Three women are opening businesses for the first time, bringing new life to three vacant storefronts on Schenectady’s eclectic Jay Street Pedestrian Mall.
Bridget Collins recently opened Dames, which offers modern/retro clothes for women of all sizes. Nicole Pardi is bringing juice, smoothies and healthy snacks to downtown with Raw. And Sarah Rhoades is moving out of her small space in Ambition to open Sprinkleista Bakery, featuring custom cakes.
While preparing to open in their new spaces, Collins, Pardi and Rhoades have become friends. They all share the same level of excitement of starting their new ventures and love for downtown Schenectady.
DAMES — 166 Jay St.
Bridget Collins opened the clothing store about two weeks ago and is planning a grand opening sometime in August.
In an interview with The Daily Gazette on Thursday, she immediately pointed to the other two stores opening soon:
“We’re all girls opening and we’re planning to do a fun grand opening all together, like a block party,” she said. “They’re all so cool.”
Dames is a vintage-inspired store but nothing that’s sold there is actually vintage, Collins said. “It’s retro reborn,” she said.
Collins, who lives in Rotterdam, said she was inspired to open the store by her husband, Shaun, because people are always asking her where she buys her clothes and she points them to online stores.
“My husband is my number one support,” she said. “He also owns a business. He gets it finance-wise. He’s been awesome.”
She added that it was an ideal time in her life to start a business with her two young boys now busy with friends and school, freeing up her schedule.
Collins said her goal is to provide women with clothes, from a range of designers including Bettie Page out of California and Seamstress of Bloomsbury out of the United Kingdom, that are more sophisticated.
“The idea of it is a figure of a woman is so charming and so beautiful and clothes today are not as flattering or are too revealing,” she said. “I’m a full-figured woman and I need to have everything locked and loaded. I wanted to provide a store for all shapes and sizes.”
She said so far the store is doing exceptionally well and that the support from neighboring businesses has been tremendous.
“The response that I’ve gotten is insane,” she said. “Word has gotten around. I can’t stop smiling. I’m in shock and I’m completely blessed.”
Collins said she hopes to see more retailers open in the future on Jay Street, which would also help her business to succeed.
Dames is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday, Friday and Saturday until 6 p.m. The store is also open during the Greenmarket on Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
RAW —177 Jay St.
Nicole Pardi is planning to open Raw juice bar on Aug. 8 that will feature products from local farms.
She said Raw would cater to people on the go in downtown who want to pick up something quick but that’s also healthy.
“We’re going to do fresh juice and smoothies, which is the main element,” she said. “I’m also trying to find different healthy snacks because sometimes you have a craving for something sweet but don’t want it to be bad.”
The shop would also have a cooler with fresh salads, spring rolls and homemade humus, she said.
Pardi said her husband owns State Street Tattoo Co. on Erie Boulevard and she couldn’t imagine launching a business anywhere else.
“We wanted to stay in Schenectady because we love Schenectady,” she said.
She said the business has already garnered attention simply by putting a sign in the window that reads “Raw coming soon.” She said she loves the atmosphere on Jay Street.
“People seem really excited about it, which is awesome,” she said. “I know a lot of people hate on Schenectady, but I love it. Jay Street is like a little piece of New York City right here. It’s very trendy and artsy.”
Raw will be open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. She is also considering opening the store on Sunday during the Greenmarket.
SPRINKLEISTA — 173 Jay St.
Sarah Rhoades is expanding her custom cake business that she now operates out of a closet-sized space in Ambition and plans to open her own shop by next month.
“Right now our kitchen is the size of a walk-in-closet,” she said laughing. “Being here I knew would be temporary. It is very difficult to be here in this very small space. I’ve been looking and waiting for the right place. As soon as I walked in I knew it was it. It’s huge!”
Rhoades, who has been operating out of Ambition for about a year and a half, said she would offer custom cakes, cupcakes, cookies, brownies, cannoli and cream puffs.
“We’ll also be expanding to do soft serve ice cream, sundaes and cookie ice cream sandwiches,” she said. “We don’t do breakfast pastries but we’ll be doing that in the new place and coffee.”
Rhoades said she also sells baked goods out of the nearby Happy Cappuccino. She said the business is just her now because of the space constraints but that she looks forward to hiring help.
She said she wanted to stay on Jay Street because of the energy, describing the pedestrian mall as a little community.
“I live down here too and prefer to get everything locally,” she said. “There have been a lot of vacancies and seeing stores open up is very exciting. I moved away for a little bit and it was terrible. Now I’m so happy to be back.”
Rhoades, who graduated from Schenectady County Community College with a culinary degree, said she’s pumped to open as two other women are opening stores nearby.
“We’re all so excited and we’re all opening at the same time,” she said.
Sprinkleista will be open Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Reach Gazette reporter Haley Viccaro at 395-3114, firstname.lastname@example.org or @HRViccaro on Twitter.