SKANEATELES | When Adam and Ksenia Tontarski contacted Erika Davis at Creekside Books & Coffee in Skaneateles to inquire about some extra bookshelves she might have available that they could use for their bookstore and coffee shop in Watertown, they got much more than some bookshelves – they got the whole store.
And when Davis offered to sell Creekside to the Tontarskis 10 years after she opened the iconic venue, Adam Tontarski said it was a “dream come true” for the couple who talked about opening their own bookstore and coffee shop from the time they started dating.
That dream officially became a reality July 10 when the Tontarskis reopened the newly-rebranded Creekside Coffee Bar & Books at 35 Fennell St., Skaneateles, more than a month after the former store closed at the end of May to undergo the transition. They said they look forward to continuing Davis’ legacy of creating a gathering place – “a home away from home,” Adam Tontarski said, for the community.
“It’s very incredible to hear how much this means to so many different people,” he said the day before the official reopening. “This place has a different meaning to so many people. We never really fully understood how important Creekside was to the community until we started really working and until we closed down really.”
Aside from some new furniture and some rearranging, the inside will not look too much different from what customers are used to. But, state-of-the-art brewing equipment, a green-certified espresso machine and barista-trained employees will create a new experience.
Creekside also tweaked its roasts a little bit for smoother flavor, switched to Numi brand tea and 1883 brand syrups made from pure cane sugar and spring water, and plans to add craft beer on draft and wine once its liquor license is approved.
While the food menu will stay much the same, Ksenia Tontarski said Creekside will offer fruity energy bites at breakfast, vegetarian options for lunch and sandwiches that all available as either lettuce wraps or gluten-free.
“We’re trying to display some healthier options,” she said, adding the shop will also offer baked goods from Yum Yum’s in Syracuse and Rosalie’s Cucina in Skaneateles.
There will soon be a new point-of-sale system called Coffee Shop Manager that allows customers to create a profile online and set up coffee and food orders – “For here, to go, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, next Wednesday, every 30 days, my usual, whatever you want, and you can have it ready when you get here,” Adam Tontarski said, noting the system caters to customers who are on the go.
There is also a new bulk grinder that can grind coffee according to customers’ different machines at home when they buy coffee in bulk at Creekside, and an electric menu will soon show drinks and specials, as well as upcoming entertainment.
As far as the books, Tontarski said the store has a brand-new book inventory with expanded selections. He is particularly proud of the expanded children’s section with books for every age and grade level from babies and toddlers on up to young adults.
“With the books, we’ve definitely tried to cater to as many people as possible and add something for everyone,” he said.
As well as taking over Creekside, the Tontarskis started Skaneateles Coffee Roasters, a wholesale roasting company, to market the community and its coffee to those who visit the village from around the state, country and world.
“This is a great tourist community. It’s a phenomenal place. People from all over come here,” he said. “It brings pride to the community and notoriety to the community.”
Tontarski said Creekside will maintain its tradition as a music venue with a focus on acoustic styles, ranging from a country or bluegrass acoustic band to a jazz combo and anything in between.
“Just all around, a lot of wonderful stuff. We feel very fortunate and very honored to be here and very humbled. We’re here for Skaneateles. We are here for the people,” “The real owners of this bookstore are the community and the people here who support it. Without the community, we would be nothing, and without their support, we wouldn’t be here.”
Tontarski was working for his father in Watertown when his wife’s store there closed because of the economy, and the two found jobs in North Carolina while on vacation. But, when Tontarski’s company downsized, the couple came back north and he went to work for his father again.
Soon, though, the avid readers decided to pursue their dream of opening a bookstore and coffee shop in Watertown. They narrowed their search down to two locations and picked one before realizing they were in need of bookshelves.
A call to the American Booksellers Association put him in touch with Davis. After running her store for 10 years, Tontarski said, she was ready to let someone else run it and asked the Tontarskis if they were interested. They visited Skaneateles and immediately fell in love with the village and with Creekside.
“I’m really, really looking forward to seeing what the community’s reaction is,” Tontarski said. “We hope it’s a positive one. We just want to make the most positive impression possible on everybody, and we hope to be here for years to come. We hope to be serving the community for years.”