BLOOMINGDALE - When Sandy Hayes was awarded Realtor of the Year at Lake Placid's Whiteface Lodge in 2013, his girlfriend Connie Amell instructed him to keep his acceptance speech simple. Being in the Tri-Lakes real estate business for 50 years means many stories, but Hayes was flabbergasted when he won.
"Roby Politi was doing the biography," he reminisced at his home office recently on River Road - a house that's been in his family 140 years, "and it sounds a lot like me. Who's been in the business as long as I have? He starts talking about being in business 50 years, and I thought, Jeez, that is me!"
Politi finishes his speech and Amell gives him a kiss, "which means, 'Keep it simple, stupid.'"
Sandy Hayes at his Bloomingdale home
(Photo — David Press)
This is, in many ways, what Hayes has been doing for more than five decades, operating Sandy Hayes Realty.
Born on May 3, 1943, and graduating from Saranac Lake High School on June 27, 1960, Hayes joined the Air Force in March 1961. He served as a radio operator in Istanbul, Turkey, becoming a fan of photography.
"I would stand outside the base's gate, filming," he said. "In those days, women still had veils over their faces, and you can't photograph those people. I got a lot of photographs of the back end of the Turkish people, but no front end. I probably would have stayed in (the Air Force) - I would have only been 39 - if I didn't have to come back for the family."
S.C. Hayes Jr., his father and former mayor of Bloomingdale, died of cancer, and Sandy came home to take over the family real estate business and take care of his 17-year-old brother Jim. At 19, Sandy became the youngest licensed real estate agent in the area. Over his career, he's acquired 325 lots in more than 33 subdivisions, and was honorably discharged from the Air Force in 1967.
"I never thought I would see this age," he reflects, looking out his office's window that features a wide-shot view of his family's land. He's 71, and all of his ancestors passed away in their 50s.
The Hayes family originated in Scotland and settled in Windsor, Conn. in the 17th century, but it was Jeremiah Hayes who journeyed north to settle farmland and founded Keeseville in 1800.
Jeremiah's son, Nathan S.C. Hayes, and Charles S. Toof settled the town of St. Armand in 1837. Toof named the town after his home in Canada. The first village president, James H. Pierce - along with Hayes and Toof - renamed the village Bloomingdale in 1852. Pierce would go on to be Bloomingdale's first village president and town supervisor from 1855 to 1861, 1880 to 1882, and finally in 1884.
Over the Hayes' generations, the hamlet became a suburb to Saranac Lake, but according to historian Don Amell, it used to be the other way around. Things changed at the turn of the 20th century when Saranac Lake welcomed tuberculosis patients and Bloomingdale did not, so the town shifted into a suburb for the people who worked with patients in Saranac Lake, Mary Thill wrote in Adirondack Life magazine.
Sandy's grandfather, Rawson, bought the family's farm on River Road in 1874. It has been passed down through the eldest Hayes son ever since. Sandy is resigned in saying that the next owner of the Hayes farm is unlikely to carry his name because his closest relative is his daughter who lives in Saranac Lake.
"She married a Ryan," he said. "The next owner won't even be a Hayes - might be related, probably be one of my grandsons with the Ryan name."
Hayes says it's the town's unique location that keeps it busy and thriving. Situated on the borders of Franklin, Clinton and Essex counties, Bloomingdale is now "a bedroom community" for people who work in Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and Ray Brook.
With a few new people trickling into the area, Sandy said he is worried about the taxes. He says the new villagers will have to take on a financial burden that is updating the town's sewage treatment plant and installing a new town garage.
The plant is outdated and needs serious work, which will cost the town between $4.8 million and $6 million and will result in an increase in taxes for St. Armand residents who are on the system.
"It'll raise taxes about $800 a year," he said. "We got some big bills coming down the road."
Otherwise, he sees the town, under the steady financial guidance of current supervisor Charles Whitson Jr., continuing to be a nice, quiet spot for people who work in the Tri-Lakes area but don't want to live in the towns they work in.