JOHNSTOWN - The city's Briggs Street Plaza - at Briggs Street and Jansen Avenue - is rapidly becoming one of the hottest and vibrant small shopping spots in the county.
Due to the efforts of the MacLauchlin family of Fort Plain, the plaza has taken off through hard work, renovations and financial support.
Located just west of arguably the busiest intersection in the county, Routes 29 and 30A, the plaza's new owners - William MacLauchlin and his son, Scott MacLauchlin - have transformed what used to be a vacant plaza into a vibrant one with 11,000 square feet of floor space at 86 Briggs St.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
Scott MacLauchlin, an owner of the Briggs Street Plaza in Johnstown, is shown in front of the building complex on Wednesday.
"They've changed it from a single occupancy to six or seven occupancies," said Johnstown Fire Chief Bruce Heberer, the city's code enforcement officer. "They've done a fantastic job for basically a building that was abandoned."
Heberer said the MacLauchlins took over the vacant plaza about four years ago and set into motion a plan to turn it into a viable business commodity that now includes an insurance agency, florist, coffee business and pizzeria. He said an original anchor mattress store moved across the street and there used to be a plumbing business there.
But that was before Scott MacLauchlin and his mother, Jan MacLauchlin, who comprise Adirondack Enterprises LLC, bought the old structure for $310,000 from Joyce Gersak in May 2006.
The transformation began soon after.
That renovation included 1,160 square feet of a rustic covered wooden porch and numerous improvements both inside and outside the plaza.
The family won't say exactly how much money went into fixing up the old plaza, but it is believed to be a considerable investment.
Scott MacLauchlin said of the result: "It's quite a bit different."
Today, the dark green Briggs Street Plaza is the home to six businesses, including The Shults Agency, which is owned by William MacLauchlin. The insurance agency's main office has been located in the heart of Fort Plain at its original building at 3 Canal St. since 1854. It was purchased by William MacLauchlin in 1975, and in 2007, The Shults Agency's second office was opened at the Briggs Street Plaza.
Wally Hart, president of the Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry, praised the MacLauchlin family for recreating a strip mall that is very important near the Routes 29 and 30A intersection.
"Scott and Bill and Jan MacLauchlin have done a great job," Hart said. "They had a vision when they bought the building. They built it for the tenants that needed it."
In addition to The Shults Agency, other businesses at the newly revamped Briggs Street Plaza are: Glenda's Florist & Gifts, Van Dough's Pizzeria, Lone Palm Gourmet Coffee, the Hamilton Fulton Montgomery Prevention Council and the Back to Health Chiropractic Center of Dr. Karen Miller.
Scott MacLauchlin said he also has another 500-square-foot "extra spot" at the plaza where he stores motorcycles, but he's not sure what he's going to do with that space in the future.
Hart said the MacLauchlins deserve all the credit for their vision of a remade shopping center.
"They saw an opportunity and they obviously have great tenants," the chamber official said.
Knicole Fullington, daughter of Glenda Winslow of the floral shop, was busy the past week, but took time to note the plaza was a good fit.
"Its been good," she said. "It's a good move."
Fullington said Glenda's Florist & Gifts moved into its current spot in September and she said the shop looks forward to Easter and Mother's Day business.
Another business at the plaza -Van Dough's Pizzeria - recently opened.
"We've transitioned from more of a takeout [business] to a restaurant," Van Dough's owner Vince Brunetto said.
He said the plan is to offer both Italian and Mexican food to customers. The move to the plaza from the pizzeria's old site at 201 W. State St. was handled well, he said.
"I dealt with Scott [MacLauchlin]," Brunetto said. "He's really a good guy and easy to work with."
Scott MacLauchlin said a lot of thought went into the purchase of the plaza prior to 2006.
"It was an old warehouse rented by Joyce Gersak to Sawyer Heating and Plumbing Supply," MacLauchlin said. "We were looking for office space near the Arterial [Highway]."
MacLauchlin said he came across the plaza building and saw its potential for commercial development.
"We proceeded to go one step at a time," he said.
Adirondack Enterprises first contacted an architectural firm and eventually the plans went before the Johnstown code enforcement office, Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Board.
"The city people were great," MacLauchlin said.
As far as renovations, he said the plaza has basically everything new, including a new entranceway, heating system, flooring, lighting and catch-basin system. He credited Bradt Builders for major help in the successful plaza transformation.
"It's been a great project," MacLauchlin said.