SARATOGA SPRINGS — It's often the small things that can make a big difference in someone's life.
Sinclair Saratoga owner and founder Hilary Morrison, 33, has embraced that mentality in how she runs her restaurant, and in her commitment to helping non-profits and charities in the Saratoga region. “This [Sinclair Saratoga] is my passion. When I’m not here, I'm spending time with my children, taking part with the hospital gala committee, enjoying charity events, and supporting other local businesses.”
Morrison is a native of Colerain, Ohio, “a town so small all we had were cows and trucks, not even a stop light.”
After attending Kent State University in her home state, Morrison answered a call from her sister Megan to join her in Los Angeles. “I took her up on the offer. I started out doing bottle service in night clubs, but I worked my way up to management positions and became an event producer for private parties in the Hollywood Hills.”
After living in L.A. for 13 years and starting a family with husband Alex Straus, the itch for small-town life started to set in. So the couple headed east with their two children, Alexander (Lex), 6, and Cleo, 4.
Straus has family in the Capital Region, "So we had been visiting the area for about eight years. I knew I wanted to raise Lex and Cleo on the East Coast. I wanted to be closer to family for them growing up. And Saratoga is such a perfect place to raise kids. For a smaller town, there's just so much to do here. There's lots of culture. It has the amenities of a larger city but with the community feel of a small town.”
For Morrison, that sense of community had been a large part of her upbringing in Ohio. “I was raised very community-focused. Growing up in a small town, everyone helped each other out.”
Moving to a new area, Morrison had no idea what she would do for work. “I really wasn't sure what would be available honestly. What does it mean to move to a small town after living in L.A.? But Saratoga is hospitality-driven, and I thought well I know how to run a bar. When I saw the availability for this location, I knew it had potential. And to have so much space (Sinclair Saratoga has three floors) I couldn’t pass it up.”
Within a month of moving to Saratoga in December 2016, Morrison had signed a lease on the space, at 17 Maple Ave., and renovations began.
The move had other impacts for Morrison as well. While her husband had ties to the area, Morrison had none, though her parents Marty and Lori Morrison have recently moved to the area as well.
“The biggest change for me initially was not having my friends here. You almost take your friends for granted until they're not there anymore. One of the nice things about Saratoga, however, is everyone is so friendly, so the adjustment went quickly.”
After meeting local Realtor Christine Marchesiello, Morrison joined the Hospital Charity Gala committee. Marchesiello was a member of that group.
“I felt really connected to the cause. You're helping the community by getting funds for the hospital. Funds that go towards families and individuals that are in need. ... I think Saratoga is really unique in that there are so many people that really care about a lot of causes. They're trying to make a difference and it's really impressive honestly. There's so many things always happening to support the community, and that’s inspiring. To be a part of that is a positive and great thing.”
Since its opening in mid-June, Morrison has focused on making Sinclair Saratoga a community hub.
“I just wanted to make it a place where everyone could have something to enjoy here. We have live music, an arcade room for families, and a great happy hour. During the day, we get a huge range of people, both young and old.”
Morrison has recently teamed up with head chef Brady Duhame, formerly of 15 Church restaurant, to offer Buddah Noodle. “Having Brady Duhame as the head chef is awesome; it’s the best thing ever. I love coming to work because it makes so many people happy. We have ramen, egg noodles, doughnuts for dessert, tuna poke bowl, et cetera. It’s been really well received. I mean, everyone enjoys a nice warm bowl of soup in the winter.”
Continuing her involvement with local charities, Morrison made sure to include Young Life, a Christian organization, by holding a fundraiser for them during her opening day. The funds raised went to help the group provide support for teenage mothers. Since then, multiple charities have used her upper floors for fundraising events, including the Saratoga County Animal Shelter.
“My doors are open for any non-profit that has a need.”
Sinclair Saratoga is open evenings starting at 4 p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday. For more information, call 518-934-3535 or visit www.sinclairsaratoga.com.