What this town needs is a Barney’s*
(*And if you think I mean the upscale NYC department store, that’s the problem – I’m sort of talking about the opposite of that)
Commentary by Saratoga Springs resident Jeff Schwartz
I dropped anchor in Saratoga Springs over two decades ago. Best…Move…Ever… Great place to live, to raise kids, to socialize, etc. Sure, like every place else it has its issues. But I really love my adopted hometown.
However, I’m keenly aware of how things are changing. One of those things, for example, is the local housing market. As I keep perusing the real estate listings, I see house after house and condo after condo for $1MM+. That is A LOT of money. And just like in certain other parts of the country (though generally more common in major metropolitan areas), there is talk of the need for work force housing and how difficult it is for teachers, first responders, people in food service and hospitality to afford to live in the very town that they help make great.
Part of the fabric of the city is the many great bars and restaurants. No shortage of places to get a very fine meal and an equally fine cocktail to accompany it, as well as a sizable bill at the end of the night. Nothing wrong with paying well for fine food and service – it’s well deserved. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. So….about Barney’s.
I often run and bike through the east side of town (near the dead presidents). On one of those runs I saw that the building on Crescent Street between Adams Street and Monroe Street was being torn down (probably for more housing). Most recently it was the Blue Agave restaurant, and before that is was Leon’s and before that it was Barney’s.
Barney’s was a family joint – plain and simple – and it was fabulous. It was family run and those folks busted their asses. Pizza, hot subs (meatball parm, oh how I miss you so!), pitchers of beer and soda. Plastic tumblers. Paper napkins. Maybe even those faux wooden parquet salad bowls. Nothing fancy. A place where you could bring the kids. Noise was fine. The pizzas were served on those elevated silver stands. You ordered a bunch of stuff for the whole group. It was heaven to hit Barney’s after a day at the races. And it sure as hell did not break the bank, which for some was not an irrelevant consideration after a day at the “graveyard of favorites”. A good meal at a good price with good people, prepared and delivered by good people…hard working people. Heck, there was even a parking lot! It was the kind of place where the owners often knew the guests, and you had a good chance at seeing someone you knew.
Looking back I can only imagine how much blood, sweat and tears went into a place like that. It could not have been easy to own a place like that, but it was surely a sweet gig being a customer.
This isn’t an anti-progress rant. I’m not a NIMBY or a BANANA. Change is fine; change is good. All I’m saying is that places like that are integral to the character of a town. This town could surely use a Barney’s. I miss that place.