With the Candy Co. of Saratoga Springs’ future uncertain, owner Dawn Oesch was in a dark place last summer.
Though her storefront location on Washington Street was secure for the short term, the massive project aimed at turning the historic Rip Van Dam into a modern 176-room hotel and 200-seat banquet facility weighed heavily on her. She feared the project would displace her small ground-floor kitchen and that when faced with finding a new one, she might not find a suitable location downtown.
“And then in June, I get this phone call,” she recalled recently.
On the other end was Mike Fitzgerald Sr., owner of Saratoga Sweets in Halfmoon, with a zany offer to combine forces. Fitzgerald was ready to step back from his business, but wanted a place for his son, Mike Fitzgerald Jr., to continue their 26-year legacy.
After some discussion, Saratoga Sweets Candy Co. was created. The new company will feature the best of both candy makers in Saratoga Springs and — for the time being — at Oesch’s location on in the heart of downtown.
The younger Fitzgerald is coming on as the company’s lead confectioner and will toil in a kitchen being built in 2,500-square feet of former office space on the third floor of the building where Saratoga Candy Co. is now a tenant. Oesch will continue to run the kitchen on the first floor, but add into her retail business the products formerly made by Saratoga Sweets — including the popular peppermint pig.
“It’s probably one of the best things that’s happened to me,” she said of the union, which neither candy maker cared to call a merger. “You couldn’t ask to be put with a better business.”
Seeing what works
Saratoga Sweets officially closed its operation in Halfmoon as of the new year. Soon after, the family began hauling equipment from a space roughly twice the size of their new kitchen in Saratoga Springs. Oesch, who opened her small shop 17 years ago in a former Domino’s Pizza location, said her retail operation will stay put at least through the end of August.
Once the Rip Van Dam renovation gets underway, she may have to find another location to sell candy.
Without a kitchen, she said a move could have compromised her business. But with one now secured, she’s undaunted by the potential of having to swap storefronts.
“Which can be done,” she said. “Lots of stores have their kitchen one place and their retail in another.”
By February, the upstairs kitchen is expected to be operational. After that, they’ll work to see what works and what doesn’t for the combined business.
“From there, we’ll figure it out,” she said. “I could very well stay here. It’s about having options and that’s all I can ask for.”
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