By Maureen Werther
With the holiday season at hand in, businesses in downtown Saratoga Springs are readying their shops and restaurants to welcome visitors.
Many downtown businesses have long been part of well-attended events such as the Victorian Streetwalk and Christmas tree lighting, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Restaurant Week. There are also new businesses and new owners of existing businesses who are eager to become a part of seasonal festivities.
Impressions of Saratoga among the businesses that has been part of the holiday scene since 1978. Maryanne Barker, co-owner and past president of the Downtown Business Association, stressed the importance of bringing people into the downtown area to shop, dine and be entertained.
“All of our employees are local. We pay rent and we purchase as much inventory locally as we can,” she said. Dollars that stay in the city help to maintain the vibrant local economy. Her new business partner is Maddy Zanetti, who started working at Impressions as a teenager. The team has some new events planned for the upcoming season.
One of them is a shopping night dedicated solely to local teachers.
“This was Maddy’s idea,” said Barker. “We are going to offer finger foods from local food partners and tastings from local artisanal producers of hard cider,” she said. Teachers will have the store to themselves to enjoy some pampering while they browse and shop through the store. There will also be a raffle and door prizes.
Zanetti said Impressions will be hosting other groups throughout the season. Working in concert with the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau, they are going to host a similar event in early December for a group of about 80 people from out of the area. Zanetti echoed Barker’s comments about the importance of stimulating local shopping and dining, noting that at least $80 of every $100 dollars spent in town, stays in town.
Visitors returning for events like Small Business Saturday and the Victorian Streetwalk will notice some differences to the downtown scene.
This year marks the first holiday season for Crafters’ Gallery’s new owner Christina Lowes. She took over the business this year from Roger Goldsmith, who sold it to Lowes after a 25-year run on Broadway.
Lowes closed briefly for renovations in January and February, re-opening with a fresh new look and some new additions to the inventory that includes sterling silver and natural stone jewelry, women’s clothing and accessories, and arts and crafts from an array of local artisans.
Since she re-opened, Lowes said that the accolades keep coming in. “People are struck by the ambiance and the lighter, brighter feel of the place,” she said. Some of her new product lines include Dancing Winds jewelry, a line of fashion and natural stone earrings, as well as a line of wood laser-cut earring that will be featured in their holiday gift guide.
The framing component of Crafters’ Gallery has historically done well throughout the holiday season. People look for keepsakes, photos and artwork to be framed as gifts. Lowes recently expanded the framing operation to include working with local businesses, offering framed artwork for their office walls.
Crafters’ Gallery offers free gift-wrap, something that takes on added importance during the shopping season.
“There is something for every pocketbook and budget at Crafters’ Gallery. People rave over our pricing, especially since we are located on Broadway,” she said.
Plans for the upcoming holiday season also include offering treats and beverages during the Victorian Streetwalk.
She takes her inherited role of overseeing and maintaining the nearby Santa’s Workshop seriously. That job includes stocking the workshop, ensuring that there are plenty of candy canes and other goodies on hand throughout the busy season.
Santa’s Workshop, which underwent a makeover last year, courtesy of BOCES, is ready for Santa and Mrs. Claus, who will visit with children at the tiny headquarters on Broadway.
“Saratoga has so many unique boutiques that you can’t find elsewhere,” said Talia Cass, director of marketing for the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau.
Shops like Hatsational, Spoken Boutique, and A Silver Breeze, offer clothing, accessories and jewelry. Other shops like Green Conscience on Church Street offer eco-friendly bedding and other home products.
The shopping in downtown Saratoga runs the gamut from clothing to culinary items; home design to home-cooking; artwork at the Saratoga Marketplace on Broadway; first-edition books at Lyrical Ballad on Phila Street.
Restaurants, bars, bistros and cafes do not disappoint. Some new additions this season include R&R Kitchen + Bar on Phila Street in the former home of Seven Horse Pub.
On Broadway, a newer restaurant is Braeburn’s. The circular leather booths and long bar offer a respite from a busy day of tracking down holiday gifts.
For those whose travels have taken them afield of Broadway, there’s the eclectic pub fare offered by the chef Matt Weekes of Henry Street Taproom.
Hamlet and Ghost at 24 Caroline St. completed a complete renovation following a destructive fire last November. It has re-opened with an expanded menu.
The best way for people to truly discover Saratoga may be to come to the city for an afternoon or a weekend.
For a listing of shops, restaurants and hotels, visit www.discoversaratoga.org or www.saratoga.com.