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Archive for ‘December, 2011’

PJ’s Bar-B-Q Constructing Addition that will Allow it to Stay Open Year-Round

Originally Published in the Saratogian: December 27, 2011. Click here to read online. 

By SUZANNA LOURIE

SARATOGA SPRINGS — For almost 28 years, PJ and Carolyn Davis have been serving customers the smoky taste of summer at PJ’s Bar-B-Q on Route 9.

But right now, a week into winter, passersby will notice a new structure erected around the ’50s-style barbecue joint — one that will allow it to be open year-round in 2012.

Earlier this year, PJ Davis announced his plans to turn the business into a year-round franchise. He said construction on the restaurant’s addition was supposed to start in October but was delayed until December.

“Luckily, the weather has been very conducive to working outside so everything is on schedule,” he said.

If all goes according to plan, construction is expected to wrap in early April, and Davis hopes the new space will open in April or May.

The restaurant’s make-over won’t stray too far from the casual ’50s vibe and laid-back atmosphere that keeps customers coming back to PJ’s year after year. It will use the same footprint — 3,000 square feet — but people will order their favorite pulled pork or grilled chicken sandwich inside instead of outside.

“Instead of having to walk up to the counter outside, that area will be enclosed,” Davis said.

The outdoor tables will remain and the original indoor dining room will be expanded to seat slightly more than its current 50.

The Davises will return to Saratoga Springs from their winter home in Florida in early January.

“To start off, we’re not going to spend the entire winter like we have been in Florida,” Davis said from his home in the South. “But our son, Johnny, will eventually take over the reins of the business, which will allow us to come down here more in the winter.”

During the first year of business, Davis plans to assist Johnny and the PJ’s staff to make the transition to a year-round business.

“One thing we’re really looking forward to is being open during the holidays,” he said. “A lot of places offer smoked hams and turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and we’re definitely going to be a big player in that game. We’ve got the smokers, and people will be able to take away their holiday dinner, smoked turkeys, hams, pork shoulders and brisket.”

Even after their son takes over in Saratoga, the Davises don’t plan to retire. The husband and wife, who have been in the barbecue business since 1975, hope to expand PJ’s Bar-B-Q into a national franchise.

“We’ve already got a franchise license in New York,” Davis said earlier this year. “You never know where it could go.”

In the past couple of years, the Davises spent time on a taste tour of America’s favorite barbecue destinations — Memphis, Texas, Kansas City, the Carolinas — sampling what each one has to offer.

Now, their strategy is to offer the best from each region under one roof.

“We want to take that countrywide,” he said.

Before extending PJ’s reach across the United States, the Davises intend to complete the construction that will allow it to stay open even after the weather turns cold.

“I think it’s going to be great for our customers who are sad to see us close in September,” Carolyn Davis said.

PJ’s Bar-B-Q will begin hiring full-time, part-time and seasonal employees this January. For more information, go to www.pjsbarbq.com.

Man Assaulted Outside of Saratoga Springs Bar Now in Stable Condition at Albany Medical Center

Originally Published in the Saratogian: Dec. 26, 2011. Click here to read online.

By SUZANNA LOURIE

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The victim who sustained a serious head injury when he was assaulted early Saturday morning — allegedly by a Putnam Den employee — has been upgraded from critical to stable condition at Albany Medical Center, Saratoga Springs Police Department Lt. John Catone said Monday afternoon.

Police have not yet released the name of the victim, but confirmed he is a 35-year-old male who lives in Ballston Spa.

“He’s responding well,” Catone said Monday.

He did not know when the man would be released from Albany Medical Center or the extent of his head injury.

The alleged assailant, 26-year-old Putnam Den employee Adam McInerney of Stillwater, was working security at the entrance to the bar when the fight broke out on Putnam Street.

City police responded to the scene at 1:27 a.m. Saturday and found the victim unconscious with an apparent head injury. He was airlifted to Albany Medical Center.

After conducting an investigation, officers arrested McInerney, who appeared to be responsible for the injuries sustained by the victim. McInerney was then taken into custody and charged with second-degree assault, a felony.

According to his Facebook profile, McInerney has been employed by the U.S. Marine Corps.

He was arraigned in City Court and sent to Saratoga County Jail after his arrest Saturday. Bail was set at $10,000 cash or $20,000 bond.

The investigation is being led by Saratoga Springs Police Sgt. Tim Sicko and Investigator John Kelly.

The Healing Power of Literature: Skidmore Students Bring Books to Children

Originally Published in the Saratogian: December 25, 2011. Click here to read online.

By SUZANNA LOURIE

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A class of first-year Skidmore College students delivered boxes of holiday cheer to children staying at Albany Medical Center when they donated more than 1,100 books to the Ronald McDonald Family Room earlier this month.

“The most important thing I took away from this class is that it takes a community to raise a literate leader,” said senior Becky Bui, the peer-mentor assigned to work with students in Rebecca Johnson’s “Reading Minds,” a course about the history and power of literacy. “When we do things like the book drive, it benefits the entire community.”

Johnson taught Reading Minds as one of this year’s Scribner Seminars, a group of multi-disciplinary, discussion-based courses for new students as part of the college’s First Year Experience program.

Although the course includes reading to preschoolers as a service-learning component, Johnson added the book drive as another service project. It was based on a personal experience she had at Albany Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in the summer of 2010, when she had her twin boys.

“I would take my 20-month-old daughter to the Ronald McDonald Family Room to play and to read to, but I noticed there was only a small bookcase with some pretty old books to choose from,” Johnson said. “It stuck in my mind because the NICU shares the family room with patients staying at the children’s hospital, which has kids up to 17-years-old.”

The opportunity to make a difference arose when Johnson, an assistant psychology professor, was assigned to teach the Reading Minds, a seminar about the importance of literacy in today’s society, seminar to 16 first-year students this fall. The class set a goal, to collect enough books to help replace some of the older books in the Ronald McDonald Family Room and to expand the selection to include adolescent books.

They met and exceeded that goal, generating enough books for children at the hospital to take home when they leave.

“Reading is one of the things a child in the hospital can do so we do go through a lot of books” said Lori Emery, the operations manager for Ronald McDonald House Charities, with whom Johnson worked on the drive. “With the valuable contribution from Skidmore, we can offer not only the books in the family room, but there are enough for the kids to take them bedside and keep them to have a special book to hold onto.”

The book drive process started before Thanksgiving, when Johnson and her students sent a college-wide advisory to faculty, staff and students asking them to purchase a copy of a favorite childhood book to donate to the cause.

With more than half the semester’s coursework behind them, the students in Reading Minds had come to understand some of the seminar’s core concepts, including how the brain learns to read and the importance of literacy in Western society.

“I never realized how lucky I was when I was read to as a little kid,” student Emily Defiore said. “The class placed an emphasis on how essential it is to be read to when you’re young because it helps you grow up so much, both cognitively and emotionally. And it felt really good to be able to give more kids that opportunity with the books we raised at the book drive.”

The students organized the week-long drive, making posters and taking turns sitting at the collection table as they watched the books begin to pile up.

“It was really fun to sit at the table — when I was there the president of the college came and donated,” said Madison Dipman, another student. “It just made me feel really good, knowing you’re helping so many people.”

The end result was a total of 1,111 books, 1078 donated by college students, faculty, staff and other organizations and 33 purchased by the class from a $75 cash donation.

“We couldn’t be happier with the outcome,” Johnson said. “The members of the Skidmore community were so generous with their donations, from giving one book to five or even an entire bin of books.”

Once word of the book drive reached the Saratoga community, members of the Friends of the Saratoga Springs Public Library also pitched in by dropping off a carton of books. Other donations came from the preschool class at Greenberg Child Care Center on Skidmore’s campus and the college library.

“The donation will help us get through at least a year of providing children’s books at the hospital,” Emery said. “This is going to make a big difference for kids who I think are somewhat trapped in their situation, having to be there at the hospital when they wouldn’t choose to be. Books are a great way to help them get away from that, to escape for a moment. We’re very grateful.”

Sweet success: Jo-Ann’s Candy House in Wilton celebrates 30 years in business

Originally Published in The Saratogain: Sunday, December 25, 2011. Click Here To Read Online.

By SUZANNA LOURIE

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The colorful candy display at Jo-Ann’s Candy House on Route 50 in Wilton. (ERIC JENKS/photos@saratogian.com)

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Whether it’s the smell of homemade chocolate, the colorful display of candy or both, it’s hard to deny the appeal of Jo-Ann’s Candy House located in The Shoppes at Wilton plaza off of Route 50.

Now celebrating the local shop’s 30th holiday season, owner Gene Bruno knows a thing or two about how to create a successful shopping experience for his customers.

“We try to hit all the senses with the music, the display and the smell,” Bruno said while gesturing at the rows of candy. “It’s the total experience, and we’re always looking for ways to upgrade.”

Since first opening in the old Pyramid Mall (now the site of the Wilton Square box stores) in 1978, Bruno and his wife, April, say they have continued to run the business the way they originally intended — with quality products, great service and an emphasis on family.

As kids, the Brunos’ two children, Justina and Joseph, spent a lot of time at the shop after school, working behind the counter when they were old enough.

“We grew up here,” said 21-year-old Justina, a 2008 Saratoga Springs High School graduate. “I can’t imagine life without it.”

And she won’t have to. Justina recently began training to take over the business so the family tradition can be kept alive for another generation. Her brother still helps out at the store but has made a career teaching at Maple Avenue Middle School.

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The Bruno Family — Joseph, April, Gene and Justina — stands behind the counter at Jo-Ann’s Candy House in Wilton. The local business is celebrating its 30th holiday season. (ERIC JENKS/photos@saratogian.com)

“I always say to people, ‘I don’t know if I would be happy right now not knowing that one of us — my brother or I — was going to take it over,’ ” Justina said.

For now, Justina will continue working part-time at the shop until Gene and April are ready to take a step back from the business, which has become an extension of the Bruno family.

“We’re ecstatic she wants to take over,” Gene said. “We feel we’re very entrenched in Saratoga. Both my children were raised here, and even though we’re not downtown, we feel like we’re very Saratoga.”

Jo-Ann’s Candy House could be considered the longest-running business at Exit 15. It was, however, forced to close for three years after the Pyramid Mall was torn down in 1999.

“We were in the mall for 21 years until it came down,” Bruno said. “We always knew we wanted to reopen, so we kept looking for a space.”

Finally, in 2003 the location at The Shoppes at Wilton became available and Jo-Ann’s Candy reopened its doors.

“It was horrible,” longtime customer Mandy Dennis said of the three-year hiatus. “You couldn’t get candy at Christmas anywhere.”

This year