SCHENECTADY — In its 225th year, the brick storefront at 35 N. Ferry St. in the Stockade neighborhood is getting a new look but will retain its longtime identity as Arthur’s Market.
Owner Haley Priebe has progressed significantly with renovations that will make the inside space brighter and more open. She’s not far enough along to set an opening date — there’s still a lot to do and still a little thing called COVID-19 to worry about — but she hopes to be at least partially open for business by the end of September, if only for takeout coffee.
She and her fiance have lived in the Stockade for a few years now, and will move from Washington Avenue into the larger of the two apartments upstairs from Arthur’s when the overhaul is complete.
Priebe, 32, is a Connecticut native who works in digital marketing. She reconnected with a high school acquaintance several years ago when both were working in New York City; when he moved to Schenectady to start his own business, she relocated too. They’re now engaged.
PETER R. BARBER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Haley Priebe shows the front window configuration on her computer at Arthur’s Market she is rennovating in The Stockade Wednesday, July 8, 2020.
Running a neighborhood market/cafe/meeting place had been a later-in-life ambition of hers. She saw Arthur’s, a landmark and institution in her adopted neighborhood, as an opportunity to realize the dream sooner, and bought the property in December 2018.
Earlier this week, she told The Daily Gazette about her plan for Arthur’s — to make it a place where the community can sit and eat or drink, inside and out, with a selection of prepared foods to take away and a small but wide array of items for sale on the shelves.
“On the grocery end of things, I don’t imagine being anybody’s weekly shop,” Priebe said. “But from a neighborhood perspective, I’d like to provide some quality items and convenience.”
She’s still deciding how to stock her shelves and will readjust once she sees what works.
The merchandise could be mass-market items or locally produced artisan goods; as long as they’re high quality, she’ll sell either or both.
Likewise, the beer cooler will contain a couple of mass-market brews and a lot of craft beer cans, because people like both.
Meanwhile, prepared takeaway foods could range from soups and salads to take-and-bake items. The wide demographic range in the city opens a lot of options, Priebe believes.
The eat-in offerings also have yet to be determined. Her plan is to hire a chef who has more knowledge than she does and draw up a menu collaboratively.
“I love to cook and bake at home but I don’t have that kind of commercial experience,” she said. “My role in the kitchen might be as a line cook.”
Cider and wine will be served, along with beer, most likely from fiance Harry Whalen’s Great Flats craft brewery in downtown Schenectady.
The market space is now receiving a significant cosmetic and functional update.
Priebe wants to open it up to light and fresh air. New windows with opening transoms were stacked up inside this week, ready to be installed to replace the plate glass windows. A back door onto the gravel parking lot — soon to be a garden patio dining space — adds cross ventilation.
Pieces of the past remain, such as the exposed brick and the scars that show where two buildings were joined to make one.
They’ve unearthed a few old items, such as the stone cistern under the kitchen floor and a few old bottles in the basement. Priebe has collected other vintage fixtures on her own, including bentwood chairs and the vintage cubbyhole organizer from an old hardware store in East Syracuse.
“I have found so many useful things on Facebook Marketplace,” she said. “The shutters I found at the Fort Plain Antiques & Salvage.”
Interior seating will depend on the course of world events, at least in the short term.
“I’m planning on having a communal table down the center here, which I know is not a very COVID-friendly concept but I’m trying not to design with what’s hopefully a temporary situation in mind,” Priebe said.
“Then along the windows I’m planning to have two or four [table]tops and a round table with window seats in the corner.”
There’s an unavoidable question surrounding the project: How does Priebe make it work after a rotating cast of operators came and went in the last two decades?
The building has been a market since construction in 1795, and the current incarnation — Arthur’s — was begun in 1952 by the late Arthur Polachek. By the time he retired in 2003, Polachek was a beloved figure in the neighborhood, and his market an institution. But the building had three owners between Polachek and Priebe, and the ground floor market had four operators, one of whom ran it for two separate stints.
Priebe said she didn’t know what went wrong, as she’d never been to Arthur’s until the last few years.
“I think what has been done well, that I would like to build on, is that the owners before me have maintained a focus on community,” she said.
‘“I’m hoping that surface-level changes as well as the functionality of the building will be a game-changer as far as attracting people.”