By Erin Silk
Caffé Lena, America’s oldest continuingly
operating folk coffee house located at 47 Phila
St. in Saratoga Springs is getting a facelift.
When the building was purchased in 1998,
plans for expansion were far off as the café
went about its business of promoting “good Folk
Since 1960,” where legendary artists like Bob
Dylan and Ani DiFranco launched their careers.
“There was always a dream of adding an
elevator to be able to open up the second
floor , but never a dedicated staff member to
help make it happen,” said Associate Director
Dianne Winter, a financial manager who
was brought on staff in May of 2013 who is
charged with raising money for the renovation
“We’re in the ‘quiet-non-quiet’ phase of raising money,” said Winter, who speaks excitedly about what the plans for expansion mean for guests and performers alike.
Winter promises that Caffé Lena’s funky vibe will stay true and guests can still expect the cozy exposed brick and warm colors to remain, however she hopes it will be a “more comfy and accessible entertainment experience for the audience and entertainers.”
Besides updating Caffé Lena’s look, much of the renovation will be structural to bring the building up to code, including adding ADA-compliant restrooms and shoring up the foundation.
The café’s theater space will be also reorganized to include an artist “green room,” a volunteer room, a kitchen and two new office spaces.
But the biggest improvements will be an expanded listening room which will go from seating 85 guests to 105, and the stairway and elevator that will open up to a proper entryway and lobby.
With 100 percent participation by Caffé Lena’s board of directors, Winter said they are encouraged to reach their goal of $1.5 million. Some $1.2 million of that will be used for renovation. The remaining $250,000 is earmarked for an endowment for future needs and booking artists.
“We’re at 8 to 10 percent of our goal at this early stage,” said Winter.
Artists who have been a part of the café’s history are also lending a hand in fundraising efforts. “Performers are really jazzed about what we’ve done and the want to help us keep the dream alive,” said Winter.
Caffé Lena’s recently released a “live at Lena’s” CD and coffee table book detailing the folk café’s rich history. The café has been collaborating fundraising efforts with community stakeholders like Skidmore College, One Caroline Bistro and the newly-opened Northshire Bookstore on Broadway.
guests will soon enter Caffé Lena through a new entrance on Henry Street while the old Phila Street entrance will host more green space with plans for a bench and statue for an inviting park-like feel for customers.
The renovation project won’t disrupt the soulful folk shows that Caffé Lena is famous for. Winters expects to keep bringing in sought after musicians and actors even as plans to enlarge the cafés listening room take shape in 2015.
For more information on upcoming shows or to make a donation to the renovation project, visit caffelena.org.