Dog biscuits are niche for LaFargeville entrepreneur

Donna M. Russell has launched a dog treats business out of her house, 23085 Route 411, LaFargeville. Photo by Justin Sorensen/Watertown Daily Times.

LAFARGEVILLE — It turns out locally produced food with healthy ingredients isn’t popular only among those with two legs.

Canines aren’t as picky as humans who badger restaurant servers with questions about the origins of food, but healthy eating is equally important for dogs, said 59-year-old Donna M. Russell, who opened 4 Paws Barkerie last summer at her house, 23085 Route 411. The bakery for dogs has set itself apart by selling biscuits made only from locally grown ingredients and containing no preservatives or salt.

After a successful summer selling treats at events, Mrs. Russell is focusing on increasing online sales through her website, Facebook and Twitter pages soon will be linked to the website, which offers an array of treats including gift baskets and birthday cakes. [Read more…]

Take action: easy steps to success

Small Business Development Centers see many business owners this time of year. Numerous requests for assistance pour in as they finally have time to tackle some of their business “to-do lists.” The slow time in business cycle is the perfect time to do just that. The challenges are in figuring out how much time you have and then winnowing down your list to your most important goals. [Read more…]

Small Biz Startup: The Spicy Wench

Christine Hoffman, owner of "The Spicy Wench" brand of jams and jellies , a home grown business venture run from her Harris Drive home in the city of Watertown.


The Spicy Wench owner, Christine E. Hoffman, was looking for a way to utilize some sweet and spicy treats from her garden that she planted in 2009. Her husband and son had requested a myriad of peppers be planted, so she took to making pepper jelly and drying her harvest. She tested her products on her husband, a civilian contractor working in Iraq, and his friends overseas. Perfecting her recipes, she launched The Spicy Wench in 2011. [Read more…]

A few key rules to start a business

Experts agree: For those who want to launch, preparation, building team critical to success

Following a period of holiday bliss, the New Year is a time when reality sinks in. One begins to ask what resolutions will be most attainable in the coming months. Is it losing that extra five pounds? Maybe it’s sleeping a full eight hours every night? Or perhaps just reading more, instead of spending so much time in front of the television.

For business owners, the New Year is a time to set new goals. Paint the storefront for some added curb appeal. Keep better records of business spending. Freshen up the advertising campaign in an effort to draw in new customers.

[Read more…]

Crystal Restaurant building sold to local landlord

Running the oldest established restaurant in the city, the Dephtereos family for decades has leased the storefront space at 85-87 Public Square that is home to the Crystal.

The family will continue to rent the 1,700 square feet of space for the iconic restaurant, although a new landlord has emerged as the owner of the nearly century-old building.

Landlord Ricky E. Frazier has purchased the building from a Babylon corporation, 85-87 Public Square Properties LLC, for $125,000, according to the Jefferson County clerk’s office. The property is assessed for $88,500.

But Peter J. Dephtereos, a third-generation restaurateur and current co-owner of the Crystal, said Sunday that his customers can continue to rely on the Crystal’s meatloaf lunch special, the inexpensive dinner menu, the Tom and Jerry rum-and-brandy concoction and its aged wooden booths.

He expects the Crystal will stay at its present location. “As of today, business as usual,” Mr. Dephtereos said.

The Dephtereos family had hoped to buy the building from its former owner, but a proposed deal was never consummated, Mr. Dephtereos said. Sources in City Hall said the former owner had upped the price at the last minute; Mr. Dephtereos declined to comment.

[Read more…]

Snowfall could spur cross-country ski sales, snowblower repairs

Peter A. Catalfamo, Washington, D.C., skis through freshly fallen snow Sunday at the Barnes Corners ski trails. Recent snow has several businesses looking forward to a better winter than last year, when unseasonably warm weather hurt sales. Photo by Amanda Morrison/Watertown Daily Times

Lots of snowfall during the winter can be good or bad, depending on the eye of the beholder.

Recent snowfall has been a positive sign for retailers who sell outdoor sporting equipment. But it has caused some irritation for those who couldn’t get their snowblowers — long neglected after last year’s mild winter — to start. That trend will buoy business for small-engine mechanics who will be called to fix them.

Black River Adventurer’s Shop, 129 Mill St., saw its cross-country ski and snowshoe sales drop by more than 50 percent last winter because of the mild weather, owner Todd J. Phelps said. Although this week’s snowfall came too late to capitalize on Christmas shoppers, he is still looking for a better season.

“Everyone was doing their shopping before the snow got here,” he said.

But the robust winter predicted by meteorologists has him feeling optimistic sales could rebound this year.

“It’s going to have to be a steady, constant snow to build people’s confidence that there’s going to be enough snow and an opportunity to go cross-country skiing,” he said.

Those who remember last year’s mild winter may still be reluctant to spend $300 on a new pair of cross-country skis, he said. But rentals at the shop will climb if the winter yields plenty of snow. The shop charges $10 to rent boots and skis. [Read more…]

Entrepreneur takes Spicy Wench to next level with online sales

Christine E. Hoffman is owner of the Spicy Wench brand of jams and jellies , a business run from her Harris Drive home in Watertown. Photo by Norm Johnston/Watertown Daily Times

This pair of spicy wenches — dressed in bawdy red dresses and knee-high, high-heeled boots — get second looks from men who stop by their booth at summer festivals. What cousins Alexandria L. Hoffman and Amanda S. White sell, however, has caused sweat to drip down their foreheads and even causes their eyes to behave like lawn sprinklers.

Launched by owner Christine E. Hoffman in November 2011, the Spicy Wench sells a spectrum of pepper jellies that range from its sweet “Italian Belle” to its super-hot “Demon’s Delight.” The latter has a reputation for making macho men break into tears. Mrs. Hoffman’s 16-year-old daughter, Alexandria — who has a resilient palate and stomach — takes sadistic delight in challenging men to spicy-pepper duels.

“It’s always great to see the tough guys try to beat her. She likes to see them cry,” Mrs. Hoffman said. “They puke, but she has a stomach of steel. This girl can eat horrific stuff.”

Miss Hoffman and her 19-year-old cousin have appeared together in their glitzy outfits at numerous summer festivals to spread the word about the new business. Much of 2011 was spent getting the word out about Mrs. Hoffman’s small-scale business, which sells pepper and fruit jams and dried peppers, onions and garlic. Its growing customer base this year led to the launch of its professionally designed website, The business also made contracts with two local farms that grow peppers, Cross Island Farms of Wellesley Island and Garden Hill Farms in Champion.

Mrs. Hoffman started a pepper garden in the fall of 2009 at the suggestion of her husband, Troy A., who is a government contractor working in Iraq. She just didn’t expect the pepper jellies produced from the 4-by-4-foot boxes in her garden to become popular so fast.

[Read more…]

Brothers at Schorr Service Station close up shop

Nelson C., left, and Robert P. Schorr, right, pose in the window of their shop on LeRay Street in Watertown. The Schorrs will be closing shop for good after 44 years in business. Photo by Amanda Morrison/Watertown Daily Times.

To get a sense of what the Schorr Service Station has meant to the community for more than four decades, a plaque on the station’s wall can sum it up:

“The Schorrs are great citizens who exemplify the character and warmth of the north country,” Army Maj. Gen. James L. Terry wrote two years ago in a Commander’s Certificate of Appreciation. “They have gone out of their way to provide honest service and care.”

On Friday, the Schorr brothers, Robert P., 74, and Nelson C., 67, at 686 LeRay St., quietly welcomed the last customers at their automotive repair shop. They will keep its adjoining automatic car wash running.

Customers such as Cheri C. McGurn, Adams, who has been bringing her vehicles to the service station for two decades, are sad to see them hang up their tools. She and other customers didn’t know Friday was the last day for the garage’s operation and were disappointed to find that out. The brothers say they are retiring because of declining health.

“They are friendly and honest,” Mrs. McGurn said. She described their shop as “Norman Rockwell-ish,” an image assisted by Rusty Wallace, the tiger cat who wanders the service bay and office and who will greet you if he “takes a liking” to you. The other feline mascot, Aboo, died about two years ago. Customers have sent dozens of Christmas cards and dropped off several plates of Christmas cookies.

Credit unions could get lending boost from proposed law

Small businesses that can’t get loans at cash-crunched community banks might soon have a good reason to do their shopping at credit unions.

If a federal law is approved this month, it will empower credit unions to lend more than double what they can now. By law, the amount of lending credit unions are allowed to make is locked at 12.5 percent of their total assets. If the proposed Small Business Lending Enhancement Act is approved, that limit would be increased to 27.5 percent.

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is among a large bipartisan contingent supporting the bill, which is set to be voted on in both houses this month. During a conference call Tuesday, Mrs. Gillibrand outlined how credit unions are set to play a critical role for small businesses in this state at a time when community banks still are hobbled by the recession. Statewide, passage of the bill could boost lending for credit unions by about $1 billion and create more than 11,000 jobs, according to the Credit Union National Association. The north country’s 20 credit unions, which have some 140,000 members, could stand to increase lending by more than $2 million. [Read more…]

New eatery, shops have made Paddock Arcade upscale haven for Watertown urbanites

Todd V. Tarzia, owner of Vito’s Gourmet, stands in the window during lunch at the new restaurant in the Paddock Arcade. Photo by Justin Sorensen/Watertown Daily Times.

The launch of several shops this year at the Paddock Arcade on Public Square has made it a haven for downtown professionals.

They can get a haircut at the Beauty Bar salon opened in July, or eat dinner at Johnny D’s Restaurant, which has expanded its hours to stay open during evenings Thursday through Saturday. Buying cakes and cookies with Old World decor will be another option when Europe Cakes opens in December; and at the new eatery Vito’s Gourmet, which opened Friday, homemade soups and sandwiches are available on-the-go.

Has the old plaza, built in 1850, made a comeback this year?

“It serves the people downtown all parts of the day,” said Donald G.M. Coon III, Paddock Arcade manager partner. “You can get coffee, breakfast and muffins in the morning, and during the day you have four restaurants open. Then after the day’s off, you have the bar to go to at the Paddock Club, and Johnny D’s open on the weekend.”

[Read more…]