New law allows craft distilleries to fill larger glasses

Samples of mixed drinks, such as cherry-flavored moonshine stirred with Coca-Cola, soon will be available for customers to buy at Clayton Distillery, thanks to the Craft New York Act that took effect Saturday.

The business on Route 12 will begin to offer larger, 2-ounce samples of mixed drinks at its tasting room in February as a result of the new law, co-owner Michael L. Aubertine said Thursday. Among other things, the law permits small distilleries to offer full-size pours of their spirits without having to obtain a separate license. Previously, mixed drinks were banned and only quarter-ounce samples were allowed.

Passed in June and signed into law by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in November, the law was crafted to ease the burden of regulations for small distilleries and promote growth of the industry. Mr. Aubertine said a wider variety of samples at the distillery’s tasting room is expected to be a major draw for customers. To accommodate larger crowds, he said, the tasting bar will be expanded in January to roughly double its size, from about 20 to 40 linear feet.

“We’re going to do tastings the same way we’re doing them now, but customers will be able to buy three 2-ounce glasses of mixed drinks for around $5,” said Mr. Aubertine, who launched the distillery in April 2013. “We’re going to have a small flight of our mixed drinks available so they can sample them to see what they taste like. I think a lot higher percentage of people drink things mixed than they do straight, and if they taste them mixed, they’re more likely to buy.”

After the tasting room’s bar is expanded, customers will be able to mix popular combinations of different drinks to sample, Mr. Aubertine said. Some customers, for example, enjoy mixing lemonade moonshine with raspberry liqueur, he said. In addition to mixed-drink samples, complimentary quarter-ounce samples of unmixed spirits will continue to be served in shot glasses at the tasting room.

While the distillery could theoretically sell full-sized drinks at the tasting room under the new law, Mr. Aubertine said he decided not to do that because he doesn’t want his business to become a bar-like establishment.

“We’re not encouraging people to come in here like they would a bar or restaurant. But the area will become an expanded tasting room where you can actually try out all of our products,” Mr. Aubertine said. The distillery sells different varieties of vodka, gin, moonshine, bourbon, flavored whiskey and liqueur.

The law also will make it easier for distilleries to host special events, Mr. Aubertine said, such as Clayton Distillery’s second annual Whisky Wingding, scheduled for July 20. Due to state law, he said, the distillery couldn’t legally offer alcoholic beverages during the outdoor event last year. Food and alcoholic beverages were catered for the event by O’Brien’s Restaurant and DiPrinzio’s Italian Market, both of Clayton.

“We had to use O’Brien’s liquor license to do the event, and the catering had to be outdoors,” he said. “But now we’ll be able to serve our own drinks.”

The distillery has made about 75 percent of its year-to-date revenue in 2014 from products sold at its tasting room, while the remainder of the revenue has been generated from sales to liquor stores across the state, Mr. Aubertine said. He expects to see a boost in tasting-room sales in 2015 as a result of the larger samples that will be offered.

“We won’t make a ton of money selling drinks at the tasting room, but we expect to sell a lot more bottles,” he said.

DARK ISLAND SPIRITS

Also benefiting from the Craft New York Act will be Dark Island Spirits distillery, which is expected to open in the spring at the former Muskie Lounge on Church Street in Alexandria Bay, owner Roger R. Reifensnyder said Thursday. Assisted by a pair of relatives, the Hammond resident said he has spent the past two years renovating the lounge into a distillery operation and restaurant. The former 1,200-square-foot lounge has been retrofitted into a distillery, and a 1,200-square-foot addition with an outdoor deck was constructed to make room for the restaurant.

Mr. Reifensnyder said the law was needed for his business plan to be successful at the distillery, which is designed to be a walk-to tourism destination near the waterfront.

“Our goal from the beginning was to make this place an event venue. And now, by having this law, we can optimize the venue by serving people New York state-made food alongside distilled spirits by the glass,” said Mr. Reifensnyder, whose operation will be fueled by grain harvested from a farm he owns in Hammond. “It allows us to essentially have a restaurant and also sell our distilled spirits.”

Mr. Reifensnyder said he has had to apply for a handful of different licenses to open the distillery and restaurant in the village. In addition to farm winery and distillery licenses the business has obtained, he has applied for a farm cidery license that will allow the establishment to sell locally made food products, such as packaged artisan cheeses.

In the meantime, Mr. Reifensnyder said, he will be putting the finishing touches on the construction of the building in the coming months. He said spirits already are being prepared at the distillery for the opening date.

“We believe that our tasting room and entire restaurant will be open by May 1,” he said.

 

 

By Ted Booker, Times Staff Writer

Rising heating costs make coal stoves an attractive option at Black Diamond Heat

 

As the price of fuel oil, propane and firewood have sharply risen in the north country, Jan A. Martusewicz believes people will find anthracite coal mined in central Pennsylvania to be a cost-effective alternative for heating their homes.

To that end, Mr. Martusewicz opened Black Diamond Heat this summer off Route 11 in Evans Mills. It’s based in a large warehouse at 29701 Martin Road North and sells an array of stoves, furnaces and boilers designed to burn anthracite coal. The business, which sells the coal in bulk quantities, is a short drive north of Fort Drum’s main gate.

Mr. Martusewicz said a variety of factors inspired him to launch the business at the warehouse, which he purchased at a bank foreclosure auction in May. During a tour of the facility Wednesday, the 61-year-old said that ReEnergy LLC’s launch of its biomass facility at Fort Drum in 2013 has dramatically reduced the firewood supply across the county, causing prices to rise. People have been scrambling to find alternative heating sources to cut down on winter costs as a result, he said.

“Coal has always gotten a bad rap as being anti-environmental, but the last couple of years, fuel and propane costs have skyrocketed,” said the Theresa resident, who is also the owner of LeRay Sealed Storage off Route 11, a supplier of plastic packaging materials for farmers. “That trend has been complemented by the spiking of firewood prices because of the cogeneration plant that’s been gobbling up wood. That’s what I’m hearing from guys who buy hardwood logs and process them to sell. Low-income people have been the end users who’ve relied on buying wood, but they are getting hit the hardest by higher firewood prices.”

While firewood could be easily found priced at about $40 per cord about five years ago, he said, it is now priced at about $75 per cord.

That trend has made heating alternatives, such as wood-pellet and coal stoves, increasingly attractive, Mr. Martusewicz said. He said that anthracite coal, commonly known as hard coal, is an extremely clean-burning fuel that generates more heat than other sources, such as propane and wood. Bituminous coal, or soft coal, doesn’t burn as cleanly and allows more contaminants into the air, he said.

The price point of anthracite coal heating appliances sold by the business range from $1,500 to $10,000, Mr. Martusewicz said. The appliances are manufactured by Hitzer Stoves of Berne, Ind., whose products are handcrafted by Amish workers, and Keystoker Manufacturing Co. of Schuyllkill Haven, Pa. The coal is sold in 40-pound bags, priced at about $7 apiece, and in bulk quantities for $270 a ton. Coal may be picked up on site or delivered to locations across Jefferson and southern St. Lawrence counties.

As an example of a popular appliance, Mr. Martusewicz demonstrated on Wednesday how to operate a $2,000 stove manufactured by Hitzer. The stove, which requires no electricity and is designed to be connected to a chimney, burns nut-or-pea-sized anthracite coal that is gravity-fed directly into the fire. Coal is fed onto the stove’s cast-iron shaker grates, and a removable ash pan slides open at its bottom. Ordinarily, he said, a stove will burn about 36 hours before it needs to be refueled.

More advanced heating appliances burn rice-sized anthracite coal, he said, which is automatically burned based on thermostat settings. Some furnaces, for example, are designed to be connected directly into existing home heating systems to supplement the generation of heat. They include direct vents that eliminate the need for a chimney by channelling exhaust outdoors.

“With the rice coal, you dump it into the back of the stove after the fire is started and is automatically fed,” Mr. Martusewicz said, adding that his goal is to provide a wide range of options to meet the heating needs of home and commercial users. “People can do their homework to find out if this is something that would fit into their existing heating systems. I’m trying to give everyone the option here to use coal if they want to.”

Visit www.blackdiamondheat.com or call the business at 771-2625 for more information.

 

By Ted Booker, Times Staff Writer

Pastor’s faith rewarded: Former Globe MiniMall donated to Watertown church

Three years ago, Kory M. Wells, the senior pastor of Calvary Chapel North Country church, had grand plans for the former Globe MiniMall building. But first he had to acquire it.

When a California businessman suddenly purchased the 43,000-square-foot Court Street landmark in April 2012, with plans of transforming it into high-end offices, the pastor’s dreams of restoring it appeared to come to an end.

“We prayed on it,” he said. “You just have to have faith.”

Two months ago, out of the blue, the building’s owner, Ramiro J. Sandoval and his wife, both of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., attended one of the church’s services and delivered some miraculous news.

They wanted to donate the property, which has been sitting idle for the past two years, to the church.

The couple “knew in their heart that’s what they were supposed to do with the building,” Mr. Wells said, stressing the previous owners did not want to get any recognition for their gesture.

With about 75 members, Calvary Chapel North Country, which formed in 2011, has been renting space since May in the Top of Square shops under the Convergys Corp. call center on Arsenal Street.

Several weeks ago, the church — a charitable nonprofit organization under CCNC Holdings Inc. — took ownership of the building, Pastor Wells said.

Mr. Sandoval, who owns 11 other properties in Watertown, could not be reached for comment.

Pastor Wells plans to eventually transform the building into his church. Still in the preliminary planning stages, the building also would house a Christian book store, coffee house, cafe and second-hand boutique.

Church officials should know more about the project after the first of the year, Pastor Wells said. Still needing to figure out financing for the project, the church will restore the building “over time,” he said.

“If God had a plan for the building, then He’ll know what to do from here,” he said.

This fall, Mr. Sandoval was visiting Watertown when he found out that Calvary Chapel, a denomination of Christian-based churches that began in Southern California, had a ministry here in Watertown. It was the California connection that attracted him to the local church, Pastor Wells said.

After moving from California in 2011, Pastor Wells started Calvary Chapel, which has an ever-changing membership base that caters to military families. Before moving into Top of the Square, the church met in the Ramada Inn on Arsenal Street.

Soon after arriving in Watertown, Pastor Wells quickly noticed the old Globe building. But realtors told him it would not be possible for him to obtain the building.

“We just wanted to do something good for the community,” he said.

While he was not aware of the church’s plans, Kenneth A. Mix, the city planning and community development coordinator, welcomed news of a new owner.

“Anytime that a building can be filled, it’s good for downtown revitalization,” he said.

Once the Globe department store, the 95-year-old downtown building is currently assessed at $141,400 and has a full-market value of $160,682.

City Assessor Brian S. Phelps said he was aware the building changed hands recently, but he did not have any details about the acquisition.

If the building is turned into a church, it would be eligible to become tax exempt, although the other planned uses may not be eligible for that status.

For years, the building housed a minimall, which included a post office satellite, luncheonette, a series of craft shops, antique businesses and nonprofit offices. Before that it was the home of the Globe Store until that closed in 1973.

Mr. Sandoval purchased the building for $135,000 from Syracuse resident Jeffrey E. Lowe, with plans to spend $1 million to turn it into office space. Before he acquired it in 2012, it housed Re-Sale America, the used-goods business that moved to Northland Plaza, off Eastern Boulevard. It has been vacant since.

 

 

By Craig Fox, Times Staff Writer

Plans developing for new Commercial Block building on Wellesley Island

Thousand Island Park Corp. is moving carefully as it considers replacing the Commercial Block building that was destroyed by fire in August.

The corporation and its building committee are evaluating community feedback, business plans and historic preservation options to have designs in place by summer and a new building by the 2016 season.

“As far as footprint, what’s going to fit there?” asked Robert Sharlow, the corporation’s general manager. “You want to make sure what’s going to be there is going to be there for at least 100 years.”

The century-old building burned in the early hours of Aug. 14, destroying businesses such as the Guzzle cream cream and candy shop, a grocery store, a post office and the Thousand Island Park Fire Station for the Wellesley Island Fire Department, along with $800,000 of the department’s equipment.

The Commercial Block was created in 1913 in the aftermath of a fire that destroyed much of the park area, about 100 cottages and the Columbian Hotel. In 1890, the Thousand Island Park Hotel burned down in a fire.

In a report to residents, Thousand Island Park Corp. confirmed the August fire was caused by electrical problems “with origin undetermined.” After concerns about asbestos at the site, the report said air-monitoring crews found no significant traces of asbestos, preserving future development.

A part of those development plans will be considering development around the block. The report said the corporation is assessing the viability of expanding and renovating the second and third floors of the Wellesley Hotel.

The report said the corporation hoped to have an analysis of the hotel planning by January.

“The rebuilding committee is very focused on going at an appropriate speed,” Mr. Sharlow said.

Also important will be new fire-safety plans, including the development of a year-round hydrant. During the August fire, crews had to run about 1,000 feet of hose lines to draw water from the St. Lawrence River. Sprinklers also are being installed at the island’s pavilion, the corporation’s office and the park’s chapel.

Without a building this summer, the corporation is planning to use temporary structures and trailers to provide space for food vendors and community gatherings.

As the corporation considers its next step, the Wellesley Island Fire Department is nearing the closure of a deal to buy land for its new station near the intersection of County Route 110 and Cross Island Road, closer to the Thousand Islands Bridge.

The department also has been adding new equipment, most recently a boat for ice rescues, and soon a new brush truck.

“There’s progress; every week’s there’s progress,” Fire Chief Robert C. Markert said.

The department recently received $100,000 in state funding to aid its recovery, and it will ask for resident donations to help.

Mr. Markert said more substantial work for its building committee and its architect will get underway at the start of the new year.

 

 

By Gordon Block, Times Staff Writer

2014 Class of 20 Under 40

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This year’s class of 20 Under 40 (click the recipient’s name to watch a video and read his or her profile):

 

 

An architect, a director of business development, communication professionals, a national sales and marketing manager, an educator, a financial planner, health care professionals, an information technology specialist, a transportation center director, a director of human resources, a loan officer, a pair of camp leaders, a director of operations and a few small business owners.

Our fourth annual 20 Under 40 class was the most competitive field yet, and these individuals represent a snapshot of Northern New York’s most accomplished, dedicated and involved young professionals, across a wide spectrum of industries, and across three counties.

All of these young men and women are involved in some shape or form in their community, whether by serving on an organization’s board, being a foster parent, serving in a youth leadership organization, or something as simple as helping to organize community 5K runs or making time to donate to food banks.

All of these leaders, who are between the ages of 22 and 39, were chosen not only by the editors and staff of NNY Business magazine, but by virtue of glowing recommendations from their peers and employers. And not only do these emerging leaders, who embody the prized north country values of compassion, hard work and selflessness, make time in hectic schedules to volunteer in the community, they give their very best in challenging career fields each and day, all out of an effort to make the place they have chosen to stay in and call home the very best place it can be.

Developer: Lincoln Building will undergo ‘from top to bottom’ restoration

 

A new $5 million fund to help rehabilitation projects in the north country is welcome news to local real estate investor Brian H. Murray.

He found out that the Development Authority of the North Country secured $5 million on Thursday that could be used for a variety of redevelopment and revitalization projects.

He plans to talk to DANC officials about any possible funding he could obtain for the Lincoln Building project.

“DANC knows what we’re going to do with the project and has been supportive,” he said.

The $5 million fund is among $63.4 million in funding that the north country received through the state’s Regional Economic Development Council program announced by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. Last year, the Lincoln Building project received $250,000 from the state program.

Mr. Murray expects to embark on the first phase of renovating the Public Square landmark this spring. He intends initially to spend about $1 million on restoring the historic facade and five storefronts.

Depending on the weather, work should start in March or April and be completed later next year, Mr. Murray said.

Later, the upper floors would be converted into apartments, but that portion of the overall project, first estimated at $12 million, will have to wait until state affordable housing tax credits can be obtained if the upper floors are transformed into apartments.

“Everything from the top to the bottom will be redone,” Mr. Murray said.

A number of potential tenants — he described as “all kinds” — have inquired about the approximate 40,000 square feet of space that will become available after the first space is completed, he said. Tenants could occupy as little as 800 square feet, all of 40,000 square feet or a combination of space on the ground floor and upper floors, he said.

The six-story structure also includes commercial space in the basement. The upper floors could be developed into offices or apartments, he said, noting that the downtown rental units may be easier to rent than housing projects on the outskirts of the city.

“We’ve got quite a few tenants inquiring but nothing has been firmed up,” Mr. Murray said.

Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham would like to see a grocery store open in the store front space. Scott St. Joseph, a member of the Citizens Advisory Board, suggested a large bookstore.

The Lincoln Building would join the Woolworth Building on the other side of Public Square and the redevelopment of the Mercy Hospital site offering commercial space, along with smaller downtown projects that are in the works.

Kenneth A. Mix, the city’s planning and community development coordinator, said it may be a challenge to fill up all of that commercial space when the projects are completed.

The project’s cost could increase because of requirements by the State Historic Preservation Office that must be completed as part of the renovations, Mr. Murray said.

For instance, a glaze over the facade’s brick must be retained, so it can only be cleaned and repainted.

Meanwhile, Mr. Murray, whose company has acquired several apartment complexes and other buildings in and around downtown in recent years, also plans to obtain 170 Court St., occupied by Smith Housewares and Restaurant Supply. If the deal can be consummated in January, Mr. Murray will simply assume the $99,000 mortgage, he said. The restaurant supply company is closing here and will operate out of its Syracuse location.

By Craig Fox, Times Staff Writer

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