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In-the-Biz | Suzanna K. Lourie

Multimedia Journalist | Travel Writer | Content Strategist

Posts tagged ‘In-the-Biz’

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. 


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.

In the Biz: Saratoga Springs to Welcome New Health Foods Store

Originally Published in the Saratogian: December 18, 2011. Click here to read online.




There’s a new business in town for the health-conscious consumers of Saratoga Springs.

This January, Greenfield resident Tina Bakkalapulo will open For Earth’s Sake, a new natural foods store and eco-friendly boutique at 120 West Ave. next to the Fortunate Cup café.

With signs in place and products in stock, Bakkalapulo is ready to open, but unfortunately building construction has forced her to delay the unveiling of For Earth’s Sake until after the holidays.

“It’s disappointing,” Bakkalapulo said. “I have some really cool gifts I hoped to offer for the holidays, but I’m okay with it. We’ll be open soon.”

Bakkalapulo won’t let the last-minute frustrations interfere with the excitement of opening her dream business, a family-owned natural foods shop designed as an extension of the owner’s healthy habits.
“Health food is my passion. It’s how I live — very organic and natural,” Bakkalapulo said. “I imagined a store I would want to shop at — somewhere you could walk in, grab dinner, buy a pair of awesome earrings and grab my skincare products and supplements all at the same time.”

For Earth’s Sake will reflect that one-stop shopping philosophy with a variety of products, including local meats and dairy, eco-friendly gifts and all-natural cosmetics — such a range of goods that Bakkalapulo never expected to carry them all when she first planned the store.

“I was just going to do a health foods store with vitamins, supplements and natural foods, but then I started getting into the cosmetic end of it,” she said. “I gravitated toward how important it is to use natural cosmetics and skincare, and from there it just sort of morphed into something bigger.”

The shop will carry brands of all-natural skincare and cosmetics such as CLEAN cosmetics by Mineral Fusion — with no products more than $29 — and a line for teens called Good For You Girls.

“The cosmetics look just like mainstream makeup — it’s all beautiful stuff without the harsh chemicals,” Bakkalapulo said.


As the mother of two girls, Bakkalapulo is an advocate against the “cancer-causing agents” often found in drugstore beauty products. She will carry nail polish, perfume and lip gloss, with at least two lines geared toward young girls ages 11 and older, at For Earth’s Sake.

Like its cosmetics, all For Earth’s Sake products stay true to the store’s name by treading gently on the environment, including many boutique items that give back with each purchase.

“I started thinking if I was going to sell any retail items I want to be sure they are sustainable and recycled, so I started looking into those kinds of gifts,” Bakkalapulo said. “We carry Sprout watches, which are made out of corn resin and are the coolest-looking watches. They look like Rolexes, but everything is made from wood and every time you buy one, they plant a tree.”

Although other eco-friendly products such as recycled purses and handmade jewelry will also be available, For Earth’s Sake is a health foods store at heart.

In addition to vitamins and supplements, there will be bulk foods, organic groceries, natural frozen foods and gluten-free products, in addition to as many locally sourced items, including meat and dairy products, as Bakkalapulo can manage.

“I’ll offer as much as I can from our local farmers,” she said. “I’m a huge supporter of our local farms and the hard work they do.”

Since moving to the area three years ago, Bakkalapulo has grown to love the land and community around the city and feels confident it is the perfect home for a business like For Earth’s Sake.

“There are a lot of people in Saratoga who are health conscious and concerned about the earth and who recycle,” she said. “I think it’s going to go really well.”

For more information, call 306-6655 or go to ForEarthsSake.com.

For more business news, check out the “In the Biz” blog at inthebizsaratoga.blogspot.com.

Downtown Staple Saratoga Shoe Depot will Close its Doors for Good Dec. 31

Saratoga Shoe Depot, a downtown staple since 1976, will close its doors for good Dec. 31

Originally Published in the Saratogian Newspaper, Print Edition, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011. Click Here to Read Online. 


Saratoga Shoe Depot

Saratoga Shoe Depot at 385 Broadway, a downtown staple since 1976, will close its doors for good Dec. 31. It was sold at auction earlier this month. (ERICA MILLER file photo/emiller@saratogian.com)


SARATOGA SPRINGS — Saratoga Shoe Depot, a downtown business staple since 1976, will close its doors for good Dec. 31.

The announcement comes just weeks after the store at 385 Broadway was sold at auction to Tom Newkirk, owner of Saratoga National Golf Course, for $2 million.

Saratoga Shoe Depot and another Broadway property — a mixed-use building on the corner of Spring Street and Broadway — were originally slated for foreclosure in May, but former owner Frank Panza filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to hold off auctioneers.

Unable to sell the properties, Panza lost the buildings Dec. 2, when they sold at auction for a combined $3 million.

“It’s bittersweet,” Panza said Saturday, “but I’m a firm believer that life is going to take you in a direction and you have the option to be happy or to be sad, and I’m not walking away sad.”

Looking ahead, Panza said he has no specific plans to reopen the Shoe Depot elsewhere and for now is focusing on taking it slow with his wife, Jennifer L. Flynn, while recuperating from the financial and emotional losses.

“We’re not going to relocate, at least right now, but we’re leaving it open because we don’t know the possibilities yet,” he said. “We will definitely do something, I’m just not sure where it will be.”

While Panza plans his next step, the property’s new owner, Newkirk, has apparently reached an agreement with another retail tenant — Frivolous Gal — that will move into the space next year.

Although the owner of Frivolous Gal, a boutique currently located at 18 Division St., was unavailable Saturday evening, an employee confirmed the business would be moving to Broadway, opening some time next spring.

Roughly 10 employees will be out of a job when Saratoga Shoe Depot, which has been in business for more than 35 years, closes its doors at the end of the month.


Longtime employees and customers were the first to be notified of the closing in an email from Panza sent earlier this week.

“My family and I want to say thank you for the way you have treated us,” the message said. “Some folks say retail is a tough racket, and I would tend to agree. It also seems appropriate to mention that 35 years ago I could not imagine how wealthy our hearts would become from something as simple as serving you. From its now deeper bottom we can say Bless You.”

The email also announced a liquidation sale that will feature price cuts on everything in the store.

All jewelry, clothing, footwear, accessories, gifts, toys, furniture (antiques included) will be 20 percent off through Monday; 30 percent off Dec. 19 through 21; 40 percent off Dec. 22 through 24; 50 percent off Dec. 26 through 27; and 60 percent off Dec. 28 through 30.

In the Biz: Feral CrossFit Gym Wants to Pump You Up at High Rock Avenue Facility

Originally Published in the Saratogian: December 11, 2011. Click here to read online. 


SARATOGA SPRINGS — College friends Noah Milstein and Jayson Ball went from workout buddies to business partners in September when they opened Feral CrossFit, a unique strength-training facility.

Although the atypical gym has been flying somewhat under the radar, Milstein and Ball have seen their client base build steadily as more people in the area come to learn and understand what the CrossFit philosophy is all about.

“This is the same training and methodology that the actors did for the movie ‘300,’ ” Milstein said. “The goal is to create people who are maximally fit, so in theory, they should have the capacity to perform any given physical task.”

Founder Greg Glassman opened the first CrossFit gym in 1995. Since then, affiliates have been popping up around the country and the CrossFit regimen has become one of the principal strength and conditioning programs for police agencies, military personnel and professional athletes.

CrossFit gives its franchise gyms flexibility in programming, exercises and class offerings, so it’s rare any two are identical.

Unlike the Albany CrossFit, which owns multiple gyms, including one in Clifton Park, Feral CrossFit in Saratoga Springs is independently owned and operated by Milstein and Ball, certified coaches who pay a fee to use the CrossFit name.

“There’s no guarantee the quality, programming or character will be the same at each gym. There are great CrossFit gyms and there are crappy CrossFit gyms,” Milstein said. “We’re focused here on health, longevity, and we cater to all skill ranges from not being able to do a push-up to trained athletes. You just have to be motivated.”

And you don’t really have a choice but to be motivated when you come to CrossFit.

“You’re not allowed to come in and do your own thing; you’re under our direct coaching


and supervision,” Milstein explained. “We do everything. We want you to work in a way that’s hard for you. It’s all about relative intensity.”

Specifically, CrossFit offers two programs for two basic types of members: the general athlete — someone looking to gain all-around maximum fitness and have fun — and athletes with sport-specific performance and strength goals.

The local CrossFit currently has a group training to become a competitive power-lifting team.

With 3,000 CrossFit-affiliated gyms now established in the country, the program’s popularity has to do with having the supervision of a coach and access to an ever-changing mixture of fitness tools, including power lifting, aerobics, gymnastics and rowing. Milstein and thousands of others have found the variety more exciting and effective than the everyday gym routine.

“I was doing the regular gym thing without any direct coaching or training, which is normative in most gyms,” he said. “It became a chore. I wanted to do something more interesting and it sort of took off from there.”

Milstein and Ball insist that once gym buffs get over the learning curve and understand all of the various exercises and motions, they too will become CrossFit converts.

“Our clients are totally ecstatic about us,” Milstein said. “We haven’t had a lot of visibility, and the people who do know we exist don’t have a concept of how what we do is really different from other gyms and isn’t just a fad fitness thing.”

To get acquainted with the gym and learn the motions, members begin with the $80 “Elements” package, which includes four one-on-one sessions followed by a week of free classes to find out what works for them.

From there, customers can choose monthly memberships for $175; six-month packages at $155 per month; and 12-month memberships at $135 per month. Prices include individual training, unlimited classes and access to the gym outside of class for stretching or other activities.

“Most people like having a prescription and it’s intentionally designed to offer a measurable, scalable prescription based on what people can handle,” Ball said. “Saratoga Springs is a great place for the gym, and the community we’ve got building here is a lot of fun.”


Feral CrossFit is located at 165 High Rock Ave. For more information, rates and schedules, call 774-4880 or visit feralcrossfit.drupalgardens.com.

For more business news, check out reporter Suzanna Lourie’s “In the Biz” blog atinthebizsaratoga.blogspot.com. Lourie can be reached at slourie@saratogian.com.

Buy Local, Save Local: Company’s Card Links Customers, Merchants

Originally Published in the Saratogian: December 11, 2011. Click here to read online. 


Are you in?

That’s the question posed to small businesses by Local Living In, a Ballston Spa-based marketing company geared toward driving local consumers into local businesses.

“Local Living In is more of a concept than an actual company,” founder Juergen Klingenberg said. “It’s designed to cater to and support small businesses by bridging the gap between the local consumer and the merchant.”

The idea for Local Living In developed from a need Klingenberg noticed while running his other business, a small design company called Hound Dog Graphics, located on the Saratoga Springs-Ballston Spa town line.

“We noticed our smaller business clients were struggling with how to best spend their limited marketing dollar,” he said.

Local Living In offers clients a solution. For a $49 monthly membership fee, businesses earn a multimedia marketing package, which includes a business profile on www.LocalLivingIn.com and access to email, Facebook blasts and other Local Living In marketing campaigns.

“We create relationships with media partners, so we buy bulk advertising in the region either in print, TV, radio and we use that to promote the Local Living In program, which, in turn, promotes the merchant,” Klingenberg said. “For a small business, it’s a little investment with a tremendous amount of marketing value.”

Local Living In also offers a Buy Local program that gives consumers an incentive to spend their money in local shops. When making a purchase, customers present the free Buy Local Rewards card at any participating business to receive a Buy Local offer determined by the retailer that could be a special discount or freebie.

“We do email and Facebook campaigns where we highlight a merchant’s Buy Local offer — everything comes back to the Buy Local card,” Klingenberg said. “It’s also a tracking system so if merchants use the card and see that’s how someone came to them, they can track how their ad dollar is being spent.”

When Local Living In first launched in 2010, it included the “pocket communities” of Saratoga Springs and Glens Falls. After amassing more than 5,000 email subscribers in those cities, Klingenberg expanded Local Living In to Ballston Spa, Malta, Glens Falls, Clifton Park and most recently Albany.


“We’re now just getting ready to launch Schenectady and Amsterdam. And hopefully by the end of January we’ll launch Plattsburgh, Syracuse and Burlington, Vt.,” he said.

The more regional businesses that join Local Living In, the more encouraged customers are to use their Buy Local card.

“Rather than having a coupon program only for Saratoga, we say more sales, less hassle,” Klingenberg said. “We want to give consumers the option to use one product — the Buy Local card — instead of having to print out coupons. They can keep the card in their wallet and if they’re traveling, they can still use the card at any participating Buy Local business.”

With the card, customers can capitalize on the business’s Buy Local deals from Broadway to Burlington. Retailers can also update offers whenever they change, like when the stock of items runs out.

“There really isn’t a single other program that operates like this,” Klingenberg said. “There are other directory sites, coupon systems and print media, but what we do is tie them all together.”

Businesses can sign up for two Local Living In membership packages. Businesses that can’t offer giveaways but want to be in the Local Living In directory can choose the $25 monthly option, which includes a basic presence and business listing on the website. The $49 package includes multimedia marketing, social media callouts and email blasts, Klingenberg said.

“It really drives people into your store who otherwise might pass by every day without having a reason to stop in,” Klingenberg said. “We create that reason.”

Customers can sign up for a free Buy Local card at participating businesses or at www.locallivingin.com.