Nori’s hosts soft opening after expansion, talks future plans for dining

Nori’s co-owners Andy Keal, left, and Ashley Tempo, right, stand at the cafe counter in the new side of Nori’s Thursday with the business’s 27th hired employee, Hannah Huber. (Enterprise photo — Jesse Adcock)

SARANAC LAKE — Now open for near ly a week, Nori’s new expansion offers a cafe dining-style experience with window seating overlooking the Saranac River, and plans of expanded dinner offerings.

“This is a soft opening,” Nori’s co-owner Andy Keal said. “There’s a lot more things that we want to do.”

A cafe counter and condiment bar stand centered in the new space, along with a 5-foot glass case Keal said is likely to be filled with to-go dinner options by the pound in the future. The old dining and food service areas will be used to expand grocery, health and beauty aid stock.

“Our hope is to take some of the delicious food that we make that is all pretty handcrafted using local and organic ingredients and be able to provide that in a different way,” Nori’s co-owner Ashley Tempo said.

While not available yet, the plan is to offer more variety in dinner options, sandwiches and bowls — all made to order..

The new Nori’s expansion, offering seating with a view of the Saranac River and a cafe counter that will offer more espresso, smoothie and dining options, on Thursday. (Enterprise photo — Jesse Adcock)

“We want to showcase what our skilled cooks in the kitchen can do, and have a real dining experience, instead of just grab-and-go,” Tempo said. “We will not get rid of our grab-and-go, because that’s who we are, and some people need a quick lunch. But we do intend on creating a cafe experience. So that is our hope and that is our dream.”

The expansion added 2,000 square feet to Nori’s — now a 5,400-square-foot market. More than just space and culinary variety, Keal said Nori’s added its 27th employee this week, making it one of the largest employers downtown. Of those 27, two-thirds are full time, Keal said.

The store was first opened in 1989 by Lenore “Nori” Wright where Jwreck Subs is now, under the Masonic Lodge at Olive Street and Broadway.

“Back in those days there was a fairly large food co-op out of Bloomingdale,” Keal said.

“It came once a month, and they would take the summers off. It was her idea to take that same food that they were getting through the co-op and have something open every day.”

Nori’s changed owners and locations a couple times over the years. Amy Kohanski bought the business from Wright in 1994. In 2000, Kohanski and Lori Dodge-Cushman became co-owners, moving Nori’s into the J.J. Newberry’s building off Main Street behind Sear’s in 2000. Northeast Taekwondo is there now.

Keal bought into the Nori’s co-ownership in 2006. By 2014, both Kohanski and Dodge-Cushman had left the business. Tempo joined Keal in co-ownership in late 2014, after working and managing at the market for five years.

After a decade-and-a-half in the J.J. Newberry’s building, in 2015, Nori’s moved to its current location at the corner of Woodruff and Church streets, where Upstate Vinyl and Graphics and G.O. Automotive formerly resided.

Until now, Nori’s operated out of only the Woodruff Street side. Being an automotive service and gas station through much of the 20th century, the former G.O. Automotive structure and land had petroleum contamination that needed to be dealt with before Nori’s could expand.

“In 2016, we gutted the building. We tore the floors out,” Keal said. “In 2017, we did an environmental remediation project, putting in ventilated floors.”

In 2018, the renovation of the space began in earnest — Keal said the shop’s five garage door bays were removed, as was the back wall of the building. New walls, new windows along the Saranac River, new plumbing, new electric, and a new in-floor radiant heat system.

The renovation was expensive, Keal said. According to the Nori’s website, more than $1 million has been invested into renovating the market by its ownership.

And there may be further improvements coming. Keal and Heidi Kretser are the sponsors for a Downtown Revitalization Initiative project proposal to put in a pocket park and river walk alongside Nori’s. According to the preliminary DRI project list, Keal and Kretser are seeking a $215,000 grant for the $225,000 project cost.

“What we’d like to do is put in a pocket park in the (Woodruff Street) corner here with a trellised roof along the building,” Keal said. “Then a little bit of a green space on the front with grass and shrubs and trees to sort of soften the corner a little bit.

“And also to put a walkway across the front of the river,” Keal said. “There’s about 5 feet of space alongside the building to the river.”

Nori’s received a $50,000 grant from the Cloudsplitter Foundation, and has since been raising money through the Saranac Lake Local Development Corporation to cover costs. Nori’s is still looking for donations to help pay renovation costs. The campaign ends in 2019.

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