Catherine Hover will tell you that, before moving to Saratoga, she had never experienced what it was like to live in “small town USA.” A native of New Orleans, she and her husband, Mark, came to Saratoga after living and working in New York City.
After being here for nearly 10 years, you can still hear faint wisps of that languid “Big Easy” drawl creeping into her conversation. We are sitting in the comfortable members only Palette Upstairs co-working space, part of her newest venture, Palette Café, which opened last summer.
My goal was to learn more about this spritely young woman with seemingly boundless energy and her latest venture at 493 Broadway. By the way, don’t let her youthful looks, bubbly manner and business title, “Purveyor of Fun,” blind you to the fact that she is a business powerhouse. In the relatively short time she has been here, Catherine has introduced the region to the “paint and sip” phenomenon, and Palette Café is the next step in her journey of what she calls empowering women.
Catherine recalls first moving into town in 2011 with Mark, whose career as a hydrographer had brought them here to work on the Hudson River dredging project.
“We had an apartment on the top floor of the Algonquin building and I remember watching the 4th of July parade on the street below. It was a totally new world to me!”
The couple originally planned to live and work in Saratoga for five years and then return home. Not one to ride on her husband’s coattails, as she puts it, Catherine began searching for an entrepreneurial adventure. Growing up in New Orleans, she and her mother would often frequent paint and sip cafes in and around the city, and she soon realized that there was nothing of the sort to be found in the Capital Region.
“Now, I don’t know one woman who doesn’t drink coffee or wine,” she says in that slow and easy cadence. A year after moving here, Catherine opened Saratoga Paint and Sip Studio on Henry Street, with two more locations in Burlington and Latham opening in the next few years.
“It totally changed the trajectory of our lives.” Today, Mark is her business partner and co-caregiver of their three young daughters.
So, we all know how successful her Paint and Sip Studios have been. But I wanted to know what makes Palette different from other coffee venues and why the focus is on women.
“It’s about bringing women together in a safe environment,” she begins. Catherine’s sense is that, for many women, once we get to a certain point in our lives, we forget to try new things and often we become our own worst enemies.
The genesis of Palette Café came about after Catherine heard of Sky Oro, a co-working community and event space in Bozeman, Montana, dedicated to advancing the personal and professional lives of women. Catherine realized that, like the paint and sip studios, there really wasn’t anything like Sky Oro available to women in Saratoga.
However, Catherine is quick to point out that Palette Café is open to everyone and kids, guys and puppies are always welcome! Even so, the focus of the space is on helping women in a variety of ways, and the vibe is one of inclusiveness and opportunities that may be lacking in other environments.
“What Palette offers that no one else does is a community where patrons are encouraged to make new friends, team up for new ventures or learn something new,” says their website.
Catherine’s vision for Palette Café and Palette Upstairs, which opened in November, is to offer workspace to the mobile workforce, as well as programming and classes that will be offered by women (and an occasional dude) from the local community. Workshops are geared to women at all stages of their lives, from early career women, to stay at home moms, or those looking to “re-invent” themselves in a new career trajectory or personal lifestyle.
There are also book clubs, moms meetups, courses in financial literacy, all geared to bringing women together for dialogue, interaction and empowerment.
“Women don’t ask for help,” says Catherine. By creating a space where support systems for women can flourish, Catherine feels she is bringing something unique and necessary to the area.
Although Palette Upstairs has only recently opened, Catherine held a live event at the Café in July, where people could tour the space and learn more about Catherine’s and her team’s vision for it. Forty-five women showed up for the event, with ten joining that first night. Now, there are 60 founding members, including several corporate founding members who contribute services to the café and its patrons.
Each new member has an hour and a half onboarding session to learn about the features of Palette Café and Palette Upstairs and the opportunities for enrichment, networking and collaboration amongst members. Palette also offers a concierge service for its members. If you’re starting your own business and need someone to run for office supplies, or you forgot to buy a birthday gift for your child’s teacher, Kiki, the virtual concierge is there to get the job done.
Catherine hopes that Palette Café and Palette Upstairs will grow along with the rest of the community and provide the experiential resources necessary for that growth, which she believes is lacking in the lives of so many women.
“There’s nothing in life that we shouldn’t feel comfortable controlling or taking charge of.”