For the second time in as many weeks, local dignitaries cut the ribbon on a new Lark Street business in Albany’s Center Square neighborhood—a vegan delicatessen developed, owned, and operated by Joey Berben and Max Wolff at 227 Lark. Traditionally a mecca for local arts, music and culture, Lark Street has seen several businesses close their doors over the last several years, leaving noticeable voids where thriving businesses once operated, and local stakeholders hope that the new businesses are indicative of a reversing trend.
“It’s very exciting to see some reinvestment on this street,” said Dan Atkins, vice-chairman of the Lark Street Business Improvement District (BID) and a co-owner at Savoy Taproom on Lark Street, which had it’s grand opening just last week. “The buzz, so far, has been amazing. They’ve already been the talk of the town, the talk of the street, and it’s a pleasure to be here to welcome them today.”
Berben and Wolff’s really began more than a year ago, when the owners began making seitan—a food made from wheat gluten—for local restaurants. Berben, who worked at Honest Weight Food Co-op, had been catering and cooking vegan dishes for friends when Wolff, who was working in a restaurant kitchen, approached him about starting a business. The two say that, since their soft opening three weeks ago, they haven’t had a bad day yet.
“We need to make sure that we have open communication so that the city understands what it can do to help to move your business forward and be a business partner with you,” said Albany’s Mayor Kathy Sheehan at the grand opening on Friday, June 10. “And, where you’re facing hurdles, what we can do to work together to make sure that we’re not part of the problem, but that we’re part of the solution for small business owners here in Albany.”
Introducing Senator Neil Breslin, Sheehan added, “One of the things we’re working on right now in the 11th hour is to make sure that our parking permit program continues so that you have the turnover that you want and don’t have a state worker parked here for the entire day.”
“No pressure,” laughed Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy (D-109).
“I know you have a menu for healthy New Yorkers,” said Breslin. “I’ve already heard about you in the vegan community and so I look forward to getting healthier and slimmer; I have an office half a block from here.
“Lark Street is on the move,” he added.
“What a great restaurant name,” said Fahy, who commended Berben and Wolff for opening a business that focuses on both health and sustainability. “It sounds like a chain already!”
“Where are we going next week,” she asked. “Where’s the ribbon-cutting next week, mayor?”
City of Albany Treasurer Darius Shahinfar spoke next, eager to go order a fried mushroom sandwich. “Mo’ business means mo’ money means higher property values for the city means a happy treasurer.
“We’re really honored to be a part of this resurgence on Lark Street,” said a grinning Berben.
“We love this community,” said Wolff.
“We can both see our houses from here,” added Berben.