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Railway's 'Snow Train' boosts business in winter months

2013-01-29T16:21:00Z 2013-10-28T12:22:57Z Railway's 'Snow Train' boosts business in winter monthsSCOTT DONNELLY -- sdonnelly@poststar.com Glens Falls Post-Star

JOHNSBURG -- Merchants along Main Street in the hamlet of North Creek know when the train arrives.

“The skiers come in around 2 p.m., and it’s pretty steady,” said Judy Stafford, artist coordinator at The Exchange on Main Street.

The store, which is financially backed by Saratoga & North Creek Railway, features creations from 110 artists and artisans. It opened in June with just 60.

“Word has gotten out among the artist community that we’re very professional, and it’s a beautiful space,” Stafford said. “Now, we have people coming through the door asking us to consider their items.”

Nanci Vineyard, manager of Seven Sisters gift store on Main Street, said she has seen a similar phenomenon since the business opened a little more than a year ago.

“We have so much talent in this area, people show up every day with new things that blow your mind,” Vineyard said.

Kathy Waite, co-owner of Izzy’s Market and Deli on Main Street, said she has been encouraged by traffic since she and her husband, Dave, opened their business in May.

“We’ve added new menu items — more sandwiches and soup every day — and we now have growlers of craft beer to go,” Waite said Friday.

She has also begun offering baking classes once a month, and new retailers are offering goods in her upstairs consignment shop, she said.

Waite said she has also been working on a deal to rent a garage on the property — which overlooks the Hudson River — to a rafting company. Details were still in the works, so she didn’t want to elaborate.

While the main impact of the Saratoga & North Creek Railway has been felt in the summer months, the “Snow Train,” aimed at skiers who ride from Saratoga Springs to Gore Mountain, has helped entrepreneurs new and old prosper this winter.

“That train in the summer and fall has an amazing impact,” said Katherine Feiden, owner of Foothills of the Adirondacks on Main Street. Her store sells home furnishings, gifts, antiques and vintage goods.

The impact of the snow train, she said, is “harder to judge because, last year, we had no real winter. It’s certainly helped; I’ve probably had 45 people in here shopping that I normally wouldn’t have gotten.”

The Snow Train has carried 274 riders in its three weekends of operation so far, according to Steve Torrico, the railroad’s general manager. The train continues through mid-March and offers discounted Gore Mountain lift tickets to riders.

“We’re very pleased with the results so far,” Torrico said Tuesday.

The railroad expanded its Snow Train schedule this year to include two round-trip trains on Saturdays, after being encouraged by fall ridership of nearly 20,000 people — about double its first autumn of operations.

The Saratoga & North Creek Railway, owned by Iowa Pacific Holdings LLC, took over operation of the tourism railroad from the Upper Hudson River Railroad in 2011 with a plan to upgrade and expand service.

Ironically, new businesses hoping to capitalize on renewed tourism traffic are seeing a lot of customers come from the surrounding area.

“We have been drawing from other communities,” said Waite, co-owner of Izzy’s, where the sandwiches all have railroad-themed names. “On Saturday and Sunday, we’ve had people here until 5 p.m. It’s all locals. We’ve had amazing local support.”

Vineyard, at Seven Sisters, said that store is boosting efforts to reach local residents as well.

“We’re trying hard to stress buy local. Put your money in this community. Support your local artist. Second-homeowners are extremely important to us.”

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