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Open for business

Starting a new small business is daunting under any circumstances — business plan, financing, finding the perfect location, getting workers in order, production issues, you name it. Now add the aggravation of a once-in-a-century public health pandemic that has shut down most of the economy.

We interview eight entrepreneurs who did just that. They started their business during COVID-19 — some of them at the height of the pandemic. 

They share their stories.

Don Agate & Marie-Helene GingrasDon Agate & Marie-Helene Gingras

GOOD Eats and Sips

Couple started restaurant in Skaneateles in June last year, during an especially high peak of COVID-19

By Mary Beth Roach

There have been many sayings over the years about opportunity growing from adversity.

For Don Agate and his wife, Marie-Helene Gingras, this has become more than a quote. It became their reality during the COVID-19 pandemic, when they opened their restaurant-café, GOOD Eats and Sips, in June of 2020.

The menu, according to its website,, specializes in locally-sourced ingredients and offers a variety of coffees, teas and smoothies; bagels; grain, green, noodle, smoothie, yogurt and oatmeal bowls.

The Skaneateles resident husband-and-wife team had been looking to open an eatery in their home village. They had a business plan; a great location had become available at 18 W. Genesee St., across from Skaneateles Lake; and they had funding approved on March 11, according to Gingras.

Several days later, the pandemic hit and everything was shut down.

But it was during this time that they saw the need — and the opportunity.

Like so many of the young families in that area, they were looking for take-out options and while there might be hamburgers and pizza, Gingras said, there was little else from which to choose.

“Where a lot of older, established restaurants were struggling to pivot to the demands of the take-out customer, we knew that there was a new demand for it. We knew there was a niche in the market that wasn’t being filled and we took a chance,” Agate said.

Convenience was the main objective for them, he said. During recipe development, if it took more than five minutes to make the dish, it didn’t make the cut, he explained.

“We wanted something that was going to be quick and fresh,” he said. “We knew we had to keep up with the pace of not only delivering to the locals, but keeping up with the demand of the tourists that come in.”

With decades of experience between them, they know the industry. Agate has worked in numerous restaurant kitchens, including some in and around the Skaneateles area, and Gingras has been a catering sales manager, a restaurant manager and a banquet manager. 

GOOD Eats and Sips is in the former White Birch Vineyards’ tasting room spot, where Gingras had been a manager. When that business closed in January 2020, the space became available.

“It was serendipitous. It was meant to be,” Agate said.

While they created a business opportunity from the adversity of a pandemic, the couple was not without challenges in getting their business up and running.

Agate said their intent was to hire a chef.  But during the shutdown, it was difficult to find staff, especially people with a specific skill set. Agate, himself, stepped in. Their wait staff is made up of mostly local high school students, which Agate believes offers the couple the opportunity to support the community.

In the early days of its opening, take-out was about 80% of their business, but slowly the number of people opting to eat in the café has been growing, he added.

“As occupancy has opened up, the seats have filled as well,” he said.

And on a Friday afternoon of a recent holiday weekend, just a little over a year since it opened, the café’s foot traffic was steady. A mix of customers, from young families to teens to senior couples, entered under the bright green awning and took their seats, choosing between the small tables in the front of the space or the longer, high tables in the back area. The vivid GOOD logo on the walls, a well-lit menu board and white twinkle lights toward the back of the area all add to the friendly ambiance.

“I just want good vibes and good food,” said Gingras.

In trying to find just the right name for the place, she said she wanted to convey to customers that the place had a good atmosphere, good food, and food that was good for you. She kept coming back to the word, “GOOD.” So it was decided that that’s what the name would be.

Although this is the first time at owning a business, Agate and Gingras are optimistic for the future and are considering franchising down the road.

“I think we latched onto something,” Agate said. “We’ve got something good here. We’re fresh enough; we’re new enough that we’re easily able to adapt and pivot to any future changes. There’s definitely a desire for what we’re offering.”

Jenny DunlapJenny Dunlap

Wunderland Wellness

From Jet Engine Mechanic to Massage-Yoga Therapist

By Steve Yablonski

Jenny Dunlap grew up an Army brat, mostly in Germany and the Netherlands. She enlisted in the Air Force as an F-16 jet engine mechanic and was stationed in Germany. That is where she met her husband, Patrick, and had their two boys.

“We spent the next 20 years moving across the globe until he retired and we both started school,” she said. “He’s now a practicing nurse at Oswego Hospital and I am a massage and yoga therapist.”

She’s settled in Central New York and opened a new business.

Wunderland Wellness is located at 5509 state Route 104, just outside Oswego.

Right now, she has no employees. “It’s just me,” she said, adding, “It is an authentic and singular space whose purpose is to offer a set of unique and dedicated practices including yoga therapy, meditation and massage therapy, intended to support those having experienced any form of trauma and those searching for wellness and a deeper contact with self.”

It is fully inclusive, no matter your race, creed, gender or preferences; you are welcome to Wunderland just as you are, she added.

“After I got out of the military, I worked in mortgage banking for more than a decade. During that time, I logged more than 1,200 hours of training and certification in yoga and meditation teaching and therapy,” she said. “More recently, I went to school for massage therapy and received my licensure here in New York with 1,000 hours of school.”

She had been self-employed as a yoga therapist for a number of years.

“I decided to add massage therapy and open my own studio when we moved to New York about two years ago,” she said.

“I love yoga and massage as self-care tools. I had taken thousands of hours of yoga classes in my lifetime, but found a practice that truly helped me when I began private lessons. I decided that, with the addition of massage, I would open a studio where each client receives the kind of attention and care that every person deserves to have, dedicated to and specifically for their needs,” she said.

Getting started

“It was much less difficult than I expected! I own a space adjacent to my home that I hired a contractor to build out specifically for the studio’s purposes,” she said. “I took a local class for small business owners [with John Halleron, senior business adviser, Small Business Development Center], applied for and received a small business loan to finance the start-up.  The details and specifics were sometimes complicated, but it is a labor of love for me. So every step has been an amazing experience.”

She had intended to open Wunderland Wellness in early fall of 2020.

“The pandemic absolutely put a stop to that,” she said. “Thankfully, it gave me a little more time to plan and put the pieces in place. I believe it made for a smoother and easier opening.”

It also changed her cleaning and client management practices. “I opened well after the start of the pandemic.  But it still dictated my cleaning methods and protocols, as well as how I managed my client intake and protocols,” she said.

Uphill climb

“As with almost all personal services businesses, booking enough clientele to sustain the business financially is the hill we must all climb,” she said. “In a community such as this one, excellent word of mouth is the goal. It’s a slow and steady climb, but one that has so far been productive and right on target for Wunderland.”

Wunderland Wellness offers relaxation and deep tissue massage, therapeutic private yoga sessions, meditation lessons and additions to massage, personalized sessions, prenatal massage plus yoga and trauma-informed massage plus yoga.

Dunlap said she will add ashiatsu massage to the offerings to help those particularly who need deep tissue work routinely and those who would enjoy a different type of massage experience.

In addition to the types of services listed, any add-on services that are on offer are never charged as extras, she said. They are available to anyone booking a massage session and include: hot stones, cold stones, paraffin dip, essential oils aromatherapy, warm foot and hand wraps and spoken meditation at the end of the massage.

The 60-minute massage is the current front-runner for most booked, she added.

“Each person that comes to Wunderland arrives in a place of no judgment. It’s a safe place, a sacred space that is held just for you to be yourself. Wunderland is fully inclusive, no matter race, creed, gender or preferences.  Every person is welcome to Wunderland just as they are,” she said. “At Wunderland, the focus of care is solely on each individual client’s wellbeing. The path to feeling and moving well can be a journey taken with joy.”

Helping others

The best part of her job is helping people feel better, about themselves, within themselves and about what they can achieve for themselves, she said.

If she wasn’t doing this, she said she would likely still be working in the mortgage industry.

“I was an auditor for the last few years of that career and I really liked it. I could work remote and the money was great,” she said. “It simply wasn’t fulfilling and I really wanted to impact people on a more personal and profound level.”

She said she feels the most at ease when she’s walking in her woods, gardening and stargazing.

“My husband and children, definitely, have had an influence on me. My husband is an amazing human, smart, kind, compassionate and fun.  He has always been a source of support and love that have been invaluable to my growth as a person,” she said.

“My two boys are grown. The oldest is active duty Air Force now and our youngest lives across the country in an assisted living community, as he is profoundly autistic,” she continued. “Raising those two amazing humans taught me so much about who I am, who I want to be in the world and how much love it is possible to hold in one heart.”

Ashley Fox started her CNY Ranch Supply and Feed business November 2020. “Yes, I work more than 70 hours a week,” she says. “It is at least usually eight in the morning to seven at night, every day seven days a week.”
Ashley Fox started her CNY Ranch Supply and Feed business November 2020. “Yes, I work more than 70 hours a week,” she says. “It is at least usually eight in the morning to seven at night, every day seven days a week.”

Ashley Fox

CNY Ranch Supply and Feed

Love of animals was the impetus behind entrepreneur’s new business

By Steve Yablonski

Ashley Fox has been working with animals her whole life.

“So, I knew I wanted to do something with animals. I decided to start the business because I love animals. And, I love seeing the customers and helping them,” said Fox, owner of CNY Ranch Supply and Feed, 8283 state Route 104 in Oswego. “I’ve owned animals my whole life.”

“We all know the struggles of going shopping for our animals and they [the stores] never have what you need. Some of them never know anything other than the info they read off a computer screen. There is no knowledge to what is right for your animals,” she said.

Tough start

It was very difficult to get started, the 2020 high school graduate said.

“I am very young, so most people do not take me very seriously. And, with the whole COVID crisis, my building plans were pushed back about six months from when it was supposed to start,” she explained.

“I do not plan on continuing my education,” she said. She will focus her attention on the business instead.

She said she convinced people she could handle a business by “always showing up and working as hard as I could. And, I still do, to earn the respect I deserve.”

The business is located right at the family’s farm, she said.

The services CNY Ranch Supply and Feed offers are Sthil equipment and service, Pine Creek non-GMO feeds, Tribute grains and Blue Seal products. They stock a large selection for all small and large pets. They also have plenty of outdoor products from bulk mulch, bag mulch, grills, firepits and more.

CNY Ranch Supply and Feed works along side with her family’s horse farm, Fox Hollow Farms, with horse trail rides, weddings, proms and more, she said.

“The problems we have come to are not being able to get enough product in. Everything is on back order. It is very difficult to order something for someone and it never comes in,” she added. “We only opened in November, so COVID didn’t really have much of an affect us.”

In a typical day, she said she starts with working with the horses if they are having a trail ride. “I also do a lot of mulch deliveries, special orders and re-ordering throughout my day as well,” she said.

“Our best seller for 2021 summer is for sure our bulk mulch for $24 per yard, no one is yet to beat us on our price,” she said.

Right now, they have three employees one full-time and two part-time.

“The best part about my job is definitely getting to see my customers,” she said. “It is nice to have conversations with them and to provide something more than just a product.”

Running this type of business requires many hours on the job.

“Yes, I work more than 70 hours a week,” she said. “It is at least usually eight in the morning to seven at night, every day seven days a week.”

“If I didn’t start the feed business I would have definitely expanded the work we do with our horses,” she added. “Any spare time, I spend in my barn!”

“The people who influenced me the most would be my parents. There’s no way I would have gotten through life without them pushing me through life. My parents helped out with the finance for the business,” she said.

James Gaffney and Lindsay GaffneyJames Gaffney and Lindsay Gaffney

The Organic Earthling

New business focuses on good health — naturally, carries synthetic-free vitamins, minerals, organic supplements and more

By Steve Yablonski

A local couple launched a new business to share its healthy alternatives with the public.

“We’re a husband-and-wife team. Lindsay is from Clayton, New York, and I’m from Marcy, New York. We met in a retail environment [Sangertown Square, New Hartford] in 2007,” James Gaffney said.

Lindsay came to Utica for college and was doing part-time sales at Kay Jewelers. James was the optical lab manager at Lens Crafters.

“We’d coordinate our trash runs to meet up at the dumpster.

“We now have two little boys, Jacob and Jeremiah, and reside in Mexico, New York, on a 13-acre homestead complete with free-range chickens, ducks, an apple and peach orchard and a chemical-free, no-till herbal and vegetable garden,” he said.

Before The Organic Earthling, Lindsay was running a gift store she started in 2013. James was director of quality for Lyft Bike and Scooters, East Syracuse hub.

“Lindsay’s specialty was hand-painted glass. She’d travel around the state and do winery showcases and events,” James said. “I’d occasionally tag along on weekends for the fun and festivities.”

However, in 2019 he was diagnosed with a 17mm pituitary brain tumor that took him out of work, had him scheduled for brain surgery.

Lindsay had always dabbled in medicinal herbs. With the onset of COVID-19 and constant cancellations of surgery, his health declined. They decided to attempt to restore his health with diet and medicinal herbs while cutting out all sugars, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

“Once news hit that these alternative remedies were working miracles on me; we wanted to share this knowledge with the public. A little more than a month later, we opened the Oswego location.”

James Gaffney,
co-owner of Organic Earthling.

Amazing results

On July 14, 2020, they were informed by his neurological team, members of Crouse Medical and Syracuse University hospitals, that MRI scans showed the tumor had shrunk — significantly. Surgery was no longer necessary.

Prior to this news, Lindsay had started a small online presence featuring their proprietary blend of CBD and a few other herbal blends.

“Once news hit that these alternative remedies were working miracles on me the floodgates opened. We wanted to share this knowledge and products with the public,” James said. “A little more than a month later, we opened the Oswego location.”

Difficult to get started? Yes. It was, she said.

“Our family thought we were nuts,” Lindsay said. “But we kept at it and things fell into place. There was a lot of red tape to deal with, too.”

There are many state and federal regulations to adhere to when dealing with herbals, especially CBD, James agreed.

“That’s not to mention stipulations that come with cannabis products,” he added. “We didn’t want to be just CBD. We wanted to carry a full line of clean, synthetic-free vitamins, minerals and organic supplements as well. We had to convince the city of Oswego that we weren’t a head shop. We wanted to be taken seriously, as a contributing factor in Oswego’s health solutions. So yeah, there was some red tape.”

“Considering the personal battle with my health we had just been through; the miracle that was bestowed upon us, failure wasn’t an option. We pushed through and persevered,” he said.

They started with around $30,000 to get the herbal line manufactured and a few other items on the shelves.

As they grew, they continued to throw all revenue into the shop.

“With hard work and discipline, we forfeited our returns and finally opened the Zenergy Café in April of this year,” she said.

“I’d say there is $60k to $80k invested to date,” he added.

They dealt with the pandemic differently than other businesses.

“We’re a health supplement store. We have all the tools to build up immunity and fight viruses. So we never shut down. We felt an obligation to keep the doors open,” she explained.

Besides the COVID-19 problems, there is an element of trust in the supplement business, James said.

“We try to spend as much time as we can with every customer. Lindsay went as far as calling customers to get feedback on certain products and keep up on results,” he said. “We know our products are exceptional, but how do we get people to trust and try them?”

They put a 30-day empty bottle guarantee on all supplements, tried to educate everyone, help them take the supplements correctly to achieve optimal absorption.

“We’ve been open for 10 months now and I think we’ve had two returns on the 30-day guarantee. It’s not only a testament to the quality of our supplements but a testament to going that extra mile and spending a little time with the clients,” he said.

They offer a full line of all-natural vitamins, minerals and organic herbal supplements. They carry chemical-free bath and body products from local vendors as well as some leading national brands.

The Zenergy cafe offers fresh-pressed juices, whole fruit smoothies and gluten-free baked treats. Organic coffee and wellness teas are on the menu as well as veggie cups and fruit parfaits.

They’ve had several repeat costumers, she said, adding they’ve also garnered positive feedback on social media.

“It’s just Lindsay and me right now. Lindsay is the face of the store. She is here every day and still tries to connect with every customer,” he said. “I deal with purchasing and inventory. I enjoy coming in and helping out at the store as well, but Lindsay is the go-to girl when it comes to all things herbal.”

Their sons come and help out with customer relations and running smoothies down to customers.

“Given the option to stay home, do homework and chores or come help out at the smoothie bar for tips, the boys choose the smoothie bar every time,” he said.

They’re currently accepting applications for two positions, in person and on Zip Recruiter.

“I’m amazed every day by my wife and founder of The Organic Earthling. Her caring and kindness are unmatched by anyone I have ever met. Her drive and will to succeed and her ability to bounce back and get back up and move forward is inspirational. If I could be like anyone in the world, it would be my wife. I can’t wait to see where she takes this business,” James said. “If you follow your dream, you may help others to be able to follow theirs,” he said. “I love that. It fits well.”

“I have never felt such purpose and gratification as I do with this business. I sometimes think I was spared and healed for a reason,” he added. “We have a big message here at The Organic Earthling. And that message is that these gifts from our Mother Earth can help and heal you! You just have to be willing to listen and try.”

Sisters Brianna Horton and Danielle Osborne had to shut down their salon in Phoenix less than three months after its opening. They re-opened it and tripled in size of the business — in the middle of the pandemic.
Sisters Brianna Horton and Danielle Osborne had to shut down their salon in Phoenix less than three months after its opening. They re-opened it and tripled in size of the business — in the middle of the pandemic.

Brianna Horton and Danielle Osborne

Looking Glass Salon

Sisters’ salon thrives despite pandemic — was able to triple its size in the middle of the pandemic

By Steve Yablonski

The Looking Glass Salon, 86 State St. in Phoenix, was opened in January 2020 by sisters Danielle Osborne and Brianna Horton.

“We happened to stumble on the location by accident, but immediately fell in love and knew we had to open our own salon right here in Phoenix,” Brianna Horton said. “It really was a dream come true; things right from the start were super successful. We cannot believe the overwhelming amount of support that we had right from the start.”

Obviously, things got pretty interesting real quick as they were forced to shut down in late March 2020, having been open for only over two months, she said.

“We were concerned a little bit, but we remained positive not only with our workers, but our clients as well,” Horton said. “We would reach out to them often during the pandemic to make sure they were OK in more ways than one. We would do little videos on social media to keep in contact and make sure they didn’t forget about us.”

They were allowed to open back up in June 2020.

“Once again, the overwhelming flow of support almost brought us to tears,” Horton said.

The things that got them through, were good planning on their end, she said.

“We paid out of pocket for everything when opening the salon, so we had no big overhead debt which definitely made shutting down a lot easier,” she said.

Before opening, they took a small business course through SUNY Oswego with John Halleron, senior business adviser at Small Business Development Center in Oswego.

“That really helped prepare us so much,” she said. “We would reach out to him often for help!”


“In January 2021, yes just one year after opening right in the middle of a pandemic, we started construction on an expansion,” Horton said. “That tripled the current size of the salon.”

They went from five hair stations to nine hair stations and four treatment rooms, three bathrooms, a break room and a color mixing room as well as a laundry room, she said, adding that “This was a huge accomplishment for us!”

Because they took the class at SUNY Oswego, they were eligible to get a low-interest rate loan through the county of Oswego business agency, which funded their project.

“What’s next? The thing is, who can ever really know? But we will assure you one thing, we are nowhere near done. There will be much, much, much more to come.”

Brianna Horton of Looking Glass Salon

“Our family definitely was our biggest support; they did most of the construction, etc. for free hair cuts —most of them are bald,” Horton said. “We couldn’t have ever done it without them!”

Currently, there are 12 people working out of The Looking Glass salon.

“We most certainly have become a family. It’s not every day you find a group like us,” Horton said. “We have a lot to offer from hair to lashes and eyebrows to teeth whitening and facials to boutique items. We will not stop offering the absolute most that we can.”

Business had been booming, to say the least.

Their biggest problem is that they have, at times, had to turn people away, “which we hate doing. All of our girls are staying super busy,” Horton said.

The thing they love about the salon the most is that you never know what to expect, “which was definitely our goal,” she said.

Southern charm

It’s not your typical salon atmosphere. They have a very southern charm; from old licenses plates to rusty front ends, handmade mirrors and handmade stations that can not be bought at a store to exposed brick.

“We always keep you on your toes!” Horton said. “But most of all, I think it’s the personalities that bounce around the whole salon that keeps people coming back. We want you to forget everything else and truly turn off and have fun and enjoy your time with us.”

“What’s next? The thing is, who can ever really know? But we will assure you one thing, we are nowhere near done. There will be much, much, much more to come,” Horton said.

Claudia Kosty (left), owner of Inspire at the Grainery in Syracuse, with part of her team, Patricia Vercillo and Reilly Smith.
Claudia Kosty (left), owner of Inspire at the Grainery in Syracuse, with part of her team, Patricia Vercillo and Reilly Smith.

Claudia Kosty

Inspire at the Grainery

Owner of Syracuse salon now happy with her decision to go ahead with her business. “I love what I do, I love the people,” she says. The shop also gives back a little to the community each quarter

By Mary Beth Roach

Growing up the daughter of an entrepreneur father, Claudia Kosty has been educated in owning a business.

“I saw what it takes. I know the gumption,” she said.

Her father, the late Francis “Frank” Borer, was founder and CEO of Petr-All Petroleum Corp. and Express Mart Convenience Stores.

It takes a lot of gumption to open a business in the middle of a pandemic, especially when that business is a salon that requires close contact with customers. The salon and day spa includes hair styling services, as well as manicures, pedicures, facials and lash extensions. Kosty, herself, is an esthetician and a nail technician.

Of course, she did not intend to open her shop, Inspire at the Grainery, in the middle of a health crisis, when she bought the building at 128 N. Warren St., in downtown Syracuse, in September, with her fiancé, Adam Gasiorowski. She had actually planned to open in May of 2020.

“It was disheartening,” she said. “We had come so far.”

But yet, she persevered. Renovation work to the building was halted for a while, but eventually was able to continue and she opened this January.

Kosty has been in the industry for about four years and while this is the first business she has owned, she got some experience at the Sola Salon Studio in Dewitt. That location offers independent stylists the opportunity to own their own business by providing them space and support. It is there that she met Candace Winchell, who now works as manager.

The first and second floors of the building include six chairs for hair stylists and rooms for the estheticians and nail technicians. The four-story building also gives her the opportunity to grow the business. She said she plans to eventually utilize the third and fourth floors, if she can get it rezoned.

Done in a light gray and black and illuminated with large, unique chandeliers from a local vendor, the shop has a clean and crisp atmosphere. 

While the shop is not in the middle of downtown — such as on Salina Street or in Armory Square — it is just two blocks north of Clinton Square with nearby access to major highways. In addition, the location also affords its customers a parking lot on the north side of the building.

The name of the business — Inspire at the Grainery — combines a little history of the building and its new life. The structure was built in 1885 and according to a local newspaper article several years ago, it was renamed The Grainery by one of its former owners, an architect and member of the Syracuse Landmark Preservation Board, since it had been used as a granary, where grain was stored for transport on the nearby Oswego and Erie canals.

As for “Inspire” it comes from Kosty’s and her team’s desire “to give back a little to the community surrounding us,” she said. Every quarter a different charitable organization is chosen by the staff to be the recipient of 10% of the monies made from any of the retail products. The selected charity during this quarter, through September, is Helping Hounds Dog Rescue.

“We also wanted to inspire those that are our clients to be inspired to not only take care of themselves, but others around them. You get back in life what you give out and everyone can use a little inspiration know and then.”

During the early days of the pandemic, she said, she would sometimes question why she embarked on this venture. But that question is answered every day now when she walks through the door, she said.

“I love what I do, I love the people,” she said.

She enjoys helping those interested in the field develop their careers. Employee Reilly Smith was planning to take the exams to become a licensed cosmetologist in September.

Although the dividers between the hair stylists’ chairs have been removed and customers no longer need to call from their cars before entering, Kosty still wears a mask because of her close proximity to her clients as an esthetician.

If there was an “up” side to the pandemic, it has made her more appreciative of her team at the shop and the time she was able to spend with her children.

“A silver lining is how much we treasure the salon, the camaraderie between the girls (those working in the salon). They stood by us and waited for us to go,” she said.

And adding to that silver lining of overcoming the obstacles of opening a business during the pandemic might just be a comment from one of her sisters.

“Dad would be so proud of you,” her sister told her.

Latoya Ricks of Erma’s Kitchen, left full-time a job at St. Joseph’s Health to open her restaurant at Salt City Market in Syracuse.
Latoya Ricks of Erma’s Kitchen, left full-time a job at St. Joseph’s Health to open her restaurant at Salt City Market in Syracuse.

Salt City Market

Vendors from all different countries are all under one roof. Greatly exceeding expectations

By Mary Beth Roach

The Salt City Market, an international food marketplace in downtown Syracuse, opened at the end of January, as the country was working its way out of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Already the location is greatly exceeding the expectations of its manager, Adam Sudmann.

The goal is to hit 800 to 1,000 people per day, he said.

“We have our 400-people days; but we have our 2,000-people days, too,” he said.

Located at 484 S. Salina St., the market occupies the entire first floor of the building. Inside the 24,000-square-foot space are 10 food vendors, with menus ranging from desserts, teas and juices to soul food to Thai, Burmese, Vietnamese, Jamaican and Middle Eastern dishes; a café/bar area; the Syracuse Cooperative Market; dining areas; a small retail space operated by the Good Life Foundation, a local youth organization; and a community room. 

There is also an adjacent patio on the north side of the building. Eight of the food vendors are first-time business owners; two are businesses that were still relatively young and looking for a new spot, the Baghdad Restaurant and Farm Girl Juicery.

Two of those vendors, Ngoc Huynh of Mamma Hai and Latoya Ricks of Erma’s Kitchen, left full-time jobs to open their restaurants. Huynh had been a reporter at the Post-Standard. Ricks had been working at St. Joseph’s Health.

Huynh was born in Vietnam and was raised in Nebraska, where her family ran a café and billiards hall. She helped with some prep work and taste testing there. Although she enjoyed cooking for fun, she said she had never considered it as a profession because she had wanted to be a journalist.

But after working with Sudmann when he operated the With Love test kitchen for budding restaurateurs on Syracuse’s northside and doing one of his pop-up food events, she thought she try it as a side job. But trying to be a reporter and open a restaurant was draining, and she left the newspaper November 2019.

For Ricks, cooking had always been a love of hers. Her grandfather was a cook in Jamaica and she would travel with him to various functions that he worked. When she arrived in this area at the age of 19, she was disappointed in the lack of Jamaican foods available. She said she wanted “to bring what I love to this area.” After hearing of the opportunity to become a vendor at the market, she got involved.

Ricks and Huynh acknowledged a few challenges along the way. For example, Ricks has had some difficulty with supply chains, increased costs for certain ingredients and in finding workers. Huynh mentioned the long hours — her workday can run 12 hours — and she misses having weekends off to spend with her family. But she’s hopeful that as the business grows a little more, she’ll be able to hire additional employees and free up some time.

Despite the obstacles, both agree that business has been good.

On the market’s opening day, the capacity numbers allowed inside were low because of the pandemic. And, it was cold. Yet, people were still lined halfway down the 400 block of South Salina Street waiting to get in, Sudmann recalled.

The pandemic has set the bar higher for the vendors, in terms of cleanliness and safety, and mask compliance can sometimes be challenging, Sudmann pointed out.

However, the big problem they’re having is keeping up with the demand, although there’s worse problems to have, he said.

Salt City Market is more than a place to get a bite to eat.

It’s also a gathering place to celebrate the diversity of cultures in the Syracuse community, where vendors from all different countries are all under one roof.

The idea of sharing food across cultures “is a great way to demystify one another,” Sudmann said. “We can be neighbors with one another. Food’s a start. That’s why we chose this type of business to support.”

The market’s opening culminated at least 10 years of planning among many community organizations for a multi-cultural venue. When the Allyn Family Foundation became committed to the project, those plans started to take shape and construction began in 2019.

The foundation created the Syracuse Urban Partnership (SYRUP), which bought the property and owns the market. According to Maarten Jacobs, executive director of SYRUP and director of community prosperity for the foundation, Sudmann was chosen as the market manager because of his work with amateur chefs, his connections in the food community and his dream of creating a place where different cultures could come together. He had started the My Lucky Tummy pop-up food events and worked with Onondaga Community College on the “With Love” kitchen on Syracuse’s northside, helping new restaurateurs gain training and experience. When he was brought into the market project, one of his biggest tasks was finding the right vendors for the spot. More than 50 people submitted formal applications. The candidates went through a rigorous process that included classes and practice, evaluations and interviews. Sudmann said he was looking for people with a dream.

And Ricks, the Jamaican vendor, is definitely one of those with an aspiration.

“If you have a dream, you can work toward it, and it can become a reality. This is what this is for me,” she said.

Josh and his brother Dustin Trimble next to some of the equipment they own through Trimble Services, LLC. They started investing in equipment in January of 2020 to launch in March of 2020.
Josh and his brother Dustin Trimble next to some of the equipment they own through Trimble Services, LLC. They started investing in equipment in January of 2020 to launch in March of 2020.

Dustin Trimble and Josh Trimble

Trimble Services, LLC

Trimble Services gets things moving: the rigging-millwright and hauling company gets the job done all across Central New York

By Steve Yablonski

With things getting back to normal at his other business venture, The Eis House in Mexico, Dustin Trimble has started down the road on a new enterprise.

Trimble Services, LLC, got under way around the start of the pandemic.

“We have discussed this company for a few years. It’s a trade that our family is knowledgeable about and we enjoy doing,” he said. “So, in March of last year, my brother and I started Trimble Services LLC.”

It is a rigging-millwright and hauling company. They do quite a bit of machinery hauling and rigging in New York, he said.

Between the four partners, all Trimble, (Josh, Dustin and their parents, Barry and Debbie) there is 40-plus years of experience in the rigging-millwright industry.

“At this time, we have three of us full time,” he said. “For licenses, Josh has his New York unrestricted and NCCO conventional and hydraulic crane licenses. Barry has his Florida commercial general contractors license.

“We have worked in various places from Auburn to Wellsville in plastic manufactures, machine shops, power plants and large manufacturing facilities,” Trimble said. “Our hauling side is mostly geared toward heavy equipment and construction materials.”

The work is specialized and it can be challenging, “which makes it a great industry to be in,” Trimble said. “The Eis House is very well staffed now and has a team that can lead it to success. It was time for us to dive into this venture.”

They started investing in equipment in January of 2020 to launch in March of 2020.

However, COVID-19 delayed equipment.

“The initial investment was quite large, but in this industry you need the right tools and they need to be quality,” Trimble explained.

Among Trimble’s equipment are a 10-ton Autolift forklift, a five-ton Cat forklift, a RigReady forklift boom with 12’6” horizontal reach, a Western Star 4900, a 50-ton Lowboy and a high flatbed. They are in the process of purchasing a 60-ton hydraulic truck crane, 110 feet of powered boom and 56 feet of jib.

COVID-19 certainly made it tough to enter the market, he said.

“You could no longer meet with people face to face and many facilities reduced their office staffing or they went remote, making it difficult to get meetings,” he said.

“We are starting to see some growth as the economy is returning and knowledge of our company is becoming known,” he added.

Transporting equipment and building materials is 30%-40% of their business.

The larger part of their revenue is in the rigging and millwright services.

“For trucking, we mostly serve contractors and equipment rental companies,” Trimble said. “For the millwright and rigging services, we serve manufactures, power generation and distribution as well as contractors.”

There are two kinds of days really, he explained.

“I have either a day working in the field either driving truck or on a rigging job. Or have a day in the office doing paperwork and marketing,” he said. “Now that Eis House [restaurant] is getting back to normal we are putting much more energy into market penetration in the Central New York area.”

The last couple of jobs have been fun, he said.

“We delivered and set a 14,000-pound CNC lathe for Vacuum Innovations, LLC, in Dansville. This, we picked up in Sidney, Ohio, transported back, skated off the Landoll and set in place and leveled. We rigged out four 3,000-gallon fermenter tanks out of a brewery in Brockport, which were loaded on hotshot transports and sent to Michigan. We transported concrete manholes for Rombough Electric for the Oswego Port project,” he said.

They were also in Wellsville at Dresser Rand where they moved out turret lathes, a 26,000-pound break, a large water jet, plasma cutter, drill presses and jib cranes.

In terms of transport, they are mainly intrastate New York, Trimble said, adding, “But, we do some runs into Pennsylvania and Ohio. We haul up to 60,000 pounds.”

“We do have plans for expansion, as we continue to grow. We are having discussions about purchasing a crane and a triaxle tractor,” he said. “The goal is to provide services to New York and potentially surrounding states down the road.”