Taste NY store opens at historic rest stop

Retail agriculture

By JASON SUBIK , Leader Herald     

RANDALL – In past decades, during the growth of the supermarket model of food distribution, a gap between agricultural producers and consumers slowly widened.

Richard Ball, New York state’s Agriculture Commissioner, and a farmer himself in the Scoharie Valley, said he was long frustrated with disconnect between producers and consumers.

“Years ago all of the product went to the local market terminal system and grocery stores bought there and you saw the buyers and then suddenly they were buying direct [from producers in other parts of the country and the question became] why are we bringing in product from the Southwest and the Northwest when there are very good products like that right here,” Ball said.

Taste NY employee Edward Romeyn places items on a shelf. The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Taste NY initiative is an attempt to reconnect consumers with New York state agricultural products, which collectively account for $5 billion in sales annually, by creating markets where products grown or created in New York can be sold. So far the program has set up Taste NY venues at more than 40 bars, restaurants and cafes, and built five stand-alone Taste NY stores, including the new location at the Lock E-13 Living History Rest Area located on the New York state Thruway of the westbound lane at milepost 187 between exit 28, Fultonville, and exit 29, Canajoharie.

“This is the biggest Taste NY store upstate at this point,” Ball said. “This is the opportunity to connect the dots between our consumers and the agriculture community and give people an opportunity to sample a product, a value added product and eat some Taste NY food and then seek out the grower or the farmer and grow the economy.”

In 2015 Taste NY stores sold $4.5 million worth of products, approximately triple the amount from 2014, according to the Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Ball said the Taste NY program still has $1.1 million in state funding left to create more stores, which his department is planning to do. He credited Cuomo’s vision for creating the program.

“We have some of the best agricultural producers in the country upstate and we also have the greatest market place in the country right here,” he said.

In a news release about the opening of the store, Cuomo highlighted the connection of the store to the Lock E-13 Living History Rest Area.

“Apart from its unparalleled natural beauty, the Erie Canal corridor is a vital part of New York’s history and remains a driver in our current economy,” Cuomo stated. “The Lock E-13 rest area is a shining example of the collaboration we have fostered between the Thruway Authority and Canal Corp., and with a new Taste NY store, will share the region’s rich history with the millions of tourists who visit upstate New York each year.”

Local connections

Inside the store, consumers can purchase assorted teas, yogurt, cheese, peanut butter and jams, as well as home and personal care items such as hand and face creams, soaps and candles, all made in New York state.

Some of the local vendors at the store include maple syrups from Mud Road Sugar House in Ephratah and Fraiser’s Sugar Shack in St. Johnsville, as well as Dennies Dog Treats of Fonda. Books from local authors are also available.

The staff at Taste NY are provided by Liberty ARC, of Amsterdam, the Montgomery County chapter of NYSARC.

Taste NY store

The Taste NY store at the Lock E-13 Living History Rest Area located on the New York state Thruway of the westbound lane at milepost 187 between exit 28, Fultonville, and exit 29, Canajoharie. The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan

Sharon Holbrook-Ryan, public relations marketing coordinator for Liberty ARC, said her organization has been operating a store called Liberty Fresh Market, located on Route 30 in Amsterdam, for about two years. Liberty Fresh Market is a training program for the individuals Liberty ARC provides services for.

“[The New York State Department of] Agriculture and Markets had approached Liberty Fresh Market as potentially being the operators for this Taste NY store because, not only are we a market with a mission to train our individuals for employment, but also we’re very big on offering local vendors, farmers and products at our store,” she said. “We have well over 50 local vendors at Liberty Fresh Market. We were able to combine the vendors we had with the vendors at other Taste NY stores and we were able to really complement the governor’s vision. A lot of the local venders are from Fulton and Montgomery counties, so when we say local, there are a lot of local folks contributing to this.”

Holbrook-Ryan said Liberty has provided nine part-time staff for the Lock E-13 Living History Rest Area in a variety of positions, including clerks, people stocking shelves, people operating checkout and facility maintenance.

Published July 17, 2016, in The Leader Herald


Gloversville native builds high­end wooden watercraft

By JASON SUBIK , Leader Herald

MAYFIELD – Few people can say they’ve turned their passion into a profession, Adam Retersdorf is one of them.

The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan Adam Retersdorf, owner of Reets Boatworks in Mayfield, works on one of the boats he’s building at the shop Thursday.

Retersdorf, a class of 2000 Gloversville High School graduate, built his first wooden boat with the help of grandfather in 1998, using a design he created in CAD class. This was the beginning of hobby that would ultimately turn into a small business.

At age 19, Retersdorf, using $4,000 he saved up mowing lawns, purchased his first Chris-Craft wood boat, which he called a grey weathered pattern boat.

To restore the boat he had to replace every wooden plank, and rebuild the motor. He said he had already worked on restoring several other vintage wood boats, but he needed a boat he owned to show off to potential restoration customers.

“I would go to all the boat shows and say ‘wow look at the money’ and it’s like, ‘how do you get these people to take you seriously?’ It was hard to get people to take you seriously, because we were restoring other people’s work and when you’re done with the restoration, you give it back and you don’t have anything to show,” he said. “After I had my own boat, that’s when people started taking me seriously. People were like, ‘yeah, you know what you’re doing.'”

In 2004, while attending Union College pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering, Retersdorf incorporated his business Reets Boatworks. After graduation, he worked for Taylor Made in Gloversville and then General Electric, while doing classic wood boat restorations part-time.

“You can have a restoration go for anything from $3,000 to $10,000, but we’ve done a few that were very expensive,” he said.

Between 2004 and 2014, Reets Boatworks did about three to four wood boat restorations per year serving customers from throughout the Northeast. The boats are runabouts or pontoon boats, including classic brands like Chris-Craft, Hacker-Craft, Gar-Wood, Century, Dodge and Lyman, many of them featuring mahogany wood on the sides and deck, pinstripe lines and inboard engines.

Retersdorf said many of his restoration customers had old worn out boats they’d kept ast heirloom items in their families but had not maintained, due to amount of work revarnishing the wooden boats requires.

“The level of detail is very high, that’s why people get away from it. It’s not easy. Everybody wants a pontoon boat they can just turn the key in and go,” he said.

After restoring many wooden boats, Retersdorf began to realize he could build a better wood boat using classic designs upgraded using modern materials and building methods.

“There aren’t a whole lot of wood boats out there; and then, people who are actually looking to spend money to restore them, there aren’t a whole lot of those people either, but when people do have the boats, they want to take care of them as family heirlooms,” he said. “It’s a very niche market. It’s like collecting cars. So, until you get into cars, you don’t realize there are millions of dollars in cars in the Gloversville area. So until you get into the antique and classic boat society, you don’t really realize it. There are so many people who own five or six wood boats, because they truly love them.”

Since 2010, Reets Boatworks has built about five custom wooden boats, ranging in size from 20 to 40 feet long and ranging in cost from $75,000 to $300,000.

Retersdorf said he’s quit his day jobs and only focuses on building new custom wood boats.

“It’s nicer work to be building something brand new. Something that is your design, something that is modern that you can build perfectly. If you’re taking something that someone else put together 80 years ago. Everything was done by hand, so it wasn’t exact. You kind of have to recreate what they did and it might not be what’s right to today’s standards, but it’s what the boat was back then, so you have to put it back to its original condition,” he said. “Modern materials and modern building methods are so much better that you actually. My composite background from college, dealing with carbon fiber, kevlar and fiber glass. That helped me to realize what I can do to build boats better. Taking my knowledge of modern materials and my knowledge of how older boats were built, I was able to blend the two together and build a better boat today with 1/10 of the maintenance of old boats.”

Tom Jewell, a former Union College professor who lives in Galway, bought the first custom wood boat from Reets Boats for his wife Gretchen. He said he’s been very satisfied with Retersdorf’s design.

“My wife was interested in getting an old boat and fixing it up because her grandparents had had two Chris-Crafts when she was growing up on the St. Lawrence. She looked all over for those boats but could never find one,” he said. “Adam suggested we try a new boat, instead of trying to fix-up an old one, so that’s how we got started.”

Jewell said Retersdorf used a 1939 Chris-Craft design combined with his modern techniques to build the custom boat.

“It’s much more durable. It’s also much stronger with the carbon fiber,” he said. “It looks just like a wooden boat, but you put it in the water in the spring and you don’t have to worry about it. Our boat is really dry, not a speck of water in it unless it happens to rain.”

Published June 26, 2016 in The Leader-Herald


$50 million available from RESTORE NY

Governor Cuomo has announced that municipalities will be able to apply for $50 million from the RESTORE NY Communities Initiative. The funds are available to revitalize and stabilize downtowns and neighborhoods. Funding of the RESTORE NY program has been a priority of NYSEDC’s Community-Based Economic Development Committee for the past two years.

ESD, which administers the program, has held informational meetings for municipalities that want to submit applications.

Photo from The Leader-Herald, by Arthur Cleveland

Photo from The Leader-Herald, by Arthur Cleveland

Since the program’s inception, more than $200 million has been invested in the removal and restoration of blighted properties – particularly in urban centers and distressed cities throughout New York State. Now in Round 4, $50 million in funding is available to continue these efforts.

Cities, towns and villages are eligible to apply for support for projects that include demolition, deconstruction, rehabilitation, or reconstruction of vacant, abandoned, condemned and surplus properties. In addition, funds can be used for site development needs including, but not limited to water, sewer and parking. The program places a strong emphasis on projects in economically distressed communities.

Information and an application are available online. The intent to apply deadline is Wednesday, July 13, 2016 at 5 p.m. and the deadline for completed applications is Monday, October 3, 2016 at 3 p.m.

Leader Herald: Lead on new company for Tryon

Fulton County Center for Regional Growth has lead on potential company for new Tryon Technology Park

Lead on potential company: CRG official

June 28, 2016

GLOVERSVILLE – The Fulton County Center for Regional Growth has a good lead on a potential company for the new Tryon Technology Park, an official said.

CRG President and CEO Ron Peters provided scant details at his agency’s board meeting Friday at the CRG office.

When the CRG is pursuing business prospects, few details are made public until the deal is final.

During a report on a “combined county marketing effort,” Peters said the CRG participated in a conference call involving a “qualified lead” for a potential company.

“It went well,” Peters said.

He said the new Tryon Technology Park in Perth may be the proper site if the company wants to move to Fulton County.

Peters also mentioned during the “business marketing inquiries” portion of the meeting that the CRG received a “solid” inquiry through the state. But it was unclear whether he was talking about the same company.

“It could be a regionally significant project,” Peters said.

He said a California company is looking to start up in either Fulton or Montgomery counties.

Peters said the CRG last year participated in about half of 110 economic development conference calls conducted by the state. He said it is a “good system” and the CRG was recently given three proposals by the state identifying “possible leads” for companies.

“There’s work to be done,” Peters said.

He said companies are seeking 250,000 square feet of space with expansion potential. He said companies want buildings with high bays.

“They’re usually looking for existing [facilities], and to retrofit that,” Peters said.

Peters said the CRG has a good handle on its inventory of potential buildings. He said the biggest existing buildings the county has are about 150,000 square feet. He said a lot of companies are looking to move into the New York City market.

Fulton County Industrial Development Agency Executive Director James Mraz said the Tryon park in the towns of Perth and Johnstown will create an opportunity for a business “willing to build.”

“We will now have that place to put them,” Mraz said.

Peters said the current cost for a pre-engineered building is about $80 to $100 per square-foot. He said economic development agencies are receiving “mixed calls” from potential businesses, from Florida up the east coast. He said there are still some “hardcore manufacturers” looking for sites.

Gloversville 3rd Ward Supervisor John Blackmon, county liaison to the CRG, said some buildings of the future may be occupied by only 3D printers.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com

Signs of progress at Tryon Park

New sign at Tryon Technology park main entrance. Tryon Technology Park turned a fresh face to the community with a solar-powered sign for the main entrance based on the county’s new marketing theme, Fulton County…Positive.

Demolition work also began this week at the 515-acre park. The Fulton County Demolition Team is removing six cottages and administrative buildings left over from when the land hosted a youth detention facility. Funding for the work is coming through Fulton County, and the demolition debris is being hauled to the county landfill.Night view of solar-powered entrance sign for Tryon Technology Park.

Demolition at Tryon Technology Park

The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich
The Fulton County Demolition Team on Tuesday works on taking down the first of six former youth detention buildings at the Tryon Technology Park in Perth to make way for new shovel-ready business sites.

When the work is complete, the Empire State Development Corp. will provide the Fulton County Industrial Development Agency with a certificate declaring the area to be shovel ready, and the sites will go into a state database that promotes available properties to site selectors.

New York State transferred the former Tryon Detention Facility property to the IDA for redevelopment as a business park. The county has secured its first tenant, medical marijuana manufacturer Vireo Health of New York.

Up to $25K available for startup companies in Fulton County

Small and startup companies in Fulton County can get a piece of a $185,000 grant pool called the Microenterprise Grant Program, but they must apply soon.

La Villa Dog Works, which describes itself as a two-person, one dog shop, makes dog collars and leashes and sells them online and its retail store in Johnstown. It's expansion was boosted last year with a loan from the Microenterprise Grant Program administered by CRG.

La Villa Dog Works, which describes itself as a two-person, one-dog shop, makes dog collars and leashes and sells them online and its retail store in Johnstown. Its expansion was boosted last year with a $25,000 loan from the Microenterprise Grant Program administered by CRG.

 The Fulton County Center for Regional Growth administers the program, which seeks to boost the chances of young and start up businesses with five or fewer full-time employees, one of whom is the owner. The program offers up to $25,000 in seed money per applicant to be used for new businesses or expansions that create jobs. The money comes from a federal Community Development Block Grant, filtered through the state Office of Community Renewal.

CRG President and CEO Ron Peters said the CRG hopes to award money by July. Applicants must go through a training process that includes a general overview of business; accounting, taxes and finance; marketing and e-commerce; and development of a business plan. There is a $100 fee for the training, which can be expensed to the Microenterprise Grant funds.

L&L embroidery

In last year’s round of Microenterprise Grant Program Funding, L&L Embroidery of 258 County Highway 142, Johnstown received $25,000. The company does custom embroidery on apparel and accessories.

Facial room at SW Skin Care & Cosmetics in Johnstown NY

SW Skin Care & Cosmetics, Inc., an esthetician and day spa in Johnstown, received $15,000 from the Microenterprise Grant program last year.

Training sessions will be held June 15-16, and June 22-23 at the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce office on North Main Street.

Companies that received Microenterprise Grant Program funding in 2015 included LaVilla Dog Works, 11 S. Market St., Johnstown – $25,000; SW Skin Care & Cosmetics, Inc. of 86 Briggs St., Johnstown – $15,000; and L&L Embroidery of 258 County Highway 142, Johnstown – $25,000.

Southern Adirondack Wine & Food Festival

Southern Adirondack Wine & Food Festival Logo


Sunday, June 12, 2016

1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

2 N. Main Street

Gloversville, NY


Tastings of wine, cider and whisky

Hudson-Chatham WineryHummingbird Hill WineryLedge Rock Hill WineryPazdar Winery, Nine Pin CiderYankee Distillers

◊ Delicious local food

The Brass Monkey, On A Roll, Mohawk Harvest Co-opNYC PizzaSugar PearlPalatine CheeseIce Delites, Isn’t It SweetThe Nut LadyFork Art

Live music

Chelsea Reeves
GCM Wind Quintet
Baker Brass Trio
Cosby Gibson & Tom Staudle
Doghouse Trio
Penny Jar

Wine seminars

The basics of wine making and wine tasting

Art  and Craft Shows

Primitive Pimp Design
My Inner 1800s 
The Leaning Tree

◊ Architectural tours

In historic downtown Gloversville

◊ Plus….

French-themed Paint N Sip ($5 additional fee for supplies)

The Southern Adirondack Wine & Food Festival is sponsored by:

Fulton County Center for Regional Growth

Downtown Gloversville video shows plans for development

This in-depth video shows the 2016 development plan for downtown Gloversville, NY.

Glove Theatre marquee takes center stage

The Glove Performing Arts Center also eyes upgrade

May 19, 2016

By KERRY MINOR, reprinted from the Leader Herald

GLOVERSVILLE – Repairs to the damaged marquee of the Glove Performing Arts Center will hopefully be made over the summer, an official with the theater said.

Richard Samrov, the theater’s executive director and co-chairman of programming, said the theater has found a local man who is willing to give his time to the theater to install new panels and the wiring that secures letters onto the marquee that was damaged over the winter.

Strong winds in February caused three pieces of glass and several plastic panels to come off the marquee and shatter on the ground during two separate weeks. In all, more than half of the front of the marquee is missing.

glove theatre marquee showing damage from wind storms

The marquee at the Glove Performing Arts Center in Gloversville is shown this morning. The marquee was damaged this winter, and could be repaired this summer. The Leader-Herald/Kerry Minor


“The marquee is very important. It is the first thing you see when you arrive,” he said

Samrov declined to name the person, stating he wasn’t sure if the individual wanted the publicity for his work.

The theater needs to replace six panels, along with wiring, metal edging and lighting. Samrov said finding parts for the marquee has been, and will continue to be, difficult due to its age.

“Being so old, it takes a bit of maneuvering to get new stuff,” Samrov said. “It takes time.”

He said eventually, the Glove Performing Arts Center wants to do an entire upgrade on the marquee, a project that would cost anywhere from $100,000 to $125,000.

For now, through, the Glove will focus on repairing the damage.

Samrov said donations for the marquee have been coming in since the spring from the community.

“People are interested in seeing the marquee repaired,” he said.

Samrov said anyone wanting to donate money for the repairs can send a check to The Glove Performing Arts Center, P.O. Box 566, Gloversville, NY 12078.

“If you want to continue to have the theater stay here, we need help and support to make it happen,” Samrov said. “We need support in order to do the things we need to do.”

Samrov said fundraising events that are held over the summer will have funds set aside from them for the marquee repairs. He said funds from the recent talent show were also set aside for the project.

“It takes a community to make something special. The more we have to work with the more successful we are,” Samrov said.

Kerry Minor covers Gloversville. She can be reached at kminor@leaderherald.com

The NYT: Johnstown’s kosher cannabis makes national news

drying cannabis in Johnstown

At Vireo Health of New York’s plant in Johnstown, N.Y., Emily Errico, a cultivation technician, explaining the process of drying marijuana. Credit: JR Delia for The New York Times


The Rabbis Are Here to Inspect the (Legal) Weed

They had arrived here at Vireo Health of New York’s plant, about an hour northwest of Albany, looking for evidence that the company’s products merited kosher certification. They would eventually give their approval, but not before asking some tough questions, beginning in the room where row after row of plants hung upside down to dry.

“This is where they start getting worried,” recalled Ari Hoffnung, the company’s chief executive, because the kosher rules they were most focused on apply after a plant is dried.

As legalization of medical marijuana has hopscotched the nation, entrepreneurs have become nothing if not imaginative: Marijuana lotions, gluten-free edibles and many other niche products have hit the market. Businesses have also found resourceful ways to deal with a patchwork of taxation, banking and interstate commerce issues.

Little about the fledgling industry, then, comes as a surprise. But kosher pot?

Well, business is business, whether it’s widgets or weed, and any bit of competitive advantage is welcome.

“You’re seeing companies looking for creative ways to distinguish themselves, but also just interesting ways to appeal to different types of consumers,” said Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association.

Vireo’s plant here looks like a prison and smells like a dorm. It used to be the site of the Tryon Residential Center, a state-run facility for troubled youths that closed several years ago. The irony is not lost on Mr. Hoffnung or his workers.

Vireo Health Solutions medical marijuana products in Johnstown, NY

The final result: a bottle with a tiny kosher symbol. Credit: JR Delia for The New York Times

As he walked by old classrooms where hundreds of marijuana plants now grow, Mr. Hoffnung explained that the rabbis had mostly cared about what happened toward the end of the manufacturing process, which is why the drying plants had raised eyebrows. What chemicals did Vireo use to extract the cannabis oil, the rabbis had needed to know. What kind of capsules did they use?

Smoking marijuana by itself isn’t an issue — at least not from a kosher dietary standpoint — since the rules are intended for food and drinks. Products ingested in some way, on the other hand, are another story.

Ingredients must not come into contact with forbidden foods, like pigs or insects, and the restrictions extend all the way down the supply chain.

Every ingredient in a marijuana brownie, for example, needs to be kosher. The leaves, if eaten, would need to come from a bug-free plant. Marijuana gelcaps cannot be made out of pig gelatin. There are also rules for the equipment that processes kosher food. Vireo’s products that have been certified by the Orthodox Union can have the recognizable “OU” stamp on their packaging, and must submit to periodic inspections from the group’s rabbis.

“We literally took them through every square inch of the facility,” said David Ellis, the executive vice president of operations at Cresco Labs. The Chicago Rabbinical Council visited Cresco in March and said it was in the final stages of issuing a kosher certification that will cover everything from chocolate bars to concentrates.

Lifesaving medical treatment is an exception to kosher rules. A cancer drug made out of bacon-wrapped crickets, for example, would be fine. But while many patients use medical marijuana to treat the symptoms of serious illnesses, cannabis products are often not considered curative.

The products, almost certain to have a niche market, will be joining a booming industry. Legal sales of marijuana are expected to rise to $5.7 billion this year, up from $4.4 billion last year, according to a report from Ackrell Capital, a boutique investment bank. The recreational use of marijuana is legal in four states plus the District of Columbia, while medical marijuana is allowed in 19 more.

Mr. Hoffnung, 42, is quick to say that he is not a cannabis enthusiast and wants nothing to do with the recreational marijuana industry. He says that he considers Vireo, one of five companies licensed to sell medical marijuana products in New York, a pharmaceutical company.

Hydroponic growing area in medical marijuana plant in Johnstown, NY

Emily Errico checking a marijuana plant in the hydroponic growing area. Credit: JR Delia for The New York Times

Dressed in a dark blue blazer and white button-down shirt, he looks like the Wall Street executive that he used to be, having spent nearly a decade at firms including JPMorgan Chase. After Wall Street, Mr. Hoffnung served as a deputy comptroller for New York City. Part of his job involved analyzing the fiscal implications of medical marijuana.

“Just studying it with a group of economists and sophisticated financial analysts led me to believe wow, this is a multibillion-dollar market,” Mr. Hoffnung said.

The industry still faces a number of challenges, because the federal government considers marijuana an illegal drug. Many banks refuse to work with companies in the cannabis business, leading to stories about trunks full of cash and covert money transfers. And these companies cannot take advantage of some of the tax breaks intended for small businesses.

Vireo spent thousands of dollars on its kosher certification — Mr. Hoffnung declined to say just how much, because he sees it as one small step along medical marijuana’s march toward mainstream acceptance. The endorsement from a rabbinical organization, he hopes, will help the products appeal to a broader swath of consumers.

“There’s no question,” he said, “that the number of patients that desire kosher products, coupled with battling the stigma associated with medical marijuana, made this a wise economic investment.”

Representatives of the Orthodox Union and the Chicago Rabbinical Council, which inspected Cresco, said that the idea of kosher medical marijuana had stirred much internal debate, and that they would certify only medical marijuana and not products intended for the recreational market.

Deciding to go forward with the certification process “wasn’t an easy decision,” said Rabbi Moshe Elefant, the chief operating officer at the Orthodox Union’s kosher division.

But Rabbi Sholem Fishbane, the administrator of kosher laws for the Chicago Rabbinical Council, said he now expected to get more calls.

“What I thought would be, you know, maybe I’ll call it an amusing afternoon,” he said about the inspection, “really turned out to be a lot of lessons of Kosher 101.”