Downtown Saratoga buzz may be caffeine
New coffee spot joins distinct crowd
SARATOGA SPRINGS Call it Javatoga.
Another coffee shop is opening in downtown Saratoga Springs today, bringing the total to at least four dedicated coffee places in the Broadway vicinity, plus one bustling outlier on West Avenue.
Who’s drinking all that coffee? In part, it’s young people who are more frequently staying in the Capital Region for jobs after graduating from college, as well as retirees who make their home in Saratoga Springs, said Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce.
“There’s two segments of our population that are on the rise,” Shimkus said. “Clearly, young people and coffee shops go together.”
And retirees enjoy the shops as a social gathering place.
There seem to be lots of people strolling around downtown craving caffeine.
“I think we have a more active downtown, so there’s more people walking around on a day-to-day basis,” said Mike Brown, owner of Saratoga Coffee Traders on Broadway.
The city’s 26,000 residents frequent the shops, as well as people who work downtown and those who visit as tourists.
“I think there’s enough to fulfill the demand,” Brown said. “We might be a little saturated.”
But the numerous coffeehouses can do good business if they differentiate themselves and build a customer base, he and others in the business said.
In business for six years, Brown has made a name for his business as one that uses fair-trade, organic and shade-grown coffee beans. The shop also serves breakfast and lunch and has an old-fashioned candy store in the back.
Each existing coffee shop in Saratoga Springs sets itself apart with a specialty that doesn’t compete with the other shops, said Simon Ouderkirk, SPoT Coffee’s operations manager for the Capital Region.
SPoT Coffee opens today at Market Center on the corner of Railroad Place and Division Street. Its standout offerings include pizzas and breakfast sandwiches, Ouderkirk said.
Uncommon Grounds, the oldest downtown coffee shop, roasts its coffee daily on-site and makes its own bagels. It opened in 1992 on Broadway.
Fortunate Cup on West Avenue is the only local cafe with a drive-through, making it a destination for people who frequent the busy street or work on the growing West Side. It opened in 2008 and has on-site parking and a conference room available for rent.
Starbucks, at the corner of Broadway and Washington Street, is another type of place, with a recognized national brand that stays consistent from store to store. People who want Starbucks, or Dunkin’ Donuts, down the road on South Broadway, may not be patronizing a local joint, said Susan Farnsworth, spokeswoman for the Downtown Business Association.
“You won’t see them in Uncommon Grounds,” Farnsworth said. “Each coffee shop seems to have its own following. They really seem to have their own niche.”
Coffee drinkers may have a favorite haunt, but they usually try out different places, Ouderkirk said.
“They like to drink around,” he said.
Buffalo-based SPoT Coffee aims to spread its name from western New York and also has a lease on a storefront on Glen Street in Glens Falls. The Saratoga Springs location, next to the new Price Chopper supermarket, sports an orange and purple interior and ample windows.
Another Saratoga Springs coffeehouse closed in late June and planned to reopen in the fall but hasn’t done so yet. Virgil’s House of Cards on Henry Street specialized in an old-fashioned social atmosphere, Victorian furniture and simply prepared foods.
In addition to the dedicated coffee shops, Saratoga Springs has at least one eatery that straddles the line between being a coffee place and an upscale bakery. The Chocolate Mill of Glens Falls recently opened a Saratoga Springs location on Broadway. It specializes in gourmet pastries and confections.