Union Street businesses reach out to customers
Shoppers recently didn’t have to even walk into stores to get a taste of what Upper Union Street in Schenectady offered.
Racks of cloths, pet supplies, comic books, antiques, flowers and more were on display at storefronts for Upper Union Street Business Improvement District’s Sidewalk Sale on Saturday, Aug. 21. Around 25 businesses participated along Union Street in Schenectady from Garner Avenue to the Niskayuna town line at Van Antwerp Road.
The regular Saturday Farmers Market in the public parking lot off Woodlake happed alongside the Sidewalk Sale and offered $1 off every $10 spent. There was also a Gourmet Market setup on the lawn of Trustco Bank.
Leslie Maiello was a vendor in the Gourmet Market offering a unique pesto with a history behind the flavor. Maiello said his father had a huge garden and they would make green sauce from all of the ingredients grown in the garden.
Once a year Maiello’s family would stay home and make the green sauce by hand, but it wasn’t until years later when she saw pesto in the store and at restaurants that she realized it was what her family was making all along.
`No one makes pesto like my father it must be some sort of old world recipe,` said Maiello.
She was also eager to give anyone a free sample of her green sauce on piece of bread as they walked by.
Further up Union Street Aaron Dula, from Scotia, was returning to Simon’s Men’s Wear to get his suit fitted for a friend’s wedding.
After searching all over the Capital District for a suit, Dula said he decided to go with Simon’s after following through on a neighbor’s recommendation. Dula said he tries to support local business.
Michael Bernstein, owner of Simon’s, said he likes upper Union Street because it is more family-orientated than some areas and has a well-rounded selection of stores. He also noted a lot of people live nearby, and the area is quiet and safe.
`[The sidewalk sale] brings people out and gives people some bargains,` said Bernstein. `Union Street is such a hidden jewel, people forget how good it is.`
Bernstein said he would be up to having a sidewalk sale once a week, so customers can know to expect it like the weekly famers market. He even said it would be fun to do in the winter.
`If it is deemed successful, then we will try to have one a month during the nice weather,` said Joanne DeVoe, spokeswoman for Upper Union Street BID.
Across the street from Simon’s is an old-style sports card shop with customer service as a focus.
`I still like to be old fashioned and do customer service,` said Alex Itskov, owner of Al’s House of Sportscards. `I enjoy meeting people and working for myself some of my best customers are kids, and they have a blast.`
Itskov had some comic books and other miscellaneous items placed out front, but inside his store, there was sport cards ranging from Derek Jeter to Mickey Mantle and everything in between. Although it is a tough business, he said, he keeps doing it because it is what he enjoys.
Union Aquarium might owner Paul Sartoris stood out front during the sidewalk sale, and like other storeowners in the area, he said he enjoys being on Union Street. Inside the store is a large selection of freshwater fish, and in the basement there is a substantial selection of the saltwater variety.
`It is one of the few areas in the city where places are looking better all the time,` said Sartoris. `When you look around, we’re not doing all that badly.`
Some storeowners, including Sartoris, said the Sidewalk Sale didn’t have as good a turnout as desired. But the solution seems the same for most storeowners ` regularity.
`I think the big thing is if we have it as a regular thing, it will work out better,` said Sartoris.“