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TMCNet:  Coffee by day, wine bar at night

[November 09, 2012]

Coffee by day, wine bar at night

TROY, Nov 09, 2012 (Times Union - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- The beard is a metaphor and a motivator.

Anyone familiar with Vic Christopher in his high-profile jobs in Troy, as assistant general manager of the ValleyCats baseball team and more recently as the city's economic development director, knew his look and uniform: sleek hair, clean-shaven, three-piece suits and narrow ties.

The Christopher of today most often wears jeans, T-shirt and ballcap, and he has a biblical beard.

Or, rather, he had one: The beard is due to disappear Friday, when Christopher and his wife, Heather LaVine, open the Charles F. Lucas Confectionery & Wine Bar in a row house on Second Street in downtown Troy, just steps from Monument Square.

The couple bought the building a year ago and, while living in an upstairs apartment, have painstakingly renovated it, driven by a deep love of Troy history and an urge to create a unique space that honors the past but also feels contemporary and sophisticated.

"I started the beard because I wanted a daily visual reminder to finish the job," Christopher says.

The wine bar was due to open last week but was delayed because most of the distributors carrying Christopher's list of boutique wines had their supply lines disrupted by Superstorm Sandy. Deliveries have come in this week, and Christopher is opening with 17 wines by the glass, including three in an unusual wine-on-tap system, plus 13 craft beers by the bottle. There will also be coffee, espresso from a circa-1965, chrome-and-neon Italian espresso machine, artisanal cheese from The Cheese Traveler shop in Albany, charcuterie, sharable plates including almonds, olives and hummus, and a selection of desserts from Sweet Sue's in Troy. The wine bar will be open from 5 p.m. daily at first, expanding to daytime hours later this month.

"There's a dual-phase approach to the business: coffee during the day, wine at night. As we perfect the wine operation, we'll begin to introduce coffee during the day," Christopher says.

The wine bar has a capacity of 94, with about two dozen barstools and tables spread throughout a two-level space that is also divided down the middle of the upper room by a brick wall with paneless windows. The building's previous incarnations were a clothing store, briefly, an insurance agency for 48 years and the business that inspired the wine bar's name: Charles F. Lucas Confectionery, opened by the eponymous immigrant in the 1860s and in operation until 1951.

Quirky design and decorating touches appear throughout, all of them reclaimed from buildings, basements and alleyways in the Collar City, including 223 bricks emblazoned with "Troy." Behind the bar, the city's name is spelled out in a tile mosaic.

Raised in Brooklyn, Christopher says, "If Troy was a subway stop on the D train, this is what it would look like." Christopher did much of the renovation work himself.

"I'd done a residential project before, but this is what I'd always wanted to do: take it down to the walls, just the bones, and see what's there," says Christopher. (Among the findings: skylights that had long been covered.) He says, "You break it down to individual tasks and take them one at a time. I watched a lot of YouTube videos to figure out what I was doing." The building cost $155,000, with another $70,000 invested in constructing the wine bar.

"I've learned more in the last eight months than in my whole professional life," says Christopher, 37. Alluding to his firing by the ValleyCats and resigning from his city job after being suspended, he says, "I've clashed with some people meteorically, but life is about finding yourself. Sometimes experiences, good or bad, send you in a direction that turns out to be right. It's unfathomable to me that I would ever work for anyone else ever again." --518-454-5489 --@Tablehopping -- Charles F. Lucas Confectionery & Wine Bar Where: 12 Second St., Troy Opens: 5 p.m. Friday Hours: From 5 p.m. daily; daytime hours begin later this month Fare: 17 wines by the glass, including three on tap, and a bottle list that will grow to about 100 selections; 13 bottled beers from craft brewers; coffee and espresso drinks; artisanal cheeses, charcuterie and other small bites, desserts.

Info: 326-3450; ___ (c)2012 Times Union (Albany, N.Y.) Visit Times Union (Albany, N.Y.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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