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Smashburger, Gennaro’s Pizza Parlor Open in Retail Plaza
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Hamlet at Saratoga shopping plaza on Route 50, already home to The Fresh Market and Compliments to the Chef, recently welcomed two new tenants – Smashburger and Gennaro’s Pizza Parlor. The mixed-use retail plaza, located at the corners of Marion Avenue and Excelsior Avenue – about a half-mile from Exit 15 of the Northway, is slowly filling with occupants.
“It’s a high-traffic, high-volume area close to Skidmore College which is helpful for all of the entities that are here now,” said Todd Shimkus, President of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce. “And the variety of businesses is great; I think they’ve put together a nice neighborhood of businesses.”
A ribbon cutting for Smashburger, a fast-casual burger restaurant, was held Wednesday, Feb. 4. Franchise co-owners Leo Butera and Marc Goldstein said after first eating at Smashburger, they knew they had to bring it to upstate New York.
“Both of us started hearing about how great Smashburger was, so we checked them out,” said Butera. “The food is great, it sells itself.”
“The energy and hype behind Smashburger is great,” added Goldstein.
The friends of 15 years – Butera is a former restaurant consultant and Goldstein is a real estate professional – say Smashburger offers fresh and affordable food for everyone. The handcrafted burgers are smashed, seared and seasoned to order. Burgers are made using fresh, never frozen, 100 percent certified Angus beef. For those not craving beef, there are chicken options, salad options, and even vegetarian-friendly menu options, as well as beer and wine offerings and hand-spun Haagen-Dazs shakes.
“Last Friday, we sold 199 shakes,” said Goldstein. “It was 14 degrees that day and we sold 242 the next day.”
“It has exceeded everything we ever thought,” added Butera. “We ran out of milk and whipped topping, it was pretty crazy. We also serve the food to you and we clean up after you. We serve quality food…that’s the main difference between us and our competitors.”
While Smashburger’s Saratoga location has only been open for just over a week, it has already become a popular stop for those seeking a fast-casual dining experience seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
“I’m hoping to build a giant customer fan base and please all of our guests,” said Andrew Baumeister, general manager. “By the summertime, I’m hoping to double or triple our sales.”
Aside from the Saratoga location, the business partners have opened an additional Smashburger location in Albany, with more to come. They have a contract with the company for six more within the next five years.
Just next door to Smashburger and Compliments to the Chef is Gennaro’s Pizza Parlor, owned and operated by Wayne and Kathy Cherry. This newcomer to the local pizza scene is already making a name for itself with its authentic Italian dinners, pizza and subs.
Gennaro’s Pizza Parlor makes its dough daily and is stretched out by hand before being baked to perfection in a wood-fired brick oven, which heats up to 750 degrees and can cook a pizza in about three minutes.
“I opened four weeks ago,” said Wayne. “Gennaro Lombardi was the first guy to open a pizzeria in 1904 in New York City, so I named it after him. I just thought – he’s the man who started it all, so let’s name it after him.”
Wayne says he’s always had a love for pizza and worked in the restaurant business before opening a couple of mattress stores; but soon enough, he found himself missing the food industry and wanted to return to the business that made him happiest.
“My pizzas are old-world style which is fresh mozzarella, imported Italian tomatoes, Pecorino Romano, it’s really nice,” said Wayne. “No one does it like that around here. I want people to know that I’m different than the other options.”
The Cherry’s say, over time, they hope to be known as one of the best pizzerias in the area and with the popularity the parlor has had so far, it’s looking like that goal is achievable.
Gennaro’s Pizza Parlor is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. for dine-in, take-out and delivery.
With the success The Fresh Market, Compliments to the Chef, Gennaro’s and Smashburger have had, county leaders are hopeful more businesses will set up shop in the retail plaza.
"There are a couple of vacancies and my guess is by the end of this year, if not sooner, you'll see this plaza full and vibrant," said Shimkus.
Family-Owned Business Expands from Flagship Corinth Location
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A well-known, family-owned business that originated in Corinth has made its way to Saratoga Springs and offers a solution for those looking to recycle and redeem their beverage containers.
MT Returnables, located at the corner of Union and Adelphi Streets right behind Mavis Tires, collects and refunds all New York State five-cent returnable containers from dozens of distributors. Owner, Bob Ball, runs the business with two of his three daughters -- Jade and Chelsea, and says after 10 years, it was time to expand the business and open a second location.
“People want to get rid of their stuff and it’s so much easier than going to a machine,” said Ball. “We have no machines. We do it all by hand and we don’t have any limit. We take every brand so people only have to go to one spot...that’s the beauty of it.”
Convenience is the key word behind the business. Whether you have bottles from Price Chopper and Stewart’s, for example, MT Returnables can accept and reimburse you for both. As long as the New York State bottle containers are “MT” a.k.a. empty -- you’re good to go.
“I had a customer come in today and she had 770 containers and I took care of them in about five to ten minutes and she was out of here,” said Ball. “And she told me had she been at a machine, she would’ve been there for hours -- which she would have been.”
In the winter months, Ball says the Corinth location sees anywhere between 30 to 70 customers daily; and he’s hoping to grow a great customer base in Saratoga as well.
“We’re hoping business will pick up in the summer with SPAC and the racecourse and casino,” said Ball. “In Corinth, we do have a lot of customers from the Greenfield area, so now that we’re in Saratoga, it’ll split up.”
Another service MT Returnables offers is the opportunity for clubs and organizations to host bottle and can drives as a fundraiser. The Balls have designed a system to help charities, schools, youth groups, churches, or scouts to raise money; they provide groups with the tools to host a successful drive if the groups provide the venue and volunteers.
For those looking to drop off beverage containers at MT Returnables, make sure cans, plastic bottles without caps, and glass are separate from one another prior to your arrival. Also, all glass needs to be in its original box -- it is not accepted in bags. Crushed cans or bottles are not accepted.
MT Returnables is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. For more information, visit MTReturnables.com
Congresswoman Reads to Kindergarteners, Tours Classrooms
BALLSTON SPA – Students in the Ballston Spa School District welcomed a special visitor to their classrooms last Friday – freshman Congresswoman Elise Stefanik of District 21.
Rep. Stefanik (R-NY-21) attended several education-related meetings and events in the school district Friday, Jan. 23. Stefanik, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, toured Malta’s Clean Technologies Early College High School, participated in a Superintendent Round Table, held a discussion with student council members and U.S. History students, read to kindergarteners and toured Gordon Creek Elementary School.
“The kids are really excited,” said Kent Baker, Principal of Gordon Creek Elementary School. “They understand what a treat it is to have her here.”
Rep. Stefanik read the classic children’s book, “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats, to around 80 kindergarten students from four classrooms at Gordon Creek and answered questions from the group before touring the school -- one of the newest in New York State.
Stopping in various classrooms from first grade to fifth grade and even the special education classrooms, Stefanik got a first-hand look at how students in the district spend an average day.
The district, which has continually emphasized its STEM initiatives, is home to a successful robotics team and even incorporates two humanoid robots into the classroom to help students with science, math, ELA and literacy -- accomplishments Rep. Stefanik found impressive.
“As I toured the classrooms, the use of technology in the classrooms and the teachers support for utilizing 21st Century technology was really exciting,” said Stefanik. “We, as a country, need to focus more on the STEM fields and it was great to see Ballston Spa be able to promote their focus on STEM education.”
Maintaining high quality teachers that embrace “forward-leaning” education is something Stefanik, a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, says is one of the topics the committee will discuss over the next two years. Another point of discussion will relate to ensuring the nation’s education system fits its economic needs.
“I also think higher education will be a focus -- making sure our higher education institutions, both two-year and four-year programs are effective and cost-effective,” said Stefanik. “I think there’s a lot that’s going to be happening in the committee.”
Perhaps one of the committee’s more heated discussions will center on Common Core, a set of K-12 math and English language standards adopted by most states that has become increasingly controversial over the past year, and the implementation challenges related to the initiative.
As for that issue, Stefanik says she would like to see local school districts have more control over their curriculums.
“I believe in more localized control and flexibility in education policy and I think the ‘one size fits all’ approach and the over-testing of Common Core...we do have implementation challenges,” said Stefanik. “I do think we need standards as a country and as a state, but I think we need to figure out what the right balance is in terms of how we measure that accountability and how often we’re testing our kids because I’m really concerned about the over-testing.”
Stefanik wrapped up her day in Latham, where she spoke with the New York State United Teachers union.
Healthy Living’s Learning Center Offers Culinary Experience for Kids
SARATOGA SPRINGS – On the menu – cheese ravioli and spaghetti with tomato sauce, made entirely from scratch and made entirely by kids ages 5 to 10.
Through Healthy Living Market’s Learning Center, kids of all ages can turn into mini chefs and learn their way around the kitchen, practice basic safety and techniques, and whip up tasty food from main courses to desserts and snacks. The market’s youth programs, such as Kids in the Kitchen, Preschool Chefs, and Family Kitchen, have proved wildly popular with classes often at maximum capacity.
The children who participated in this week’s Kids in the Kitchen class were tasked with making homemade pasta to create spaghetti and cheese ravioli dishes topped with tomato sauce. With instruction, guidance and demonstrations by Shannon Beckwith, Learning Center Chef and Instructor, the kids did everything by themselves.
“I really don’t want to limit kids thinking they can only make scrambled eggs or macaroni and cheese out of a box,” said Beckwith. “I want to expand their thoughts and their palettes. It’s important to me that kids are exposed to different types of foods whether it’s spicy, sweet or salty and that they know the ingredients that go into making the final product.”
Beckwith says it’s also important to let the kids do mostly all of the work themselves during the two-hour class. To prepare the pasta dough, the kids watched Beckwith’s demonstration first and then followed the same steps. They poured, stirred, kneaded, rolled and cut their noodles and Beckwith boiled them.
“It was really fun,” said 10-year-old Emily. “I liked rolling [the dough] in the [pasta] roller and making the pasta pieces. It was kind of hard because you had to keep it all together.”
“It was fun,” added 9-year-old Katherine. “I like pasta a lot and I like making pasta.”
For Beckwith, hearing her students say they enjoyed the class is the ultimate reward. With a degree in education as well as a degree from the Culinary Institute of America, she combines her passion for teaching with her passion for cooking; showing her students how delicious and easy it is to make healthy food.
“I really feel like I am a food educator rather than a chef instructor,” said Beckwith. “I think kids need to have a better understanding of the kitchen and where our food comes from. Most of the kids, if you asked them today where pasta comes from, they would say a box; which is true and in my kitchen at home it’s the same. I don’t make pasta from scratch every day at home, it’s just not practical. But it’s nice for them to see the ingredients that go into making pasta and the time that it takes and everything that goes into it. I think that’s really important.”
Perhaps the best part of the class for the students is eating the final product. After an afternoon of learning and cooking, the kids were all smiles as Beckwith handed out plates of the spaghetti and ravioli they made themselves.
“They love it,” said Beckwith. “And I always make them promise that they’ll try to make it at home because it’s fun to do it in here, but it doesn’t mean anything if you’re not going to take the recipes, which they always get, and do it at home. Make it a family project and make it on a Saturday or Sunday. It’s fun and it’s doable.”
In honor of Mardi Gras next month, Beckwith plans on teaching a New Orleans-style menu complete with beignets and jambalaya.
For more information or to sign up for a class, visit www.healthylivingmarket.com/learning-center. The Learning Center also hosts private and individual cooking classes, school field trips and birthday parties.
Plans to Build on 20-Year Regional Tutoring Legacy for Students K-12
CLIFTON PARK – The Capital Region franchise for Sylvan Learning Inc., arguably the most recognized name in tutoring, is under new ownership. The leading provider of supplemental education for students in grades K-12 recently announced that Patrick McNamara has purchased and become the owner and operator of the regional franchise.
McNamara, a Saratoga Springs resident, assumes the title of executive director and will oversee student educational services, human resources, advertising and marketing campaigns, and financial management of the company. The business has offices in Albany, Clifton Park, and a satellite classroom at the YMCA in Bethlehem.
He purchased the business from Catherine Hull who ran the regional franchise from 1995 to 2014.
Sylvan’s programs include math, reading, writing, study skills and test preparation for SAT, ACT and Regents exams, as well as traditional homework help. State-certified teachers use interactive technology to help students gain the confidence they need to improve their grades.
“I really like what we do,” said McNamara. “It’s great to see the growth after kids come in struggling especially in the beginning as their confidence improves. When a kid comes in and they’re behind in reading, the goal is to get them caught up so that they don’t need us anymore. We want them to become independent, confident learners.”
McNamara says he’s looking forward to building on the regional franchise’s 20-year history of helping families in the Capital Region. As an example of that growth, Sylvan is introducing STEM-related programs such as HTML coding, math enrichment and robotics, which McNamara will incorporate into his Albany and Clifton Park classrooms.
Programs are personalized to meet the needs of each child and more importantly, Sylvan’s ratio of a maximum of three students per teacher allows every student to maximize their session.
“At school, teachers are working really hard but she or he has 25 or 30 kids and they need the majority of the class to move forward and they do,” said McNamara. “Some of the kids get caught up and miss the foundational skills they need to master more complex ones. We’re here to help them with that.”
Prior to his current position, McNamara practiced law for 29 years in New York City, providing general business representation to individuals and companies with an emphasis on clients in the entertainment industry. He says his decision to change career paths and move to Saratoga Springs has been a rewarding one.
“We’re helping kids solve their academic problems and we help parents identify what the problem is and help them solve it,” said McNamara. “A lot of parents come to us because homework has turned into a nightmare and they need someone to help them identify a foundational skill that’s missing. We’ll help fix that.”
Sylvan Learning will offer a free, practice SAT exam for interested high school juniors on Saturday, Feb. 14. Those interested in enrolling their children at Sylvan can arrange a free assessment and/or take a tour of the classrooms.
For more information, visit www.sylvanlearning.com or call 869-6005.
Program Gives Grads a Head-Start
MALTA – Hundreds of students from area schools enrolled in the Clean Technologies and Sustainable Industries Early College High School Program, along with faculty, staff and mentors, packed Hudson Valley Community College’s (HVCC) TEC-SMART campus in Malta Thursday, Jan. 14 for the program’s winter expo.
Featuring dozens of projects, the expo highlighted the work of students in grades 9, 11 and 12 who are already well on their way to careers in one of New York’s most emerging industries.
The ECHS program allows high school students to earn college credits in a college setting, with the coursework designed to better prepare students for careers in STEM-related fields.
“The idea is to help smooth that transition from high school to college,” said Diane Irwin, ECHS Program Director. “They’re taking classes in a supportive environment, they have high school faculty and a school counselor…and the idea is also put that type of support in place to help them obtain college credits while they’re still in high school so when they graduate, they know what to expect.”
While not every student involved in ECHS will go on to be engineers or nanoscientists, organizers say the program broadens the horizons of students and prepares them for the next chapter of their lives once they graduate. It also allows the students to network with the more than 30 businesses that sponsor the program.
The expo featured demonstrations from the different grade levels related to their given topics. Freshmen created a miniature eco-cars ran on chemical batteries; juniors presented their food and agriculture innovation exhibits; and seniors produced videos on micro-electro-mechanical systems or MEMS devices.
“We’re a problem-based, trans-disciplinary curriculum and students are trying to solve real-world problems,” said Irwin. “Our ninth graders have been working on designing battery-operated cars with chemical batteries…the juniors were asked to identify problems and concerns related to food supply and the seniors researched how MEMS devices could potentially be used in future products. It really is about addressing the authentic issues that society, as a whole, is facing.”
The ECHS program started four years ago with a focus on high school juniors and seniors, but began incorporating freshman for the 2014-2015 school year and Saratoga Springs High School student, Amanda Davis, is one of those inaugural freshmen. For the expo, she and her team raced their saltwater and magnesium-operated car against teams from other schools. She says she’ll continue to participate in the program throughout her high school career.
“It’s definitely beneficial,” said Davis. “It’s getting us ready for some of the key skills we need that we don’t really get in the classroom.”
Next year, the group of freshman currently enrolled in ECHS will create their own sophomore category and new freshman will join – making ECHS fully operational in grades 9-12.
"We started our first cohort in the fall of 2010 with 25 students and we now have over 200 students enrolled in the program," said Irwin. "It's very exciting. You can see the self-confidence and the growth...you really do see a difference from when the students started the program to when they're graduating."
New Eatery Delivers Authentic Mediterranean Flavors
SARATOGA SPRINGS – When it comes to lunch and dinner, restaurant-rich Saratoga Springs has a new eatery to offer as an option – The Falafel Den. The eatery, located at 6 Phila Street, just opened its doors and specializes in authentic Mediterranean appetizers, salads, wraps and desserts.
The Falafel Den serves tasty, authentic falafel – a blend of freshly ground chickpeas and fava beans combined with its signature savory herbs and exotic spices, shaped into patties and lightly fried until crispy. They are then served as is for an appetizer, or in pita wraps and on salads with freshly cut vegetables and a choice of hummus dip or tahini yogurt sauce.
Falafel Den owners Sabreen Samman and Zouhir Lian say their menu items are prepared from fresh, quality ingredients to ensure customers experience delicious and authentic Mediterranean flavors in each bite.
“Our restaurant in Amsterdam was very nice, but we’ve always had our eyes on the Saratoga area,” said Samman. “A lot of people from Saratoga, when they visited our restaurant in Amsterdam, told us we had to open a place in Saratoga…so they kind of planted that seed and here we are.”
Samman and Lian aren’t new to the food industry. The business partners previously owned Aladdin’s Restaurant and Hookah Lounge in Amsterdam, which they closed in preparation for relocating to Saratoga.
“The people in Saratoga are more open, they like to try everything and they like ethnic food,” said Lian. “We’ve been trying for almost two years to open here in Saratoga and we did it.”
“We’ve always tried to find places that offer good, traditional Mediterranean food and we always thought we could do it ourselves and do it better,” added Samman. “So that was always in the back of our minds and we just decided to do it ourselves.”
There’s no question Saratoga hosts a wide variety of food options, but The Falafel Den is the first eatery in town exclusively centered on falafel. Samman and Lian say their traditional Mediterranean food is a healthy option at a modest price for those looking to grab a bite to eat.
“It’s really healthy food,” said Lian. “People who come for the first time end up coming back again and again. Our prices are cheap; you can get a healthy lunch for $5.”
“We put everything on the menu that are favorites of ours,” added Samman. “People keep coming back for the hummus too because it’s homemade.”
And for those looking for an alternative to falafel, the eatery also offers other items such as grilled chicken kabob, gyro, hummus, cheese burek, baklava and knafeh, among others.
The location, where Alpha Dogs previously operated, has a grab-and-go atmosphere but also boasts a countertop area where customers can eat.
While The Falafel Den has only been open for about a month, the business partners are enjoying this new venture in Saratoga Springs and hope to one day relocate to Broadway and add more options to the menu.
“The people here are really welcoming and it’s been really great,” said Samman. “We’ve gotten really good feedback so far.”
The Falafel Den is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. For a look at the menu, visit www.falafelden.com.
Wilton’s Crew Tackles Snow One Storm at a Time
WILTON – Local plow crews had their work cut out for them with the few snow storms Mother Nature threw our way at the beginning of the week. Snow means planning for most people, including Kirk Woodcock. But instead of planning to wake up extra early to scrape the ice off of his windshield or clear his driveway, which he does, he also makes sure the roads are safe for all Wilton residents.
Woodcock, Highway Superintendent for the Town of Wilton, has perhaps one of the most important jobs during the winter – snow removal. With a fleet of 14 vehicles equipped with two operators, huge plows, salt and sand under his direction, residents have an easier commute despite weather conditions.
“Each storm is different, no two storms are the same,” said Woodcock.
Although every storm is different, the way crews approach the task at hand is the same. Before they can head out and tackle the snow, operators inspect their vehicles and conduct a maintenance check. After that, they’ll fill their trucks with sand, salt or a mixture of both. The trucks are over 10 feet high and can way upwards of 30 tons, so Woodcock assigns a team of two operators to every truck.
“Each driver has their own area and they check out their area ahead of time,” said Woodcock. “Each guy, most of the time, has their own truck so they’re familiar with the truck and how it operates.”
Each vehicle covers about 15 miles, plowing both sides of the roads in their designated areas. In total, Wilton’s fleet plows more than 200 miles a day, most of which is residential.
“We have so many subdivisions and cul-de-sacs that we have to plow around,” said Woodcock. “Our routes are well over 50 percent subdivision now. It slows down our operation tremendously.”
Not only does plowing in a subdivision mean crews have to work at a slower speed, they also have to deal with obstacles that pose a safety risk, such as leaving garbage cans in the road or parking cars on the highway.
“Garbage cans in the road create a nightmare for the plowing crews,” said Woodcock. “If you hit it, it gets knocked over and that’s not what we want to have happen. Garbage trucks have an 8-foot arm that can extend into a driveway to get the garbage can, so we encourage folks to leave them in the driveway.”
Woodcock’s team is on call 24/7 and can easily work 12 to 15-hour days. The typical start time is 4 a.m., so roads are cleared for buses to make their routes.
“Over on Corinth Mountain Road, with Ace and Target being in our town and the thousands of employees they have, that’s the main route into our town now,” said Woodcock. “I have to plan on having that taking care of so they can get up and down the hill 24/7 pretty much.”
While planning is a huge part of the job, Woodcock says crews are at the mercy of Mother Nature. He says he spends most nights watching weather forecasts on local news stations to help him prepare for the days ahead.
“Sometimes the weather people don’t get it right and I can’t always go by what they’re saying,” laughs Woodcock. “So I also go by my experience and my gut feeling. I’ve been pretty successful with that.”
With 28 years of experience as the highway superintendent along with more than 70 years of being a Wilton resident, Woodcock has a lot of knowledge to draw from; but he’s quick to admit it’s a team effort.
"I have the best crew in the county. I really do," said Woodcock. "When the chips are down, these guys are right there...unbelievable bunch of guys. They do a great job."
Mohawk Honda Gives More Than $11K to Saratoga Central Catholic
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The well-loved gym at Saratoga Central Catholic High School received a face-lift over the holiday break, thanks to a generous donation from Mohawk Honda – a Scotia-based Honda dealership.
Steve Haraden, vice president of Mohawk Honda, presented a check in the amount of $11,500 to the private school, which covered the replacement of backboards, baskets, nets and rigging among other things – equipment that had not been updated since the school first opened in 1958.
“Mohawk Honda started in 1971 and my family has been in business since 1919,” said Haraden. “When you have a business in the community, you want to be able to give back and we’re very fortunate to be able to give back. We’ve certainly seen success throughout the years and giving back is great.”
Mohawk Honda’s donation comes at the perfect time, according to school administrators. Discussions of whether or not a gym renovation would fit into the budget didn’t fare well and school leaders were worried they wouldn’t be able to achieve everything on the list.
“As far as a single corporation donating as much money as [Haraden] did, is a huge thing for his business, let alone our school as well,” said Sandra Tarkleson, director of development. “That chunk of money is a big part of our budget that we could not have absorbed.”
With a significant number of students involved in athletics, the gymnasium and the equipment are used often. Lombard says the student-athletes are grateful for the replacement of six manual cranes, updated cabling and safety straps, four new fiberglass backboards and rims, and new padding.
“We have a lot of students involved in athletics,” said Lombard. “We recently awarded 56 varsity athletes with scholar athlete pins, which meant that they have a 90 or higher GPA throughout the fall sports calendar.”
A banner dedicated to Mohawk Honda was hung in the gymnasium and Haraden says he’s touched by how much Mohawk Honda’s support means to the Saratoga Central Catholic and its students. He personally has close ties with the school.
“My two boys go here [Saratoga Central Catholic] and they absolutely love it,” said Haraden. “Small schools like this need the community’s support and that’s something that needs to be said. We’re looking forward to doing more as the years go on. We’d love to do more and we will do more.”
The newly updated gym marks yet another upgrade for Saratoga Central Catholic. The school completed nearly $200,000 worth of renovations last fall for infrastructure repairs and technology upgrades thanks to its 2012 Capital Campaign. The campaign supported a variety of projects from building and property aesthetics, to the installation of a new security/video intercom entry system and the installation of a wireless internet connection.
“The whole reason for the success of our Capital Campaign was because of people like Steve Haraden in the community who have a relationship with our school and want to help,” said Lombard. “Not only is the school like a family, but the building is like a home. We take ownership of this building and the kids do, too.”
Just because Saratoga Central Catholic has had completed various projects this academic year, the work still isn’t done. School leaders envision more projects and upgrades in the future and encourage business and community members interested in helping the school to tour the facility.
For more information on donating, volunteer opportunities or to schedule a tour of the school, contact Sandra Tarkleson at 587-7070.
Saratoga’s First Vape Shop and Lounge Now Open
BALLSTON SPA – The Capital Region’s newest smokeless-smoke shop is open for business.
Saratoga Vapes, located at 2124 Doubleday Avenue in Ballston Spa, has been welcoming customers for just over a month. The store sells a variety of e-cigarettes – battery-powered devices that vaporize liquid nicotine – along with related equipment, supplies and more than 45 different varieties of liquid.
Owners and cousins, Mike Davidson and Jason Woods, say the shop and lounge cater to a wide range of customers, from those just attempting to quit smoking to more seasoned vapers.
“We’re taking things that are already FDA-approved for inhalation, adding nicotine and flavor and giving you a less harmful way of satisfying nicotine cravings for people who are smokers,” said Woods. “Even for people who aren’t smokers, we can provide non-nicotine options for them.”
“Instead of the thousands of harmful ingredients that are found in traditional cigarettes, an electronic cigarette is basically liquid that’s vaporized with some flavoring in it,” said Davidson.
Along the line of vaping supplies, the liquid carried at Saratoga Vapes have child-proof caps and customers can find a variety of products on the shelves from entry-level kits for beginners and more advanced vapors and tanks as well.
Davidson and Woods are former smokers who say e-cigarettes helped them curb their nicotine cravings. Because you control how much or how little nicotine you want in your e-cigarette, the business owners say it satisfies the habit.
“That’s why a lot of people who struggle with the more traditional ways of quitting smoking, like the gum or the patch, prefer electronic cigarettes,” said Davidson. “It’s about replacing the habit with something that’s not nearly as bad for you.”
Aside from featuring vaping supplies, Saratoga Vapes boasts couches, tables, a large TV and a tasting area, so customers are encouraged to hang out and relax. The last Saturday of every month, the store will feature live music performances and host a “cloud competition,” where vapers compete to see who can blow the biggest cloud of vapor.
“We want people to not feel rushed and what we’re pushing for is great customer service,” said Woods. “That’s a lot of the reason why we opened the store…that’s what we’re striving for. We want you to leave here not with what we want you to have, but what you want to have. Something customized how you want it to be, whether its flavor, clouds, size of the device, the looks of it, or anything and we want you to fully understand it when you leave.”
With customer service in mind, Davidson and Woods hired a knowledgeable staff that are experienced vapers and can help educate customers about the hobby in general.
“I use that term a lot – hobby – it becomes a hobby more than anything else once you get into it,” said Davidson. “We want people to have a place that’s not just a retail store, but a place where you can talk to people who are also into vaping and share experiences.”
While Saratoga Vapes has only been open a little over a month, Davidson and Woods already have some goals for the future. The duo says by this time next year, they hope to have a second location open and have their 18 different Saratoga Vapes liquids carried in 5 to 10 locations. It’s currently carried at Tobacco World in South Glens Falls and at Saratoga Vapes, of course.
Aside from business goals, more importantly, the two hope to help others to curb their cravings for traditional cigarettes.
“With both of us being former smokers, this is a life changer and a game changer for us,” said Woods. “It worked for us and we want to share that with people.”
Saratoga Vapes is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday.