Thomas Dimopoulos

Thomas Dimopoulos

City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
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SARATOGA SPRINGS — Price Chopper/Market 32 and Tops Markets announced this week that they have entered into a definitive merger agreement to create an alliance between the two independent grocery chains, nearly doubling their collective footprint in the Northeast.

The transaction unites two New York-based grocery chains, and the merged companies say they are expected to be better positioned to compete and offer more value and services to their customers across the Northeast.

Based in Schenectady, Price Chopper/Market 32 was founded by the Golub family in 1932 and operates 130 Price Chopper and Market 32 grocery stores and one Market Bistro, employing 18,000 in New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.

Locally, the company has stores on Railroad Place, and on Ballston Avenue in Saratoga Springs, on Route 50 in Wilton, as well as sites in Clifton Park, Mechanicville, and Malta.    

Tops Markets is based in Williamsville, New York, located in Erie County, and operates 162 grocery stores in New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont, including five that are run by franchisees. According to the company, it is the largest private, for-profit employer in Western New York, and counts more than 14,000 associates.

Scott Grimmett, Price Chopper/Market 32's President and CEO, will be CEO of and serve on the Board of Directors of the new parent company which will oversee the operations of nearly 300 Price Chopper, Market 32, Market Bistro and Tops Markets stores and collectively employ more than 30,000.

Frank Curci, Tops Markets Chairman and CEO, will serve on the Board of Directors of the new parent company and as a consultant to assist in the transition. Blaine Bringhurst, Price Chopper/Market 32's Executive Vice President of Merchandising, Marketing and Store Operations, will lead the Price Chopper/Market 32 business. John Persons, Tops Markets President and Chief Operating Officer, will lead the Tops Markets business.

The new parent company will be headquartered in Schenectady. The Price Chopper/Market 32 and Tops Markets businesses will retain main offices in Schenectady and Williamsville and will continue to be managed locally by their respective leaders.

"This merger marks a major step forward and collectively elevates our ability to compete on every level," said Grimmett, in a prepared statement. "It leverages increased value for our customers; advances shared opportunities for innovation; fortifies the depth of our workforce, community and trade partnerships; and ultimately accelerates our capacity to deliver a distinctively modern and convenient shopping experience. Given the vital role that supermarkets and their workforces play in our communities, particularly this past year, I am excited to lead the parent company of these two historic grocery retailers."  

The transaction is expected to close in the upcoming months, subject to regulatory approval and customary closing conditions. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Thursday, 04 February 2021 13:15

Inside Larry’s Barbershop

SARATOGA SPRINGS — You can find him standing behind the barber’s chair, five days a week, inside of the red brick building on Washington Street where the front door entryway is flanked by the spinning red, white and blue colors of a barber pole, and a flat metal sign that tells you you’ve arrived at Larry’s Barbershop. 

It is a station where he has stood for more than 50 of his 77 years, and since the year The Beatles broke up, since actor George C. Scott played U.S. General George Patton on the silver screen, when a gallon of gas set you back thirty-six cents. 

“I worked in Glenville when I first started, then I came up to Saratoga and bought the barber shop on Van Dam Street from Tom McTygue,” Jenks recalls. “There was about 10 years there, 20 years across the street from Wendy’s where the hospital property is now, and then I came over here, about 20 years ago.”   

He was born in Corinth grew up in his mother’s native village of Ballston Spa, and after high school joined the Navy where he was stationed on an aircraft carrier overseas during the 1960s. He came home and secured a job with GE working in the turbine business when he made the career shift. 

“My wife was a beautician, and I was working at GE when she suggested, ‘Why don’t you try barber-ing.’”  He went to barber school in Schenectady and that was that. 

“Back then, the young men had long hair, but there was always a certain amount that had traditional haircuts,” he muses. “The styles change, but other than a term, they come back to be the same as they always were.” 

He has had longtime customers over several decades and has watched a generation of local kids grow up and have their own kids. 

What’s most surprising? “You’ll be talking to a group of young men and realize that they’ve never been in a barber shop before, because they’d always gone to a salon. College kids especially. Salons for years now have done men and women,” Jenks points out. “The barber shop caters to men, whereas the salons cater to both.”    

There is also the traditional barber’s pole out front. “Oh yeah, that’s how we’ve always been identified.”  The history books teach that the red, white and blue identifier dates back several centuries to a time of the barber-surgeons - when haircutting was offered in addition to medical procedures performed. 

Like most businesses, the era of COVID has been difficult.  “There’s no hollering back and forth like it usually is, because of the virus. Now it’s pretty subdued,” he says, gesturing to a board that hangs on the outside of the front door where people sign one at a time, and noting capacity restrictions in line with safety protocols.  “We’re very careful with masking and sanitizing and only one person per,” he says. The business was temporarily shuttered last year until hair salons and barber shops were allowed to re-open. Those first few weeks were exceptionally busy, with many in need of attention to their hair. Overall, he estimates there has been about a 60% loss of business compared to the time before the pandemic. 

Jenks says if he hadn’t gone into the barber shop business, he most likely would have stayed at GE. 

“I probably would have retired a long time ago,” he says, with a laugh. Someday, he will retire. “I don’t think about it, but I will someday, probably sooner than later for sure.”

For more on Larry's Barber shop visit https://www.bestprosintown.com/ny/saratoga-springs/larrys-barber-shop

Thursday, 04 February 2021 12:54

To Raze or Not to Raze

At The DRC: Proposed Phila Street Demolitions Opposed by Preservation Foundation

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A request for demolition of two vacant buildings is getting push-back from the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation. 

The matter is under consideration this week by the city’s Design Review Commission, although a late request was filed to adjourn the application until March 3. 

The two properties, which stand at 65 Phila St. and 69 Phila St. were both constructed in the 1850s.

“Despite their poor condition, the buildings still retain their architectural integrity,” argues the Preservation Foundation – which was established in 1977 and cites as its mission “to preserve and enhance the architectural, cultural, and landscaped heritage of Saratoga Springs.”  The two buildings have been listed on the Foundation’s “Ten to Save” list since the endangered list program was created in 1998.   

Lengthy documentation about the properties and the application for demolition may be found on the city’s website at saratoga-springs.org  under the Design Review Commission banner. The Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation’s response to the proposal of demolition may be found at: saratogapreservation.org. 

Thursday, 04 February 2021 12:52

Vaccines

• Approximately 300,000 doses per week are anticipated to be received by the state from the federal government for distribution.  Additionally, a new federal government program will supply private pharmacies in New York with an additional 30,000 doses per week. 

• Statewide: Approximately 2 million vaccine doses have been administered and of those nearly 20% of those vaccinated have received both doses. Locally, more than 22,000 Saratoga County residents have received one dose of COVID vaccine, and more than 5,000 Saratoga County residents have received both doses. In all, this accounts for more than 12% of county residents having been administered at least one dose of COVID vaccine. 

• 7.1 million of a total population of 15 million New Yorkers are eligible for vaccines right now. Local governments may now add restaurant workers to vaccine eligibility lists. That call to add is up to local governments, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said this week. 

• The COVID infection rate in Saratoga County this week dropped to a weekly rolling average of 4%. This is down from a peak high of 11% on Jan. 7 and signifies the lowest infection rate in the county since the days immediately following the Thanksgiving holiday.     

• Hospitalizations: The percentage of hospital beds available, and percentage of ICU beds available in the eight-county Capital Region of which Saratoga is a part, each remain among the worst in the state, as has been the case for the past several weeks.

• The county has a hold agreement with the Saratoga Springs City Center so the building may be used as a mass vaccination center when sufficient amounts of vaccine have been obtained. That determination will be made by county Public Health officials and at this time a date has yet to be targeted for its use. 

• Important to know: After being notified of an unexpected increase in vaccine allocation, Saratoga County has recently focused on vaccinating seniors, both at county public health and directly at people’s homes. Many of those who were vaccinated came from the county’s Special Needs Registry. That registry includes county residents or caregivers of an individual with special needs such as mobility impairment, developmental disability, major respiratory illness, etc. County residents or caregivers of an individual with special needs may fill out the Special Needs Registry Application form accessible via: saratogacountyny.gov.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — This week residents of Prestwick Chase Senior Living Home received doses of the COVID vaccine. 

As of Jan. 25, there were 18,116 Saratoga County residents overall who had received one dose and 3,083 county residents who had received two doses of COVID vaccine, according to Saratoga County Public Health Services. 

According to President Joe Biden’s plan, vaccine distribution will be increased by 16% during the next three weeks. Most recently and before the increase was announced, New York State had received about 250,000 vaccines.   

With a state distribution plan based on population, the eight-county Capital Region – of which Saratoga County is a part – receives 6% of the state dosages, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Using that equation, the Capital Region can expect about 17,250 vaccines per week for each of the next three weeks. 

Through Jan. 27, about 1.4 million total doses – some of which includes second doses -were administered in New York State, about 96,000 of those in the Capital Region.  

MALTA — Developers are targeting the southeast corner of Saratoga Lake for a potential project that would incorporate nearly 100 new condominium units along with a restaurant and other amenities associated with lakefront property in Malta. 

Geoffrey Booth - of New York Development Group in Clifton Park, and Sophia Marruso - of Plan and Site Consulting at Ballston Lake, introduced a preliminary discussion of the potential project to the Malta Town Board on Jan. 25, during a town board meeting held virtually and attended by 70 participants.   

The project site would feature new construction on property currently owned by the DiDonna Family at the Southshore Marina, located at the intersection of Route 9P and Plains Road near the southeast edge of Saratoga Lake and about 8 miles south of Broadway in Saratoga Springs. 

The initial concept includes 96 condominium units anticipated to be approximately 1,500 to 1,800 square feet in size and at a height of two to three stories, Marruso told the board. A per-unit cost has not yet been specified. 

“Although we have not defined a price point, this is certainly going to be an upper-end project, not a lower-end project,” said Geoffrey Booth, of New York Development Group. “I want the Board to know this is not meant to attract transients and to have people coming and going. The intent here is for home ownership and people who live in Saratoga and want to enjoy the lake.” 

A formal application is expected to be presented “within the next month or two,” Marruso said. 

Thursday, 28 January 2021 13:59

Saratoga Springs: State of the City

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Saratoga Springs hosted its annual State of the City Address on Jan. 26. 

Each of the five council members and both supervisors representing the city at the county level were allotted time to speak. The meeting included a moment of silence for all who died during the pandemic. COVID-19 accounted for the deaths of 108 residents of Saratoga County - 38 specific to Saratoga Springs, to date. 

Due to COVID-19 precautions, the annual address was livestreamed via Zoom.

“There was a time when we thought we had (already) faced a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence: the lightning strike that closed City Hall in 2018 (and) relocated us to the Recreation Center for almost two years,” Mayor Meg Kelly said.  “Obviously, 2020 unfolded in very unexpected ways. We had to pivot and work remotely, social distance, and meet in Zoom rooms.”

Here are some excerpts of the address. A transcript of the entire meeting may be read at the city’s website. 

• The Saratoga Greenbelt Geyser Road Trail will soon open to the public and have a ribbon-cutting in the spring. The Geyser Trail is an 8-feet-wide, 2.8 mile-long trail that follows Geyser Road, from the Milton town line to the Saratoga Spa State Park.
• Renovation of the vandalized Civil War memorial in Congress Park is nearly complete and is anticipated for return to the park in the spring. Repair costs were covered by insurance; additional costs will be incurred for new security cameras and improvements to the site. 
• The city delivered several new federally funded programs, including $540,000 in CDBG-CV funding to local service agencies, the COVID19 Small Business Grant Program, and the COVID-19 Emergency Housing Assistance Program - the latter preventing homelessness for 13 Saratoga Springs households. More than $490,000 in Block Grant funding assisted 3,000 households.

 

• In 2020, the city’s three Land Use Boards issued 178 decisions. There are currently 96 active applications in the review process.
• Due to the pandemic and subsequent shortage of business revenue and state aid in 2020 resulted in much lower sales tax, occupancy tax, service fees and other city revenues, reflected in the city’s 2021 budget, which was adopted on Nov. 30. 
• In 2020 the city paved 12 main roads and intersections. 
 • Future: a Broadway Master Design Plan was created via a partnering of the DPW and the Downtown Special Assessment District. The aim is to incorporate many ideas into one cohesive plan that recognizes the historic charm of the city’s downtown, while acknowledging the growing community and business expectations for public spaces. More information about the initiative is expected in the near future.

At the county:    
• The new Public Safety facility at the County Farm Road complex was completed and is in operation. The county approved $350,000 to improve technology in the board room, support live-streaming of meetings and increased public engagement, as well as install Public Wi-Fi in appropriate areas. 
• A new Government Review and Efficiency committee was established and charged with the responsibility of looking at all of the county’s laws, policies, and procedures, appointed boards and committees, and as well review each departmental operation.
  The County created the new position of Commissioner of Saratoga County Public Health Services, and Saratoga Springs resident Dr. Daniel Kuhles was hired to fill the position. Steve Bulger was named new County Administrator. 

CLIFTON PARK — A local attorney and a retired chief information security officer for NY State have joined forces to form a new company aimed at protecting small and medium-sized local businesses from cyber-attacks. 

“What I tell people all the time is that it’s not if you’re going to be hacked, it’s when you’re going to be hacked,” says Rick Cobello, who along with Jacqueline Goralczyk have formed Global Cybersecurity Solutions.       

“There are a lot of large businesses that have cyber security programs. But if you’re a small business or a medium business with under 100 employees, if you get hacked or you get information taken, most likely you’re done, because you don’t have the resources to withstand something like that. What we do is offer those same services that the large companies get to smaller companies, but not for the large company price,” he says. 

Originally from Niagara Falls, Cobello relocated to this region in 1974. “I helped start the high school hockey team and I was the first technology director for the Saratoga School District. That was at the beginning of Apple computers. It was rudimentary at best,” says Cobello, who has more than 30 years of experience in enterprise technology and security solutions in a career that includes local and state governments to Fortune 500 companies. He is also professor of Supply Chains and Cyber Security program at Albany Law. 

A focus on data privacy and cybersecurity by partner Jacqueline Goralczyk, Esq., stems from her legal practice in banking and real estate. Goralczyk got her start at the law firm of Ianniello Anderson, P.C. in Clifton Park, where she worked closely with the partners and administration to grow and enhance their focus on security and privacy. 

“Since part of the roots of this company have come out of the law firm, the strategy we’re going to identify is risk. So, it’s not just: you need new computers, or you need hardware, technology. It’s going to be you have these risks that you need to satisfy because your business is vulnerable. Here are your risks and here’s how you can fix them,” Cobello says. 

The process includes evaluating informational, physical and technological security for small and medium sized businesses, deciding what needs to be remediated and creating a plan. Businesses also receive a cyber security playbook. “That will outline what we did, how we did it and what they need to do in the future.” 

For more information go to: globalcybersecuritysolutionsllc.com. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A mass vaccine city site. A central online county information site. The creation of and the funding of a COVID Response support staff. 

Amid the rapid flux of ever-evolving information related to COVID-19 and to vaccinations, the city and the county made strides this week to provide accessible information to the public as well as solidify plans for the dispensing of vaccines – in preparation for that time when vaccines become more readily available.    

First up, the Saratoga Springs City Center was this week approved as a mass COVID-19 vaccine site. The county lease of the site will immediately kick in when “sufficient vaccine doses” are delivered to the county by the state. That sufficient quantity determination will be made by newly appointed county Health Commissioner, Dr. Daniel Kuhle. 

“In general, we are notified about 24 hours before we receive vaccines about how many we can expect to get,” says Tara Gaston, Saratoga Springs city Supervisor and newly named as chair of the county’s Health and Social Services Committee. “I don’t anticipate that it’s going to be thousands within the next couple of weeks, but the goal is to be ready if that happens. Under the current state guidance, once we have the vaccines, we must use them within seven days. We have to be ready and able to move as quickly as possible.”     

The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to the resolution regarding the City Center, which was introduced by Gaston. 

“The idea is that it will be in the main hall. We have to work out the layout, but I envision temperature stations before people come in. Then you come in, check in at the table, get your shot and then you have to wait your 15 minutes or half-hour depending on whether you have allergies or not,” said Ryan McMahon, executive director and president at the City Center

“It’s a month-to-month lease where they can turn it on for a month, turn it off for a month. I don’t think anyone thinks we’re going to (immediately) get enough vaccines next week. Part of this is the county’s ability to prepare. This way they can come in, we can set the room up, establish how they want it, get lines running for their computers and get all the infrastructure ready so that if they find out, say, on a Friday night they’re getting the vaccines, then we can be open on Saturday morning,” McMahon said. “We know how to move people through a space, particularly this space very well, so we’re going to advise and collaborate on a plan about how to physically do it, but it’s their show.”      

The lease of the space at the City Center was authorized at a cost up to just over $49,000 per month. “We want to help in any way we can. In a normal year I would just eat the cost of this, but right now we can’t take on an additional expense. We have shut down operations for the most part - we don’t even have the HVAC systems on, and we’re barely surviving,” said McMahon, explaining the incremental cost to the county is to get everything back up and running, from the HVAC systems to the cleaning staff –  whom were laid off. 

A second resolution introduced by Gaston – also receiving unanimous support by the county Board of Supervisors will see the creation of temporary COVID Response Support Personnel, and a COVID Response Coordinator, who will assist the public health department in response to the pandemic. Those positions will earn a base salary of $22/hour and $25/hour, respectively, and will be filled “as needed.”  The county set aside approximately $183,000 from its fund balance to fulfill those wage needs.    

The county will also be upgrading its COVID-19 web dashboard to use state data methodology, in a mission to be less confusing and more accessible. The county recently adjusted the main page of its website to provide immediate access to COVID-related information.   

“This is a change. Any information we get is going to be on the front page of our website in a red box, and it will change as we get more information,” Gaston said. The page includes official links to vaccination registrations, finding current test sites and other COVID-19 resources for individuals and families.  The site may be accessed at: www.saratogacountyny.gov. 

As of this week, nearly 3.5% of the county’s approximate 230,000 county residents had tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the epidemic, and about 6.5% of the population has been at least partially vaccinated. 

“In the city of Saratoga Springs, we have 540 active cases,” city Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton told the council at its Jan. 19 meeting. “The good news is the 7-day rolling average for positivity rates has dropped (in the county) from 11.3% to 8.8% - which is terrific. However, our hospitalizations have almost doubled in the last ten days; currently we have 106 people hospitalized as opposed to 51 ten days ago. This is representative of the lagging nature of these metrics, of when people get sick and then when they need to get hospitalized.” 

In the greater eight-county Capital Region of which Saratoga is a part, hospitalizations – with 553 COVID patients - hit an all-time high, and 91 of those patients are in the ICU. New York State is separated into 10 different regions, and the Capital Region has the fewest percentage of hospital beds (25%) and ICU beds (19%) available of all regions statewide, according to the NYS DOH.    

“There are not nearly enough vaccines to get as many people vaccinated as we want to,” Dalton added. “We get a tiny amount every week and I know people are frustrated getting access to appointments and having to travel very far – to Plattsburg and Utica. We know that and we are working on it. This is an imperfect system.” 

Gaston expressed similar frustration. “New York State has provided directives to anyone who has access to vaccinate individuals. That tells us who we are allowed to vaccinate; just because you have been deemed eligible by the state does not mean that you can get vaccinated at your health department, or at a pharmacy,” Gaston said. 

“Medical workers are required to be vaccinated by hospitals. Seniors are required to be vaccinated by pharmacies. And our local health department – Saratoga County Public Health Services - can only vaccinate people who fall into a number of essential worker groups that includes police, fire, teachers, front-facing grocery store workers. If you are a senior and you want a vaccine from our local public health services – we cannot do this at this time.” 

Deviating from the governor’s directives can result in severe fines and penalties, Gaston added. “We are working as a county and with other counties to change this – to allow us to use those plans to keep people as safe as possible as quickly as possible, and I think it’s important people know we share the frustration. We all have to be patient but unfortunately we are restricted by these mandates which are not reflective of the long-standing work the public health department has done in the area of vaccinations.” 

In addition to the naming of the Saratoga Springs City Center as a mass vaccination site, more than one dozen other smaller, unnamed venues have been evaluated and approved for providing vaccinations across the county and Gaston said among the county’s other coordinated plans - “going into homes, going into shelters, delivering vaccines directly to seniors” – are pending the governor’s lifting of existing directives prohibiting those plans from being enacted.

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week named Saratoga County Public Health Services and Saratoga Hospital as among the best performing in administering vaccines they were allocated. Both had a 100% rating. It is an important achievement moving forward. 

As of Jan. 18, 13,442 Saratoga County residents had received one dose of COVID vaccine and 1,323 Saratoga County residents had received two doses of COVID vaccine, according to Saratoga County Public Health Services. 

“We will allocate more doses to the faster, better performing facilities. Those that can vaccinate faster will get more of the allocation,” said Cuomo, noting the allocation from the federal government to the state – which then allocates the vaccines across New York is not high enough. 

There are 7.1 million New Yorkers currently eligible for vaccines. At the current rate of allocation, it will take 6 to 7 months for those people to get vaccinated, Cuomo said. “The federal government must increase supply to the states now.” 

The governor said he crafted a letter this week to the chairman of Pfizer, asking if New York can buy vaccine dosages directly from Pfizer.    

Among the percent of hospital workers vaccinated: Glens Falls Hospital leads the region (85.5%), followed by Albany Medical Center (81.1%); Columbia Memorial Hospital (73.4%), and Saratoga Hospital – which has 69.3% of its hospital workers vaccinated. St. Peter’s Hospital - at 65.4%, Ellis Hospital – at 64.6% are among the hospitals with the lowest percentage of its workers vaccinated, Cuomo said. 

The concern is that the lower vaccinated hospital staffs will be the first hospitals to have capacity problems in a surge situation. 

“Again, facilities with slower vaccination rates will get less of new allocation. Our allocation is nowhere near enough. You want to maximize it, so places that can get it out first will get priority.” 

The weekly vaccine allocation by the federal government to New York State (numbers rounded up):

Dec. 14-20: 170,000.
Dec. 21-27: 467,000.
Dec. 28- Jan. 3: 274,000.
Jan. 4 – 10: 240,000.
Jan. 11 – 17: 240,000. 

Page 6 of 62

Blotter

  • COURT  Earl T. Walsh, 28, of Schuylerville, was sentenced to 1 to 3 years’ incarceration, after pleading to felony DWI.  Jack D. Smith, 33, of Mayfield, pleaded Nov. 19 to felony DWI, in Galway. Sentencing Jan. 21.  Joshua E. Greco, 31, of Gloversville, pleaded Nov. 19 to felony grand larceny, in Ballston. Sentencing Jan. 21.  Shamiek A. Shorter, 25, of Schenectady, pleaded Nov. 19 to attempted criminal possession of a weapon, a felony, in Saratoga Springs. Sentencing Jan. 24.  Erika L. Pettit, 39, of Ballston Spa, pleaded Nov. 19 to felony DWI, in Milton. Sentencing Jan. 19.  Travis C. Edmonds,…

Property Transactions

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