City businesses to celebrate with two festivals

Two festivals on Saturday will serve as a celebration of triumph for local businesses.

Two festivals on Saturday will serve as a celebration of triumph for local businesses.

At the Upper Union Street Harvest Fest, the business district will also celebrate its 10th anniversary of turning a collection of somewhat deteriorating stores into a popular shopping district.

On Jay Street, the new Jay Fest will also serve as the launch party for one business owner’s book about his coffeehouse.

Marc Renson, co-owner of Ambition, has gotten his memoir published. He self-published last year before the book was picked up by a small press.

At a glance

A look at some of the activities planned for Saturday:

• Jay Fest: Noon to 5 p.m., wine tastings, cooking demonstrations, live music, pumpkin painting, balloon artist

• Upper Union Street Harvest Fest: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., live music, artists, pony rides, petting zoo, charity benefits

He wrote in “Is the Coffee Fresh?” that as a young man with dyslexia he had never imagined he would manage to write a book about his eccentric customers and his evolving philosophy about how to run a coffeehouse.

He’s thrilled to have the book published.

“This is the national release party,” he said.

Jay Fest will run from noon to 5 p.m. with wine tastings, cooking demonstrations from Schenectady County Community College, psychic readings, art and live music.

Breast cancer survivors will be able to sign Pinky the Pink Minivan, from 99.5 The River. The radio station will destroy the minivan at the end of the month as a symbolic act against breast cancer. October is “Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”

For children, there will be pumpkin painting and a balloon artist.

On Upper Union Street, business owners are enjoying their own triumph. Before they formed a business district to improve their corridor 10 years ago, the area was going “steadily downhill,” Union Aquarium owner Paul Sartoris said.

“The buildings were going to heck, my own included. I’m not exonerating myself,” he said. “Now, it’s really a huge change — if you ever look at the front of my building as compared to where it used to be … it’s incredible.”

Metroplex offered matching grants to business owners who wanted to fix up their facades, and the city and Metroplex helped pay for streetscape work.

“I think that also has done an awful lot. You walk up the street now and it seems like an area. It’s all married together,” Sartoris said.

It’s not that business owners didn’t care before — they cared enough to organize a group and begin planning together. But until the ball got rolling, individual business owners seemed reluctant to take steps on their own, particularly expensive steps like facade renovations.

“It was, no one was making you look bad,” Sartoris said. “No one was doing anything. If you live in a trash heap and things go downhill around you, you don’t even notice. You might even contribute to it.”

Now the business owners are such a tight-knit group that they all pitch in for festivals. The basket of raffle items for the Harvest Fest includes items from every store — and Sartoris didn’t have to “badger” anyone to get a donation.

“It’s amazing. It’s really a huge change,” he said. “Everybody works together. Everybody contributes.”

The festival will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. There will be live bands — the featured band is Skip Parsons’ Clarinet Marmalade Quartet, performing at Northeastern Fine Jewelry from 1 to 3 p.m.

There will be dozens of artists, both on the sidewalks and displaying in Sow’s Ear Gallery.

There are so many restaurants in the district that the organizers decided not to allow any outside food vendors.

“It’s virtually a global dining row, and regardless of the weather, Upper Union Street has over a dozen indoor/outdoor restaurant choices,” business district Executive Director Nell Burrows said in a press release.

The farmers market will include prepared food, from cupcakes and kettle corn to honey and maple syrup.

For children, there will be pony rides to benefit the Upper Union Street Scholarship Fund, a petting zoo of baby farm animals, face painting, crafts, and many other activities.

The fest will also serve as the kickoff for the Toys for Tots campaign, but that won’t be the only charity getting support Saturday.

Sondra’s Fine Jewelry will collect new toys for Toys for Tots and new coats for children affected by the floods in Schoharie County. The store will also sell pink hair extensions to benefit breast cancer awareness.

Hair Razors will also sell hair extensions for breast cancer awareness, while Domini Salon will sell feather hair extensions to benefit breast cancer awareness and Rotterdam Flood Relief.

Union Aquarium will collect donations for the Animal Protective Foundation.

Categories: Business

Leave a Reply