Mexican Radio has not yet opened in Schenectady, but it’s already spicing up downtown.
The old Imperial building has been transformed in less than a week from a 26,000-square-foot brick giant to a vibrant standout in the heart of downtown. Painters have given the three-story building at 325 State St. a base coat of green paint with red detail and yellow trim. But by the time the restaurant is ready to open just after the new year, the final coat will actually be more of a yellowish green, says co-owner Lori Selden.
“It’s going to be a series of colors,” she said. “The green is our base coat, and we will be putting a coat of yellow on top of it so that it has a Verdigris look to it. The
cornices will be two different colors of brown. The pilasters will be yellow. The windows are going to be blue. You’re just seeing a little hint of it now, but when it’s done, it will be festive.”
The final look will be little surprise to anyone who’s visited Mexican Radio’s other locations in New York City and Hudson.
The Mexican Radio NYC storefront stands out even amidst the vibrancy of city life. The old brick building is painted red with a stripped wood facade and two colorful signs complete with a guitar-playing lizard.
Mexican Radio Hudson is also housed in an old brick building. In addition to its deep red and bright purple trim, the Hudson building has a large mural painted on one side depicting red, yellow and blue buildings, a pink cobblestone road, bright blue sky, and — of course — lizards playing accordions, guitars, trumpets and violins.
“We have a few renderings of our Schenectady look bumping around, but nothing is finalized yet,” said Selden, who owns the restaurants with her partner, Mark Young.
She previously said the interior of the 200-seat restaurant would have a Mexican and Spanish Colonial feel to it, where “pretty much anything goes color-wise.”
“Mexico is all about bright colors, so our Mexican Radios get festive paint jobs,” said Selden.
Schenectady Principal Planner Christine Primiano said the city approved the restaurant’s color scheme during site plan approval a while ago.
“We’re not very strict on color schemes,” she said.
Selden and Young purchased the building at State Street and Broadway for $425,000 last year and are pouring $3 million into renovations.
Built in 1865, the building started as a newsroom, but is best known as the Imperial, an upscale women’s specialty store older residents remember as having a posh, big-city feel. In 1981, the Imperial closed and a gift and toy store opened there briefly before the Capital District Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. took over the building until last year.
Aside from a funky paint job, another interesting aspect of the Imperial building’s new life as a Mexican Radio is a ghost sign on the side of the building facing the Amtrak station. Vintage advertisements for Uneeda Biscuit and Boston One Price Clothing Store mark one side of the building, and the new owners have no plans of getting rid of them, despite an Oct. 4 report on a blog stating otherwise.
Selden said she and Young have always liked old buildings and are very big into preservation.
“That ghost sign is staying up,” she said.
“Overall,” she continued, “people have been really supportive, and they’re excited, especially now that the paint is going up.”