Thursday, October 23, 2014

Scaring up business, for the fifth year in a row: Scarecrows on the Avenue

CBID's Team 10 scarecrows taking care of business at this year's 

"Scarecrows on the Avenue" contest. (We're not entered in the contest, 

but feel free to admire us here.)
Scarecrows are up, and this year's crop is the best yet!

The "Scarecrows on the Avenue" contest, hosted by the Central Avenue Business Improvement District, is under way, and this year's event yielded a record-number of registrations and installations. All told, we have 21 scarecrows installed on the fences at the west end, brightening up the district even as winter gathers.

This year's scarecrows are more detailed than in past years; several businesses built multiple scarecrows--whole families of scarecrows in some cases--and they also brought extra props to help make their scarecrow really stand out.

To get in on the action, the Central Avenue BID created a scarecrow duo. We modeled our scarecrows on "Team 10," the staff members whose efforts keep the district looking pretty. The scarecrows are wearing the bright orange Central BID shirts with sunglasses, and watering flowers.

St. Anne Institute, who won the contest last year with their comical Despicable Me tribute, was back again with another Disney tribute, this time from the movie Frozen. Their scarecrow, modeled after Olaf the snowman was constructed from boxes and an exercise ball, confessed Dan Pickel, coordinator for the agency's ERC program, and it looks every bit like the real thing.

Another contest veteran, Orlo School for Hair Design and Cosmetology, constructed a Bride of Frankenstein, with to die-for hair (or would it be "to dye-for"?). In the previous year, they constructed a scene from the sold-out show, Wicked.

The contest also welcomed several new contestants, including Honest Weight Food Co-op, with a love scene from the orchard, Fantastic Sam's, with a scarecrow family boasting great pipecleaner hairdos, Level Up Studios, with a Minecraft homage, ArtPartners/Tsehaya & Company, with a beautiful scarved dancer, and Capital CarShare's sharecrow, with a specially-designed T-shirt.

The scarecrows are set up at Hannaford Plaza at 900 Central Avenue in Albany. The plaza is part of Central Avenue's busy shopping district, which sees close to 50,000 cars a day. Participants of the event include ArtPartners/Tsehaya & Company, Inc., The Orlo School of Hair Design and Cosmetology, Homeless and Travelers Aid Society, Level Up Studios, Fantastic Sams, Mercury Screen Printing, Capital CarShare, H&R Block, Honest Weight Food Co-op, St. Anne Institute, The Albany Free School, Berkshire Bank, and the New York State Independent Living Council. 

Make sure you go and check out the scarecrows then go online and vote for your favorite at

Monday, October 20, 2014

All Aboard: CDTA and CBID launch transit art program, "ArtTV" at bus stop

Mayor Kathy Sheehan, CDTA Chairman David Stackrow, CBID Executive 
Director, Anthony Capece and Treasurer Darius Shahinfar at the unveiling of the 
transit art screen at the bus station in front of The Linda, WAMC's 
Performing Arts Studio on Central Avenue. 
ArtTV,” a public transit art program in Albany, held its launch event today at a gallery-style opening right on the sidewalk, in the heart of one of the city’s busiest bus stations.
At the launch event, the program’s partners unveiled one of the specially-designed digital display screens so that audiences could enjoy the premiere of “ArtTV.” The event included a live performance from Poet Daniel Summerhill, and offered a chance to meet the artists who contributed to the program.
Mayor Kathy Sheehan said, “The city’s arts and cultural scene is one of our greatest assets. We have so many talented artists in the City of Albany, and it’s wonderful to see CDTA and the Central Avenue Business Improvement District offering them another place to display their artwork and add to this city’s cultural heritage. This program will also bring artwork right to the public in the spaces they inhabit, inspiring people on a daily basis.”
CDTA Board Chairman David M. Stackrow said, “CDTA is happy to be part of this exciting announcement that will enhance the transit experience along Central Avenue. ArtTV offers a cultural dimension to our transit services, connecting our customers to the local arts community in a way this area has never seen before. This project is just another example of CDTA innovation on full display.”
Anthony Capece, Executive Director for the Central Avenue Business Improvement District said, “We are doing something completely new here. Unlike other transit art programs, which focus on static installations or the construction of ornate bus shelters, Albany’s “ArtTV,” will deliver ever-changing programming, using state-of-the-art technology. We will be able to update the programming in real time so that material stays fresh and engaging.”
Sage College of Albany students contributed content as part of their coursework in the department of Art + Design. "The faculty and students of the department of Art + Design at The Sage Colleges are excited to be participating in this innovative project," said Sean Hovendick, assistant professor and program director of Graphic + Media Design at The Sage Colleges. "This is a tremendous learning opportunity for our students as well as a way for them to give back to the community through the beautification of public art."
"ArtTV" is a public arts program sponsored by Capital District Transportation Authority and the Central Avenue Business Improvement District. As part of the program, five 42-inch television screens will be installed in CDTA’s busiest bus stations on Central Avenue for the purpose of displaying artists’ work, including paintings, photographs, films, dance and music performances, poetry, author interviews, and much more. Collected from local artists and artists’ organizations, this work will be broadcast throughout the day, providing immediate access to the arts for a large cross-section of the city’s population.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Orange Motors completes extensive renovations

Old and new Fords at the newly renovated Orange Motors
on Central Avenue. 

Orange Motors just completed extensive renovations at its historic car dealership on Central Avenue.

Started in April, this construction project included facade improvements and a new showroom, which integrates the Ford and Mazda silver, and the dealership's beloved orange, says Carl Keegan, vice president of Orange Motors.

"We wanted to update it, and give it a more modern look," Keegan says. The renovations will keep the building looking fresh and attractive for today's customers.

Orange Motors has 115 employees at its dealership, which was founded in 1916. Started by Orange County farmer Charles Touhey, Orange Motors is one of the oldest family businesses in the Capital Region. Many of the dealership's employees have been there for 30 years or more.

"The Touhey family, they're good people to work for, and they're a mainstay on Central Avenue, says Keegan.

Orange Motors is located at 799 Central Avenue in Albany. For more information, please contact (518) 489-5414 or visit their website at 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fall fun: Build a scarecrow, advertise your business

Nothing says autumn like a scarecrow. These lovable straw-filled fellows announce the arrival of cooler weather and the oncoming harvest. This year, the Central Avenue Business Improvement District celebrates these whimsical companions with their third annual “Scarecrows on the Avenue Contest.” Design a scarecrow for your business or organization, and you could win $500.

“The scarecrows are a Real Life Social Marketing and quality of life idea,” says Anthony Capece, Executive Director for the Central Avenue Business Improvement District. “It just takes something so simple and fun for just about anyone and brings it to life. It’s also a great promotional way to let people know about a cause or organization.” Each day, close to 40,000 vehicles travel this stretch of Central Avenue.

District members and city residents are invited to construct a scarecrow to display during the contest, which will take place from October 10-24, 2014. During the contest, the public will vote for their favorite online. The scarecrow with the most votes will win the grand prize of $500 cash.
“It should really spruce up the areas for fall...and that’s good for business,” says Capece.

Last year, the grand prize winner was St. Anne's Institute with a great send-up of Despicable Me, complete with minions."We used clothes we obtained from a second-hand shop and we received the hay to make the scarecrows from a donation," says Dan Pickel, program director at St. Anne's Institute. "The whole group had a great time coming up with the idea and then making it become a reality. The girls really felt a sense of pride driving by Hannaford and seeing their creation. We will absolutely participate again in 2014."

Interested? Go online to to fill out your entry form. It is $20.00 to enter. The entry fee is waived for not-for-profits. Deadline to enter is Friday, September 26, 2014.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Flower Power: Community groups come from near and far to plant Central Avenue

This month, Central Avenue was visited by students, an international delegation, and local youth, and all came to lend a hand with landscaping on Central Avenue.

 On September 6, College of Saint Rose students came to Central Avenue as part of their “Reach Out Saint Rose Day”, and helped the CBID staff plant mums on Lower Central Avenue between Robin and Henry Johnson Blvd. College of Saint Rose President Dr. Carolyn Stefanco stopped by to see how the crew was doing and learn a little bit more about Central Avenue. With the college's increased focus on international students, she was interested to learn what an international community Central Avenue has become, she said. Reach Out Saint Rose Day is a community service day, when hundreds of students fan out into the community and help local organizations with projects, including painting, light repairs and gardening. Here's photos of the planting event. 

The following Friday, September 12, visitors from the International Center for the Capital Region came to Central Avenue to learn and then, stuck around to plant flowers, too. The group included representatives of community and governmental agencies in Poland who came to New York State for three days to learn more about civil society program, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like our. While at the BID, we talked with them about the history of the organization, European counterparts, and the projects we have undertaken. Then, we hit the streets with shovels and rakes, to plant and mulch tree wells along Central Avenue.

Finally, youth from the Equinox Outreach Center pitched in to plant the last of the 100 flowers last week. Altogether, three community groups planted 25 tree wells and two beds, with 210 flowers.

The plantings took place in Central Avenue’s Main Street section. Known for its human size-buildings and small family-owned businesses, this part of Central Avenue has always had a neighborhood feel, and projects like these, where business owners, residents, and community organizations work together to beautify the area, only enhance this sense of community. This is the third annual planting that the BID has done with community groups. The project started in 2012 with College of Saint Rose, Equinox Youth Outreach Center, and Townsend Park Homes.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Beautiful bounty: Live Life Local

LIVE life LOCAL: celebrating albany county's local businessesIt's harvest time--the time of year when we gather the fruits of our labor and give thanks for the bounty that has been produced. 

With hundreds of local farms, producers, and businesses right in our own backyards, we have much to be thankful for right here in Albany County. Celebrate our local businesses and talent at this year's Live Life Local event, September 28 at the Times Union Center. 

Join Albany County and its partners, the Honest Weight Food Co-op, Albany Medical Center, CDTA and more, as we highlight Live Life Local featuring some of the best local foods, crafts, non-profits and feature performances and meet and greets with celebrities from our area!  

Live Life Local is an opportunity to highlight small businesses owned and operated in Albany County.
So, mark your calendars for Sunday, September 28 from 11:00am–4:00pm as Albany County hosts “Live Life Local” at the Times Union Center. Attendance and parking are FREE!

If you are a fan of our local farmers markets, you will not want to miss this opportunity to see and taste all that Albany County has to offer.

More information about the day’s schedule of events and vendor registration materials are available online 

Interested in vending there? Tables for local businesses are only $85, and not-for-profits enjoy a reduced rate of $40

Here's more information for prospective vendors: 
Click here to register: external website

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

All Around Albany 2014: Good and Growing

Students crushing at the foosball table at All Around Albany. Students played
for a gift card from Pepper Jack's, a popular restaurant with students. 

This year’s All Around Albany was a smashing success, for students and business members alike. In addition to serving the University at Albany, we also brought in students from College of Saint Rose and Albany Law School, introducing Central Avenue to even more new students.

Students enjoyed entertainment provided by local vendors, including Daryl Baldwin’s balloon artistry, Capture a Moment Photo Booth, henna tattoos, foosball courtesy of Greco Bros. Amusement Company, music from the Washington Avenue Armory, and caricatures by Jeanne Benas. The Ramada Plaza hosted, providing wall-to-wall food.

This year we welcomed 38 businesses, up from last year’s count of 36. These businesses met with students all afternoon, introducing them to their goods and services; many also offered samples of their food. Businesses expressed that they were pleased with student turnout, engagement, entertainment, and their location within the event. Suggestions for improvement included moving the event closer to Central Avenue and distributing CDTA bus schedules/routes for all the participating businesses. We are looking forward to another successful year next year, when we expect four schools, UAlbany, College of Saint Rose, Albany Law School, and Albany College of Pharmacy.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Champy's, a family restaurant joins busy block of Central Avenue near Townsend Park

Sharon Harris has two passions in life, counseling and cooking. She will probably put both to use in the new business she is opening this month--Champy’s Caribbean and American Cuisine, a restaurant she is starting with her four sons, Dexter, 24, Corey, 23, Lovell, 21, and Malik, 20.  

Harris is the founder of Safe Haven Youth Outreach Ministries, Inc. She has her Bachelor’s degree in psychology from University at Albany. Now, with just two semesters left before she completes her Master’s degree in community mental health counseling from the College of Saint Rose, she is opening a new restaurant with her children. “I like to stay busy,” Harris says with a laugh.

Champy’s is named for Harris’s son, Corey, who the family called “Champy” as a child. The restaurant is located in a former chicken and pizza spot, which the family has renovated together, and finished with bright green lime paint on the exterior. 

The restaurant is near Central Avenue's Townsend Park. Townsend Park has been the site of increased business development as of late. This year, two new restaurants, Umana Restaurant and Wine Bar and Flavors of India opened on the park, and a third, Terra Pescetarian, is expected by the end of the summer. Parkside Apartments, a new upscale apartment building whose beautiful units face the park, opened with much fanfare, and fully leased apartments, earlier this summer. In July, Central Avenue BID announced that the National Association of Realtors had awarded a grant of $2,200 from the Greater Capital Chapter of New York State Commercial Association of Realtors to install outdoor lighting in Townsend Park. 

Champy's marks the latest addition to this part of Central Avenue. “I think this is a hot spot. It’s so busy and active and vibrant,” Harris says.

The restaurant will specialize in home cooked meals at affordable prices, “so that everyone can enjoy the cuisines of the tropics without having to break their piggy banks,” says Harris. Harris will share the cooking with her sons, and says each brings something different to the menu. “I can cook just about everything but curry shrimp is my speciality.”  In addition to callaloo and saltfish, curry goat, and oxtail, and other more traditional Jamaican dishes, Champy’s will also serve American favorites like bacon and eggs, fish fry, fried chicken, burgers, and meatloaf.

The Caribbean population is growing in the Capital Region--Harris moved here from Jamaica in 1981--and that has increased the demand for restaurants that cater to them. “It’s a taste of home for some, and for others, it’s new,” Harris says. She and her sons are looking forward to serving everyone.

Champy’s is located at 56 Central Avenue in Albany, NY. The hours will be 8am-11pm Monday through Friday, and Saturday 8am to 12am, and Sunday 8am to 11pm. The restaurant will offer delivery and catering.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Hair today, hair tomorrow: Salon owner celebrates 10 years in business

Kerry-Ann Ashley at her ribbon-cutting ceremony for Heaven on Earth Beauty
Salon at its new location in 2012. Ashley is pictured (right) with Anthony Capece,
Executive Director for the CBID and (left) CBID Board Member Antoine Harris. 
Kerry-Ann Ashley opened her salon, Heaven on Earth Beauty Salon in 2004. From the start, she was a one woman hurricane, taking the beauty industry by storm. 

Kerry-Ann built Heaven on Earth to be a different kind of salon, less like a girlfriend hang out and more like a sophisticated upscale get-away from the day to day …. She wanted to pamper her clients, to provide a relaxing and rejuvenating experience— right in their own neighborhood. And her business model was a huge success! 

Now, she’s celebrating the 10th anniversary of her successful salon. “Kerry-Ann is a great example of a visionary business woman, who has the desire and work ethic to create a successful business,” says Anthony Capece, Executive Director for the Central Avenue Business Improvement District. 

For Kerry-Ann, success like this was hard-won. Kerry-Ann emigrated from Jamaica to the United States in 1988 at the age of eight, to live with her father. She attended school in Long Island, NY, but then, at the age of 16, she dropped out. “At that time, to the world, it seemed like the odds were against me. I was kind of stuck with no schooling,” she says. “Then, an opportunity presented itself to attend Job Corps in Glenmont.” Kerry-Ann packed her bags, and headed upstate. Kerry-Ann had taken a short course in cosmetology at her high school and had liked it. In Job Corps, she was able to get further training in cosmetology, and eventually her GED and retail license. Upon graduation she took a job at the hair salon at JCPenney’s, then Fantastic Sam’s, before finally accepting a position at Smooth as Silk, a popular Central Avenue hair and nail salon. At Smooth as Silk, Kerry-Ann learned the value of teamwork, professionalism and her clientele quickly grew. When the salon closed in 2001, Kerry-Ann was suddenly without a job again. Not put off--by this time, she was used to hustling and making things work--she sought employment at another local salon. Kerry-Ann rented a booth for a time, then worked at another salon. Ultimately, Kerry-Ann went looking for another booth to rent at another local salon, but instead of renting a booth, she took over the salon. She opened her doors as Heaven on Earth in March 2004. 

Kerry-Ann came from a family of entrepreneurs--her parents both owned businesses and her brothers were small business owners, too. “I felt like this was the plan laid out by God all along,” she says. 

In 2012, she was one of the first entrepreneurs to graduate from University at Albany’s Small Enterprise Economic Development (SEED) program, a training and funding program. As a result of the program, Kerry-Ann was able to move into a 3,000 square foot space at 330 Central Avenue. The new space allowed her to continue to provide the same peaceful, uplifting treatments she’s become famous for, even as she expanded her client base and services

Please join us to help Mrs. Kerry-Ann Ashley kick off the next ten years of her growing salon, and celebrate in her successes. 

The 10-Year Anniversary Celebration at Heaven on Earth Beauty Salon will take place, Tuesday, August 26, 10:30am-11:30am at the salon, located at 330 Central Avenue, Albany, NY 12206

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Neighbors meeting neighbors at this year's National Night Out

National Night Out is a great night to meet your neighbors--just ask any of the people wearing nametags at this year's annual celebration. This year marks the 31st year the country will celebrate its annual night out against crime, and you can join in the fun, right here on Central Avenue. Come on over, don a name tag, and enjoy a slice of pizza with a few friend. 

Started by the National Association of Town Watch in 1984, the celebration began as way to send a message to criminals that neighbors were aware of their activities and fighting back. Initially, neighbors across the country kept their porch lights on all night; this gesture soon developed into block parties, barbeques, and street festivals. Today, the event is marked by 15,000 community events, and involves 37 million people annually. In Albany alone, there are six different celebrations. 

"It's a wonderful opportunity for communities nationwide to promote police-community partnerships, crime prevention, and neighborhood camaraderie," says Matt Peskin, Executive Director for the National Association of Town Watch. "While the one night is certainly not an answer to crime, drugs, and violence, National Night Out represents the kind of spirit, energy, and determination to help make neighborhoods a safer place year round." 

This year, as in years past, the Central Avenue Business Improvement District will partner with the Albany Police Department, St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church, and the First United Universalist Society of Albany to host National Night Out, America's night out against crime. 

The event will take place on Tuesday, August 6 from 6pm-8pm. We'll close down Robin Street between Central Avenue and Bradford and host a small street festival. Please join us for free pizza, homemade desserts and Stewart's ice cream, as well as family games like four-square, bean-bag toss, facepainting, and sidewalk chalk. 

Don't miss this opportunity to visit with your neighbors and celebrate our community!