Member Interview: Kinderhook Bank

CRG Interviews Platinum Member: Kinderhook Bank

Interview with:  John A. Balli, President and CEO

What is your current position at Kinderhook Bank and what does it entail?   As President & CEO my job is to work with my partners at the bank to implement our Board’s strategic vision. That vision entails enhancing the community banking experience so that we continue our growth trajectory to benefit our customers, communities and shareholders.


Please provide a brief history of Kinderhook as a corporation and why they decided to expand into Fulton County?  We’ve been in business since 1853. Kinderhook Bank is a community bank that provides personal and business banking and lending products but more importantly, we build relationships with people.  As a local community bank, our mission aligned with the former Patriot Federal Bank perfectly.  Together we’re now offering expanded banking options to people, neighbors and businesses in Fulton and Montgomery counties along with Albany, Rensselaer and Columbia counties. Fulton County is a natural extension of the same communities we have been operating in for 165 years. Entrepreneurial, hard-working folks that care deeply for their communities and appreciate personal relationships in banking.


What are some special services that Kinderhook provides to its customers that sets it apart from other local banks?  It is often said that banking products are commodities but we bring a personal touch to banking that disappeared years ago. When you are part of the communities where you have branch locations, there is a certain sincerity that is apparent and felt by our customers. This has been the driver of our growth as people have grown tired of being treated like nameless commodities at other banks.


What makes working at Kinderhook Bank special?  Kinderhook Bank runs like a family business where we all work together and have input into everything we do. A failure for one of us is a failure for all so we work collaboratively to minimize those instances and achieve great things together!


If you could share one thing about Kinderhook with people in Fulton County, that they may not already know, what would it be?  We’re pet-friendly and people- friendly.  People can visit us and relax, enjoy a cup of coffee and cookies and bring their pet to have a treat and even receive a free Kinderhook Bank leash.  People love to bring their pets wherever they go – even to do their banking!

Borrower Interview: Royal Mountain Inn

CRG Interviews Royal Mountain Inn!

Theresa Sarantopoulos, owner of Royal Mountain Inn, located at 4993 State Hwy 29, Johnstown, has put her heart and soul into completely refurbishing and recreating this restaurant, nearly from the ground up. Owning their own establishment is the pinnacle of their dreams. “Failure is not an option,” she said. “This is going to be the best thing we have ever done.” And why wouldn’t it be? She and her husband have been in the restaurant business for their entire careers.
Theresa approached CRG in 2015 and spoke to President and CEO, Ron Peters, about her dream to stop working for others and open her own restaurant. Her passion for this work was evident, shining more brightly than any business plan or budget projection could ever convey.
With the assistance of a loan from the Fulton County CDBG Loan Fund, Royal Mountain Inn became a dream realized.
Describing her experience in working with the staff at CRG, Theresa said, “Ron Peters has really been awesome to work with and very helpful with whatever I needed. I am very happy that I found CRG when I needed assistance.”
CRG’s assistance has paid off.
One visit to Royal Mountain Inn and you will see that pride truly is in everything that they do. The menu features traditional Greek food, alongside favorites from other styles of foods, such as the Royal Mountain Burger. There is something for everyone, including the little ones in the family. While there is a bar on site, the atmosphere is warm and inviting, restaurant-wide and has a seating capacity of 75-80 people.
Business has been so good, that Theresa returned to CRG in 2018 for additional funding for an upgrade in the kitchen.
“I feel that without the support of CRG, I would not have been able to move forward with what I was doing to open my business,” says Theresa. “I am so very grateful.”

Member Interview: LaVilla Dog Works

Member Interview: LaVilla Dog Works

In January of 2018, I stopped by LaVilla Dog Works to talk to owners, Regina Papa and Fred Henry, about their business. Before I knew it, two hours had passed. Fred and Gina are so passionate about their business, so open, friendly and talkative, that I probably could have stayed longer! This was not my first visit to LaVilla Dog Works, located in a small Market Street store front just off of Main Street in Johnstown. I have had the pleasure of stopping by for both business and pleasure. Since I don’t own a dog, I have even brought dog-owning friends and family by to check out their unique stock of collars.

On this particular trip, my purpose was this interview. I plan to conduct more and more as the months go on. I love talking to people about their businesses, especially when the interview is this much fun! While Gina was the one who answered most of my questions, Fred was present, adding to the conversation as he worked on cutting and sewing some leashes. I have also tried to edit this interview down to the pertinent points. I have a feeling that my two hour visit would be less fun only in print. So here it is:

(Photos: sample of collars, Gina with a quilt made by a beloved friend that contains fabrics from the collars that they have made, and Brennan – the LaVilla Dog Works Mascot a.k.a. Fred and Gina’s dog)

B: What did you do before LaVilla Dog Works?

F: I worked as a trainer in the telecommunications industry.

G: And I worked as a manager for Workforce Development.

B: This is quite a departure for you! Why collars and leashes?

G: This business is more fun! It started as a hobby. We had each adopted dogs in the past and I started to tinker with making collars. Through word of mouth, my hobby became a side business. I originally made collars and leashes from my home. Eventually, from the additional responses we received from some events we did, it seemed like we could actually turn it into a business.

B: People do love their animals. They are like their children in most cases.

G: That’s true. I did some research and found that the pet industry is a $56 billion dollar a year industry. It seemed like a good fit for us and we enjoy it.

B: So when did you go from a hobby to a business?

G: We started doing events in 2011 and officially became a certified business in 2012. That’s when I got the DBA.

B: And what is your current employee count?

G: Two; Fred and me.

B: Do you have plans to add more employees?

G: Yes, that would be great. But we want to grow the business slowly to keep expenses manageable. If we were to obtain more wholesale accounts we might be able to add people.

B: So when did you know that it was time to relocate to the store front?

G: We weren’t expecting to leave the house! Then the store front opened up and since we know the owner (Gina’s parents own the building), we were able to negotiate a good rate. (laughs)

B: That worked out well! I want to ask you about some of the challenges you have faced growing the business.

G: We have done everything that we can to avoid debt. That can be a challenge when starting out, which is why we are keeping our pace slow. While I knew how to make collars and leashes that appealed to people, I had to learn about the business side to owning your own business. There is so much to it; marketing, operating cash registers, creating our website, credit card processing, and how to keep up with changes in production. We even had to change our plans regarding who would sew our product and who would manage the business.

B: What? How did that come about?

G: Well, I had thought that I would stay behind the scenes doing all of the sewing. It was something that I enjoyed doing and it was what I had been doing. But over the course of our first couple of years, we realized that we would need to invest in commercial sewing machines. I kept wearing out even good quality home sewing machines! (more laughter)

F: Then she saw the industrial machines at work.

G: They are like power tools! When I saw how fast they were and how intimidating they looked, I was terrified of using them!

B: Power tools, huh. (to Fred) Is that what you thought when you saw them in action?

F: When I saw them, I was excited! They are so fast and easy to work with.

G: That’s when he became the designated sewer and I had to learn all of the things that go with running a business.

  Click here for the video: Sewing Video IMG_1623

(Photo: Fred with his friend! :) the special sewing machine that makes finishing work quick and easy – check out the video!)

B: It seems to be working well. You both seem happy.

G: It’s a fun job. The best part is interacting with the customers. We have people bring their dogs into the store or we meet them at craft fairs and other events. And we love learning about their life with their pets. We hear all of the stories, which as dog owners, we enjoy! We even grieve with them when their dogs die, which isn’t fun, but for the most part, it’s a great job.

B: Speaking of your customers, how do they find you? What do you do for marketing?

G: We have a website and we’re on facebook. We are on instagram. People find us at events, which is a huge boost for customer service. That face-to-face connection develops trust between us and the customer. And of course, word of mouth is still a big way that people hear about us, or “word of tail”, as we call it.

B: How does your website do for you?

G: We do well! A lady in Florida was one of our first customers! She found us here at an event and then re-ordered online when she went back to Florida. We have had orders from almost all of the States, plus Canada and the Virgin Islands. I don’t know how some people have found us, which would be interesting to know, but they do!

B: The two of you went through the first Microenterprise Program that the County received. How did the grant help you out?

G: The grant funds made it possible for us to afford the industrial machines. We also used some of that money to pay for our website construction and to increase our stock. It has made it possible for us to try new production and finishing techniques. It has made job planning easier and the time savings on finishing work has increased production.

B: We met when you came to CRG’s office for the Microenterprise Grant Training Classes. Did you learn anything new?

G: The classes were awesome. We enjoyed them very much. Sam Russo, from SCORE, was fabulous in helping us to not only build our business plan, but to understand what that plan means to our business. I still think about his advice as we continue to grow. Overall, the camaraderie of being in the class with other micro businesses was wonderful. We continually learned from each other during the class and still keep in touch with many of them.

In fact, our relationship with one business led to a new business relationship with a company that we purchase interfacing from. We used to purchase the interfacing material in large sheets that we would have to size ourselves. This company does that work for us. Now we buy a spool of interfacing and we cut off the length we need. It saves so much time! We never would have made that connection without the class.

B: That’s terrific! You know, so often we hear about the negative challenges of running your own business. But I want to ask you about your best moments. What are some of the highs that you have had?

G: Our first big wholesale order was great. Knowing that our collars are being worn by dogs across the country is cool. It is flattering when we apply for juried shows and are approved, especially when it was our first wholesale buyers show that promoted Adirondack made goods. The best thing though, is definitely the relationships we have built with our customers. We can help people with special issues.

At our very first event, we met Bobbi Jo Haverly. She has an English Mastiff names Ross. She told us that she had a problem finding collars large enough to fit around his neck. At the time, he was about a year old and already weighed 180 pounds! He’s a giant dog! Our XL collar fit him, but it looked so tiny at one inch wide around such a large neck, but she bought it and asked us to custom make one for him with a larger width, which we were glad to do.

B: That’s a great story.

G: It is! But here’s why what we do feels so good to us. Bobbi Jo mentioned that big dogs look intimidating. Ross now weighs 210 pounds and his collars are 34″ around and 2″ wide. He is a certified therapy dog at elementary schools and Bobbi Jo says that having a fun collar helps him to look friendlier and more approachable. We have since gone on to make collars for show cows, goats and pigs. We are always willing to work with our customers to make collars that they feel good about putting on their pets. We also love making collars and leashes for the local rescue groups, like the Regional Animal Shelter.


(photos: Ross with this original collar and with a new, wider collar)

B: I love it! That is gratifying.  And I have totally enjoyed spending time with you and learning more about your business. Thanks so much.

G: Stop back anytime! We enjoy being part of CRG.

For more information, check out the LaVilla Dog Works website:

video, photos and interview by Becky Hatcher

(Me and Ronan, my grandpuppy)

CRG Visits the Town of Stratford

It was extremely cold and lightly snowing during most of our tour of the Town of Stratford. I guess that was not completely unexpected as it was December 27th, and as we all know now, our 2017-2018 winter was indeed a snowy one. The snow, and the cold, did not deter our level of interest as we were chauffeured around by Town Supervisor, Allicia Rice.

If anyone has never visited Stratford before, you are not alone. This was my first trip to the northwestern part of Fulton County and I have spent the majority of my life here. It is a pretty ride – just what you would expect as you drive into the southern Adirondack Park. Ron and I met Allicia at the Town Hall, which is just off the main road through town, Route 29A. She started our drive along the back roads until we reached the entrance to Ferris Lake Forest Preserve. The tour was enhanced by Allicia’s extensive knowledge of all things Stratford. She not only knows these rural roads well, she also knows her neighbors well – and yes, we did see her house along our way. I couldn’t help but to feel like I was in a different era. People today just don’t normally know their neighbors like this.  I think of myself as a friendly person – I talk to random people at the grocery store, waiting rooms, on airplanes (yes, I am one of those people) – but for some reason, there are certain neighbors that I have had for YEARS that I just never got to know. So this was refreshing to me.

After Ferris Lake Forest, we made our way back to town. We visited East Canada Stop and Shop. This store shares a building with the Stratford Post Office on Route 29A, just before the bridge that crosses East Canada Creek. This bridge also marks the border of Fulton and Herkimer Counties. Here are some pictures:


After a tour of the store, and a quick cup of coffee, we journeyed south of town to Stewart’s Landing; a dam located on Sprite Creek which is a popular swimming site in the summer months. We drove along the road that follows the Creek. Allicia, of course, knew many of the year-round residents here and talked about getting to know the people in her district. She and her husband are originally from New Jersey. They used to vacation here and decided to relocate when they retired from full-time secular work. Wanting to make a difference in her new home town, Allicia ran for Supervisor. Her passion for the area is evident in her abundant knowledge of local history and the needs of the community.


Our last stop for the day was at the Pleasant Lake Inn. This rustic and lovely restaurant is popular in winter with snowmobilers. They cater to this sport by selling gasoline to them as they come to eat and enjoy the beauty of the area. Check out the decor:


When I asked if there were any places for snowmobilers or other travelers to stay in Stratford, Allicia said that there currently is not a hotel or anything of that kind in Stratford. While not a large town, perhaps a bed and breakfast or some cozy cabins might do well for the area. For those who love the outdoors, there is plenty to get excited about in Stratford, whether in winter or summer. I for one am looking forward to a return trip sometime. Perhaps in warmer weather when my fingers won’t freeze while taking pictures.

Fast Facts: Stratford is approximately 70 square miles with approximately 70 miles of road and it’s made up of 70% state-owned land. Now that’s a lot of 70’s…

Written by: Becky Hatcher, Membership Coordinator

National Expert Visits Downtown Gloversville

People celebrating at events in downtown Gloversville.

People celebrating at events in downtown Gloversville.

On October 27, 2017, CRG hosted Andrew Manshel for a presentation and discussion on downtown revitalization and placemaking efforts in Gloversville. Mr. Manshel is a nationally recognized expert in both economic development and placemaking, having served as the Executive Vice President of Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, Associate Director and Counsel at the Bryant Park Restoration Corporation, General Counsel and Director of Public Amenities to the Grand Central and 34th Street Partnerships, among other roles. Currently, Mr. Manshel serves as the principal of Place Master Projects Advisory Services and is a Director and Treasurer of Project for Public Spaces, Inc.

During his presentation, Mr. Manshel discussed the notion that no place is unique, therefore the options to iterate successful projects from other cities is endless. The key to sustainable economic development has been shown not to occur through incentivizing projects but by creating places where people want to be, with sustainable economic development following the people.

How do you make downtown Gloversville a place where people want to be? By having constant downtown programming. Programming can come in small and large forms, from offering tables and chairs with chess sets to major downtown events such as the Twilight Market or Southern Adirondack Wine & Food Festival.

To learn more about Andrew Manshel, please visit his Place Master website here.

Mr. Manshel’s full presentation is available here: Manshel_Gloversville Oct 2017.

Would you like to learn more about how Gloversville is working toward a sustainable economic revitalization? Please contact Jennifer Jennings, Downtown Development Specialist at or call her at 518.725.7700 ext. 107.


2017 CRG Fall Gala!

CRG is pleased to host our 2017 Fall Gala!

You are invited to join us on Thursday, November 9, 2017 at Lanzi’s on the Lake, 1751 State Hwy 30, Mayfield for our 2017 Fall Gala. We have an exciting line up of events planned, including dinner music from Community Winds, a silent auction full of regional items, and four business awards.

Keep checking back to receive updates as we count down the days until this event!

Event Details:

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Lanzi’s on the Lake

5:00 p.m.      Hors D’Oeuvres and Networking

6:30 p.m.      Dinner and Music by Melanie Chirgnan of  Gloversville Community Music

8:00 p.m.     Awards Presented

Ticket Prices: $50.00 per person (payments can be made by mail or in person the night of the event)


Sliced Sirloin          Stuffed Haddock          Chicken Parmesan

Come celebrate with our 2017 Award Recipients:

Established Business:  Frasier Enterprises

Expanded Business:  Pioneer Window

Start-Up Business:  No. 22 Bicycle

Hidden Gem:  Stump City Brewery

RSVP by Friday, November 3, 2017

To RSVP now, click HERE – Don’t forget to include the names of the people in your party and their dinner selections!


Marquis Sponsor:


Platinum Sponsor:

24X40 Logo Patriot

Gold Sponsors:

FCIDA side by side Logo ceg-logo nathan-littauer-logo specs WEST-Logo

Silver Sponsors:

leader Studio Herbage sq

Fulton County CRG 2017 Fall Gala

Fulton County Center for Regional Growth is pleased to announce the

2017 Fall Gala

November 9, 2017 at Lanzi’s on the Lake

Hors D’Oeuvres and Networking start at 5:00 p.m.

Dinner will be served at 6:30, accompanied by musical selections from Community Winds.

At 8:00 p.m. the award presentations will begin, followed by the announcement of winners of a silent auction, which will take place throughout the evening.

Tickets are $50.00 per person. Payment can be made by mail to the address below or the night of the event. 

Want to attend the Fall Gala and get special recognition on the program, either as an organization or an individual? Consider attending as a Supporting Sponsor. The cost is $125.00 – it includes one free ticket to the event and a listing on the event Program. It is the perfect way for someone to attend the event while giving that extra gift of support! To become a Supporting Sponsor, simply email me your request! Thanks for considering this special sponsorship level.

Registration for this event will close on Monday, November 6 at 10 a.m., so make your plans TODAY.

Use this link to RSVP now online

Or print this pdf invitation to RSVP by mail.

                Awards will be presented to:

Established Business Award:  Frasier EnterprisesSign in front of Frasier Enterprises, an award recipient at the CRG 2017 Fall Gala

Expanded Business Award:  Pioneer Window Manufacturing Corp.Sign in front of Pioneer Window, an award recipient at the CRG 2017 Fall Gala

Start-Up Business Award:  No. 22 Bicycle Company

Head welder Frank  Cenchitz joins titanium tubing on the bike frame, at No.22 Bicycle, an award recipient at the CRG 2017 Fall Gala

Hidden Gem Award:  Stump City BreweryMatt Sherman, Nick Sherman and Casey Oare, the brains and muscle behind Stump City Brewing, an award recipient at the CRG 2017 Fall Gala

Thanks to our sponsors:

Marquis sponsor

logo for Realty Gift Fund, a sponsor of the CRG 2017 Fall Gala

Platinum Sponsor

logo forPatriot Federal Bank , a sponsor of the CRG 2017 Fall Gala

Gold Sponsors

logo for Fulton County IDA, a sponsor of the CRG 2017 Fall Gala

logo for Center for Economic Growth, a sponsor of the CRG 2017 Fall Gala

logo for Nathan Littauer Hospital, a sponsor of the CRG 2017 Fall Gala

td-bank-logologo for West & Co , a sponsor of the CRG 2017 Fall Gala

logo for The Leader Herald, a sponsor of the CRG 2017 Fall Gala

logo for Studio Herbage , a sponsor of the CRG 2017 Fall Gala

CRG Supports Bacon Jam

CRG Supports Bacon Jam

Saturday, October 7, 2017 was a busy day for Gloversville! The Fulton County Historical Society and Museum on Kingsboro Avenue held a harvest festival, there was a Witches Jamboree on Main Street, and there was Bacon Jam – a bacon music festival – in Bleecker Square. CRG was pleased to assist Gloversville Downtown Development Specialist, Jennifer Jennings, with the execution of the Bacon Jam event, which she hopes will be an annual occurrence.

Nearly 3,500 people attended Bacon Jam to enjoy bacon-centric foods, a beer garden, and live music all afternoon and into the evening. Bacon Jam t-shirts were on sale at CRG’s tent, and community tents for Lexington Center / The Paul Nigra Center / Transitions and Parkhurst Baseball Field were across from us.

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A community art project took place in the tent next to CRG, initiated with local artist, Nicolina Schonfarber. Young and young at heart participated in a fill-in-the-blank story about their reimagined Gloversville. There was a place for them to draw a picture to accompany their answers. There were also coloring pages, some of pictures of Gloversville landmarks. Once completed, these will be turned into a window dressing for one of the vacant Main Street store fronts. Here’s a preview:

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A string of bands played throughout the event. There was some dancing – both with a partner and without. There was even a dance with an octopus. The music was lively and varied. One group played a song that they wrote especially for the event, appropriately entitled: Bacon Jam.

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Several vendors were on hand to sell bacon-centric foods. The bacon-on-a-stick was so much of a hit, they sold out just before dark! We even had bacon flavored ice cream (maple bacon and vanilla bacon) toward the end of the night (not pictured due to a lack of light) Check out the rest of the pics!


Smokin’ Hogs BBQ


Vashti’s Kitchen, Local Fire Fighters and Nurses, Slate Valley Farm and not pictured, but adjacent to this group was Lynn & Walt’s Walk-up Wagon


Mohawk Harvest Co-op and The Gloversville Library


The Leader Herald and Weinerland

We had four alcohol vendors on hand in a special “over 21” area: Saranac, Nine Pin Cider, Stump City Brewery, and Wold Hollow Brewery



Here is the booth checking IDs for that section. No kids – or dogs were allowed – and no alcohol was allowed outside of this area.

Plenty of seating was available under the pavilion, where spectators could listen to the music and munch on their bacon foods – kids and dogs included.

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Overall, the weather was great – the food was delicious – the music kept people tappin’ their toes, and attendees had smiles on their faces. Our t-shirts all but sold out to those looking for a momento of the afternoon. It was a fun first year and we are looking forward to more downtown events from Jennifer next spring!

written by Becky Hatcher, CRG Executive Assistant

Saratoga County Chamber’s 2017 B2B Expo

CRG Attends the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce B2B Expo

There was a steady stream of attendees at the Saratoga County Chamber’s B2B Expo, which was held at the Saratoga Springs City Center on Thursday, October 5, 2017. CRG’s trade show booth made an appearance, along with staff, a Board Director and three Fulton County businesses.

Ron Peters, President and CEO; Becky Hatcher, Executive Assistant; and Ronald Olinsky, Board Treasurer, were on hand to answer questions about Fulton County Center for Regional Growth to both passers by at the booth, and to the businesses that they visited throughout the evening. We brought along three Fulton County businesses: Tom Poquette of Safety First Training, Jordi Verges Bataller and Gabriel Cerda of Espuna, and Victor Getman of EMVI Chocolate. These businesses added their products and brochures to CRG’s table for the enjoyment of all those stopping by.

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There were lots of great food vendors on hand, along with a plethora of business and community groups; more than 150 in total. With our own great food and engaging conversation, we were able to make a lot of new connections and were able to talk to businesses about expanding into Fulton County when they are ready.


Chamber photo 2

Chamber photo 3

For more pictures of the event, please see the Saratoga Chamber facebook site here.



Chamber at the Chamber – October 2017

CRG is pleased to again be a sponsor of the Chamber Music at the Chamber! Calliope Brass opened the new 2017-2018 Chamber Music at the Chamber  Season on Sunday, October 1st. They started off with an arrangement of “Allegro Maestoso” from George Fredrick Handel’s Water Music – which is a piece that I love.

narrow cropped photo

This all female brass quintet went on to play eight more pieces of music, including Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood”, Walk the Moon’s lively “Shut Up and Dance”, and a great ragtime piece: Lew Pollack’s “That’s a Plenty”. The music sounded lovely in the Chamber’s rotunda; easily heard without being too loud and without an echo. Listening to these renditions was an enjoyable way to spend part of a Sunday afternoon. They are a talented group.

Next up in the series is Music for the Imagination on Saturday, November 25, 2017 at 3:00 p.m., also at the Chamber of Commerce Rotunda in Gloversville. Tickets can be purchased at the Chamber and Mohawk Harvest Co-op.