Ed Mitzen says he has a great deal of admiration for business leaders in Saratoga who have given a lot back to the community, and he hopes to emulate their success both in business and in philanthropy.
His company, FingerPaint Marketing, will soon have a very visible platform for whatever he may consider doing in that regard. FingerPaint has signed a ten year lease to move into the now-empty Borders building at the corner of Broadway and Division, right downtown.
For years Borders was considered a major business anchor for downtown Saratoga. It left a visible hole when the company pulled out in April of 2011. The building has remained empty since then, and was the source of regular rumors about what company might take it over.
But in less than six months the lights will finally be back on. “We’ll be using the whole space,” says Mitzen. “We have 42 people now, with eight open positions. So we’ll be at least at 50 when we take occupancy in February or March. That will fill out the bottom space, and as we expand we’ll fill out the top.”
Todd Shimkus is the president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce. He says he’s excited to see FingerPaint make the move from their current home in The Lofts on Division Street. “With our desire to be a high tech hub and to attract other high tech businesses, we need to attract and retain the talent those companies want. FingerPaint is attracting that type of talent right now.”
One of the things that has made Saratoga Springs a vibrant city is its busy downtown, full of street-level retail spaces that draw people into the area to shop and eat. But losing the building as retail space isn’t a concern, says Shimkus, because the people at FingerPaint understand the need to create something fun in the building’s outside areas.
For instance, Shimkus says they could place video screens in the big windows that line Broadway. “You could have some of those screens, if they’re not showing videos, to display a twitter feed that could engage people as they walk down Broadway about things they could do in the community.”
Another possibility that Mitzen mentions is placing benches outside and making the area an internet hotspot.
Treat that space, says Shimkus, like many downtown restaurants do right now – find a way to make it really inviting for people passing by. “What’s their sidewalk café?”
The point, says Shimkus, is the loss of retail space does not mean the street loses its vitality. “They’re more creative than I’ll ever be,” he says. “So I think they can create some cool opportunities right outside that property. So when you go by, there’s something there you can get engaged with.” And that would add great value to everything going on along Broadway, he says. “We need to think creatively about how to use that sidewalk and window space.”
Mitzen says an important part of what he wants to do is to find ways to give back to the community. “It’s sort of a metaphor that we chose a building right in the middle of the city,” he says.
One thing he’s considering is allowing non-profits to use the parking lot for fund-raising events, such as car washes. And he says posters promoting community events can be placed in the windows. “We’ll figure it out as we go along,” he says. “We thought long and hard about how to use the space as a benefit to the community. So we’ve been trying to identify areas of opportunities so that we can use the space in that way.”
Mitzen says he wants to be a strong member of the community, like Charles Wait at The Adirondack Trust Company or Steve Sullivan at the Olde Bryan Inn and Longfellows, two business leaders known for the help they provide to community organizations. “I’ve always admired that and hope we can follow in their footsteps and be the next generation giving back to the community.”
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