Liquor store closing shows Spa City’s change

If you want to know how Saratoga Springs is changing, try driving down West Avenue.
A farm off West Avenue in Saratoga Springs, March 26, 2015.
A farm off West Avenue in Saratoga Springs, March 26, 2015.

If you want to know how Saratoga Springs is changing, try driving down West Avenue.

The two-lane straightaway linking Route 9N and Route 50 was once quiet enough to be bicycle-friendly, but in the past 15 years or so it’s grown into a commercial corridor that doesn’t quite rival Broadway — but is in second place, unambiguously.

So it’s big news when land at a key corner comes up for sale.

That’s just happened. D’Andrea’s Liquor Store at Route 29 and West Avenue has closed. The store was a quirky local institution, in an old cement block building that an artist painted in a style that shimmers of late 1960s, around the time the store opened.

Owner Faust D’Andrea, at age 83, has decided to call it a career. The bourbon and vodka supply was sold off at clearance prices in January, the store closed, and an informal “for sale” sign went up at the edge of the parking lot a couple of weeks ago.

“The property has become more valuable than the business. There will be no trouble selling,” said Joe D’Andrea, who once worked in real estate for the federal government and is helping his quieter brother with the property sale.

Certainly the corner sees enough traffic. The state Department of Transportation says nearly 12,000 vehicles a day pass through that corner on Route 29, while an average of more than 14,500 vehicles pass on West Avenue.

Those are the sort of traffic numbers that lead to frustrating waits and even talk of widening the road — something that’s going to be much easier to jaw about than do, given how close some buildings are to the road.

D’Andrea’s shared the corner with a Stewart’s Shop, a Mobil gas-convenience store and a Rite Aid drugstore so busy that the corporation wants to rebuild it to make it larger. So I doubt it will be hard to sell, either — though there are only 1.3 acres and the site is hemmed in to the west by the U.S. Post Office.

Joe and Faust, by the way, are two of 13 children who grew up in the city’s omnipresent D’Andrea clan, the children of a Church Street grocer and his wife. The most famous of the clan is Bobby D’Andrea, who represented the city in the state Assembly from 1974 to 2001 and set a high standard, as far as how many events one politician can hit in a single day.

There’s no reason to think West Avenue isn’t going to keep getting busier, as more land gets redeveloped.

An apartment complex with a restaurant has just opened at the northern edge of the corridor, opposite the 1 West Ave. medical building.

At the far south end, the Saratoga YMCA is planning to expand and could someday build on its West Avenue frontage, which is now wooded.

Just across the road from the YMCA is the Pitney Farm, a wide-open, 120-acre vista the city and Saratoga PLAN plan to purchase and preserve, since it is one of the last pieces of agriculture in the city.

It’s corn cropland, really, and has nothing to do with the city’s chief agricultural industry, horses.

So here’s an irony: What is perhaps the city’s last farm would be sitting cheek by jowl with the city’s fastest-growing commercial corridor.

It will be interesting to see how that works out.

Stephen Williams is a Gazette reporter. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. He can be reached at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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