated to The Giving Circle -- a non-profit organization based in Saratoga Springs. While the exotic wager is a hard one to hit, the distillery along with its distributor, DeCrescente Distributing Company, have guaranteed a $200 donation to The Giving Circle regardless.
Firm to Complete Term with Keller Williams, Become Equitas Realty
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A major real estate brokerage in Saratoga Springs will be leaving the franchise world and turn into an independent firm in just a few weeks.
With more than 50 agents and the 12th highest sales volume in the Capital Region, Keller Williams Realty will become Equitas Realty – an independent brokerage firm, in August.
“It took careful thought and consideration, but it seemed like the right decision because becoming an independent firm gives us greater opportunities to grow and expand in the marketplace,” said Janet Besheer, owner of the brokerage. “We can now serve southern Saratoga County and north of Saratoga Springs. There are no geographic restrictions.”
Besheer, an award-winning agent turned broker and owner, opened the firm as a Keller Williams franchise in 2008 and grew the brokerage into the second largest in the Saratoga Springs market by agent count; vying for fourth in total revenue with several of the other major franchise offices. Besheer says she hopes to continue the success with Equitas Realty.
“I’ve been in this business in Saratoga for 14 years and I was new back then,” said Besheer. “I started at Roohan Realty and then in 2008 the opportunity with Keller-Williams came and within five years we went on to become one of the top companies in Saratoga Springs starting from our second year and continuing on through today. We became a face and our agents became known. Switching to an independent model will be interesting. We’ll have more opportunity to be seen and expand offices.”
Choosing to not renew its franchise term with Keller Williams will also give the brokerage the ability to reinvest the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent annually in franchise fees, back into the brokerage to support marketing and technology to better serve clients.
“We’ll have a lot of freedom,” said Besheer. “We can be at the cutting edge of technology. The real estate business is shifting right now and we can expect significant changes in the next four to five years. It’s hard to quickly change things within a large corporation. By becoming independent, we can move quickly and adapt to changes moving our way.”
In 2013, Besheer recruited Justin White, who brings extensive management experience in the software industry with innovators such as Microsoft and years of experience in the real estate business. White will serve as managing director of Equitas Realty.
“Our strategy is a win-win-win architecture,” said White. “Equitas Realty agents will receive the most generous compensation package in the market with access to our cutting edge technology and training platform; seller clients will have an exciting new brand that stands out from the ‘same-old’ franchise brands; and our brokerage can grow beyond the Saratoga Springs area. This is the right move at the right time and we are looking forward to the change.”
The firm will be staying in the same location at 38 High Rock Avenue and will undergo a makeover to reflect the new Equitas Realty brand. Eventually, Besheer says she would like to see the firm expand to 75-80 agents, include four offices throughout the Northway, and become the brokerage of choice for all agents wanting to embrace the “new way of real estate and internet lead syndicators.”
As for the firm’s new name, Equitas Realty, the word equitas, Latin for fairness, is the root for the English word equity, and echoes equine and equanimity – and Besheer said it was the perfect match.
“We wanted to have a name that reflected professional and personal values,” said Besheer. “If you put fairness and equity together, that should be the main objective for any real estate brokerage. Our company is a company where what you see is what you get. The opportunities here are real, the management team is out for your best interest – what you’re seeing is what you’re getting.”