Gov. Andrew Cuomo is back in the Tri-Lakes, vacationing in Lake Placid for the week with his daughters and his girlfriend, Food Network star Sandra Lee.
Cuomo was seen buying groceries at the Price Chopper supermarket in Lake Placid on Monday night, and he and Lee were seen shopping in Saranac Lake Tuesday. The family also skied at Whiteface Mountain Ski Center this week, as confirmed by Jon Lundin, spokesman for the state Olympic Regional Development Authority, which runs the center. They are staying as guests at a house in Lake Placid.
Sarah Galvin, who co-owns the Bookstore Plus in downtown Lake Placid, told the Enterprise she was at Price Chopper at about 5:30 p.m. Monday when she saw Cuomo. She said the store was "pretty empty" at the time.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo talks to an Enterprise reporter in March while pumping gas in Saranac Lake.
(Enterprise file photo)
"My daughter and I were walking over to get some cheese, and I noticed the guy re-stocking the cheese was in a very friendly conversation with this nice gentleman, and I looked up and I thought, 'Oh, that looks like Cuomo,'" Galvin said.
"Cuomo was just going through the store, and people would go up to him and shake his hand, and he was really friendly and seemed thrilled to be in the area."
Jon Hochschartner of Lake Placid was working at a cash register when Cuomo checked out.
"I was standing near the cash registers and saw him out of the corner of my eye a couple of aisles away," he told the Enterprise via email. "It was strange seeing him walking around the store, with his family, without any sort of entourage."
Hochschartner, who recently was arrested at an Occupy Wall Street protest in Manhattan's Zuccotti Park, said he thought about telling Cuomo he disagreed with him on the state budget and taxes.
"When we rang him up, I was trying to steel myself to express disapproval of his austerity policies," he said. "I was considering telling him that I was one of the Occupy protestors heckling him outside the Skylight Soho, or that I didn't think a tax deal endorsed by the Business Council of New York State, like his was, could be 'progressive' by any stretch of the imagination. But ultimately I lost my nerve and just helped bag his groceries."
At the Blue Moon Cafe in downtown Saranac Lake, co-owner Tricia Fontana said Cuomo and Lee bought coffee to go Tuesday in the middle of a fairly busy lunch shift.
"(He) asked how business was," Fontana said. "(He was) very polite, said hello to customers on his way out the door, stopped at tables."
Fontana said when Cuomo and Lee walked up to the register, even before she recognized him, "I noticed that his girlfriend was wearing a very pretty white sweater - that's the first thing I saw, actually."
Saranac Lake resident Andrea Hill was sitting at a table near the restaurant's coffee bar with her eight-month-old son Rory as well as her mother Penny Hill and Penny's fiance Richard Zazichi, both of whom live in Rotterdam, when the governor walked through the door around 11:30 a.m.
"Richard saw him come in and said, 'Hey, the governor just walked in,'" Andrea said. "My mom and I were like, 'Whatever.' I don't think we would have noticed. But after (Cuomo) got coffee, he walked by the table and Richard said, 'Hey governor!' He stopped at the table, said hello and happy holidays, and patted Rory on the head. It was our little brush with fame at the Blue Moon.
"I remember saying (Cuomo) must have been there before because he knew how to use the coffee station, which is pretty unique to the Blue Moon," Hill said.
Cuomo and Lee also stopped at T.F. Finnigan's, a clothing store a short distance down Main Street. Store manager Janet Finlayson said the couple looked around for five to 10 minutes and that Lee bought an ear band to keep her ears warm.
"I just said hello, he asked how things were, I told him things were slow," Finlayson said. "I think it's a good thing that he comes here, that he's out and about checking to see what's gong on in the North Country."
Store owner Tom Finnigan exchanged pleasantries with Cuomo, too.
"He introduced himself," Finnigan said. "Of course I recognized him right away. I think it's great. The exposure that he comes to Saranac Lake and the Adirondacks, I think it helps keep Saranac Lake on the map."
Mary Rae, front-end supervisor at Price Chopper, said Lee was back in the store on Tuesday. She said a customer recognized her and asked for an autograph.
The governor apparently came up here Monday, since his office's daily emails regarding his whereabouts said he was in Albany Monday but "in the North Country" Tuesday, Wednesday and today. He and his family are staying in the area through Friday, according to his spokesman Josh Vlasto. The governor's office provided no other information or comment.
The governor has been a frequent visitor to the Adirondacks this year. In March, he stopped in Saranac Lake and was photographed by the Enterprise pumping gas while his daughters skied at Whiteface. He and Lee returned in late April, shopping and dining in Lake Placid and visiting Saranac Lake, where he ran into Mayor Clyde Rabideau on the street. Cuomo also visited Keene three times after Tropical Storm Irene hit on Aug. 28: to inspect damage, as part of a Labor Day volunteer effort and to preside over the reopening of state Route 73.
The Enterprise isn't the only publication taking note of the visits. In late August the New York Times published a story about Cuomo's frequent visits to Saranac Lake, and in an US magazine profile earlier this year, Lee named Saranac Lake as one of her two favorite vacation destinations - along with Capri, Italy.