Charlie M. Holmes
Ask Brenda Berstler to name a product that Savor New York sells that she has not witnessed being produced and she’ll have a hard time doing it.
“I just want people walking out of here feeling good about New York, feeling good about all these people who work very hard at what they do,” Berstler said. “I make a point of visiting production facilities to see who’s doing it, how they’re doing it.”
Berstler said those visits started when she saw Village Wrought Iron at the Cooperstown Arts & Crafts Show.
“And I said, ‘You can’t possibly be making this here,’ so I showed up at their door,” Berstler recalled, “And I said, ‘I have to know these are really made in New York.’ Nina, she’s at the front desk, she’s been there for awhile now. She never missed a beat. She handed me goggles and said, ‘Come on back, watch’em.’”
Savor New York opened on Main Street in Cooperstown a little more than four years ago.
“I started with a Bed and Breakfast, which I still have, called Bryn Brook,” Berstler explained. “And along the way I started to write these travel guides. Through the research for the book I would find people who were making products and they didn’t have any venue for them.”
At first Berstler opened an online store, but then decided it wasn’t moving the products fast enough.
“So at the very mid-year of the financial crisis I decided to open a store,” Berstler said with a laugh.
People stepped forward and expressed their concerns about whether or not Berstler’s decision was wise.
“And I said, ‘I suspect this is just like having children – if you wait for the right time you’ll never do it,” Berstler said.
Savor New York eventually expanded its square footage and now is opening new stores.
“We’re already at ‘Gems Along the Mohawk’,” Berstler said. “We’re one of the anchor properties there. We do have plans to go elsewhere. Let’s just leave it at that.”
Even though Berstler would like to expand she’s not willing to do it if it will affect the quality of the products she sells.
“There’s cheap and cheerful everywhere,” Berstler said. “It wouldn’t take anything to be just like everyone else. I couldn’t do that and feel good about what I was doing.”
A product being made in New York is not the only criteria for it to land on the shelves at Berstler’s store.
“There’s some very nice people who come in and want me to sell their product and it simply doesn’t pass muster,” Berstler said. “The quality isn’t there, the uniqueness isn’t there, the packaging isn’t there, and they don’t have the means of production.”
Recently Berstler has started selling a few products that aren’t made in New York.
“We do have products from other states as well when they compliment New York state because we want other states to sell New York products, too,” Berstler explained.
The first product Berstler carried that was from another state came from Idaho.
“Telescoping camping forks – they start at 12 inches but they telescope to 42,” Berstler said. “They have a little knob down here so you can turn it so you get a perfectly roasted hot dog.”
Part of the reason Berstler started selling the telescoping camp fork from Idaho was because of all the campgrounds around Cooperstown, but that wasn’t the catalyst.
“This is what started it,” Berstler said as she walked across her store. “We started carrying these marshmallows. We started carrying gourmet marshmallows out of Brunswick.”
Berstler estimated that less than ten percent of her store comes from outside New York, but did express an interest in carrying at least one product from each state in the future.
Berstler will be releasing an updated version of her travel guide “Home Plate: The Culinary Road Trip of Cooperstown” this coming spring.