Saratoga County

Saratoga Weekend: Browsing On (and Off) Broadway

Those who know business in Saratoga agree that everyone can find something in the town. That’s the i

Paul O’Donnell has seen his share of shoppers in downtown Saratoga. After all, his Irish-inspired Celtic Treasures store has been sitting on Broadway for 20 years.

He said all kinds of people wander through his door, especially in the summer months when track season is under way. “We get the college kids who want to buy candy bars to grandmothers buying Waterford crystal,” he said. “There’s a little something for everybody.”

If you stroll around Saratoga in the peak of summer, O’Donnell’s words ring true. One of the biggest accessories you’d see are shopping bags. People park them next to their chairs at Circus Cafe. They’re hanging from handles of strollers. They sit nearby while their owners feed the ducks in Congress Park.

Those who know business in Saratoga agree that everyone can find something in the town. That’s the idea behind the “Saratoga flavor” of the shopping options. There’s an eclectic mix of regional chains and mom-and-pop places, but customer service helps keep up a small-town feel.

There are five women’s clothing shops within three blocks of each other, “but they’re all different,” notes Jeff Clark, president of the Downtown Business Association. “They all have a little bit of a different style.”

Erin Finch, a Saratoga resident and manager of dress boutique The Shoppe on Broadway, agrees, saying that every women’s clothing store downtown caters to a different person. She offered her list of stores where she gets “a little bit of everything”: Piper Boutique for clothes; Impressions of Saratoga for gifts and souvenirs; Stella’s of Saratoga for shoes.

Stellar service

Customer service is an important part of shopping in Saratoga. Finch said she tries to get to know her customers so they’re not just another wallet walking through the door. Harvey Fox, of N. Fox Jewelers, said that adds some spice to the downtown flavor.

“Most owners are there in the store and they’re available,” he said. “A customer would come here and get great service.”

Amanda Aberman visited downtown Saratoga for the first time this year from Montreal and said she noticed how employees treat potential customers.

“They’re really friendly here,” she said.

Jillian Spector, from New Jersey, said she likes the area, but believes it’s more of a one-note shopping town. She said she feels she could only buy things in the area for the races at the track. “It’s cute, but preppy here,” she said, fingering a zig-zag patterned scarf from a clothing rack.

Clark, president of the DBA, acknowledges the track brings out a lot of the summer crowd. For some businesses in the area, most of their revenue comes from July, August and September visitors. Fox, of N. Fox Jewelers, estimated the population of the town doubles or triples when the races start. The good weather of this year has left many shop owners “cautiously optimistic” about the potential revenues,” Fox said.

Both Clark and Fox want to clear up what they say is a common misconception that Saratoga is a one-season town.

“We run 12 months out of the year,” Clark said. “We do a very good business year round, but the enhanced business in the summer is what makes it worthwhile financially to the owners.”

The year hasn’t been the busiest that O’Donnell of Celtic Treasures has seen, but he’s looking forward to the coming months.

“It has the makings of a great summer,” he said.

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