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REDC awards $638K for former Dew Drop Inn improvements

December 22, 2017
By GLYNIS HART - For the News ( , Lake Placid News

SARANAC LAKE - New York state's Regional Economic Development council has awarded three separate grants that will aid in the transformation of the former Dew Drop Inn on Broadway.

"It's a relief," said owner Callie Shelton. "We were at a standstill."

Shelton and her husband Randy Coles, doing business as Chicota Inc., purchased the former bar two years ago. She said the $638,000 grant total is less than half of what they've already spent on a project she estimates will come in at over $2.2 million.

"We had spent as much as we were willing to without getting some help," said Shelton. "So, yay."

The building on the Saranac River has been gutted, with little of the interior remaining but bare floor boards, studs and rafters. It became the Dew Drop Inn in 1947, and before that was known as the Rathskeller. Renovating such an old building, said Shelton, has come with surprises: asbestos that had to be removed, and a faulty sidewalk repair that had directed water flow into the foundation wall.

Shelton's family is from Tupper Lake. She grew up downstate, then went to college and ended up working for Phillips Corporation, a multinational manufacturer based in the Netherlands. Two years ago, she and Randy came to the area for a visit with family.

"During the economic downturn it looked like my husband's job would go away - he works in oil and gas - but mine was pretty stable," said Shelton.

They thought the purchase of the Dew Drop Inn could be Randy's project, but just the opposite happened. Shelton got laid off, and Coles kept working.

"As a young person, I was in the restaurant and bar industry for the first 10 years of my working life. I love it. I've done every job in a restaurant," said Shelton, "But I loved being a bartender."

The completed building will have several functions. Upstairs, two high-end apartments - one a three-bedroom with two-and-a-half baths, and the other one bedroom with one bath - will have entrances to the rear of the building. On the street level, an event venue will hold 50 to 60 people and a bar, and below will be kitchens and restaurant space. Restaurant patrons will be able to look out on the river.

The brick facing of the wall on Broadway will be removed, and large windows installed.

Shelton wrote two of the grant applications herself, and did one with help from Peter Hahn and Paul Van Cott of the village of Saranac Lake. That $300,000 is targeted at economic development of the village.

The other two grants, of $198,000 and $140,000, received approval because the state looks favorably on development that will spread its impact through the community.

"They were very much in favor of businesses that promote agritourism. That was a big target for the grants we applied for," said Shelton.

The restaurant, by utilizing local food sources, can boost local agriculture. It can provide a teaching environment for workforce development, by establishing a cooking school.

"It's appealing to foodie tourists," said Shelton.

Although she admits she's not a huge fan of the snow, Shelton said being in Saranac Lake - after many years of living in Houston - is great.

"It's wonderful to be part of a small town," she said. "I'm loving it. I haven't lived in a small town for a long time."

The building is taking longer than it would in Houston, however, because of the worker shortage. Shelton is not the only one finding projects slowed by a lack of workers; the Hotel Saranac renovation is taking longer than expected for the same reason.

However, she has faith that once things get rolling, revitalizing downtown will pay off.

"It's a chicken and egg thing, I think. If there's no jobs, people won't come here, but if people won't come here, there won't be jobs."

"My friend Paul Sorgule has been pushing this restaurant row concept for downtown, and I think it can really work. I have a really good feeling that this compliments the village," she said.



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