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Saratogian of the Month: Palette Cafe’s Catherine Hover

Hover swiftly became the small business owner to watch during lockdown, one social media post at a time.

Catherine Hover opened a second Palette Cafe location, in Schenectady, mid-pandemic. (Katie Dobies)

Most of us have faced some dark times during this pandemic, but for anyone checking in on social media, there was a consistent ray of sunshine—the dancing, smiling, laughing pink-haired bright light that is Catherine Hover, owner of Palette Cafe. The colorful coffee shop on Broadway celebrates its first anniversary this month, with its female-focused Palette Upstairs co-working space being open only four months when we all had to go remote in March. Hover didn’t stop moving (literally posting videos of herself dancing her way through the pandemic), getting her member events online and figuring out curbside pick-up for the cafe in record time. She’d worked so hard to create an all-inclusive space for moms, new business owners, those changing careers—anyone, really, in need of a community. So remote or not, “essential” or not, she barely blinked before moving her entire business online to keep it intact. “Coffee and being positive are both essential,” she says. “When you’re loud about it, people listen. So we were loud about [the fact that] ‘it is going to be OK.’” 

COVID-19 forced all small businesses to move online. To anyone paying attention, it was clear that Palette was one of the fastest. Walk us through the early days.
It was always my vision to have a digital experience at Palette—if anything, the universe pushed me into doing what I was already going to do. I opened up a Zoom account and took every single event of ours online. We started doing daily check-ins, where we went live on Facebook and asked our members how they were doing. In times like these, we sometimes don’t ask that.

By not overthinking things and immediately moving your day-to-day operations online, how has that ultimately helped your business survive?
By adapting quickly in the beginning, it allowed us to baby-evolve over nine weeks instead of having to do a huge shift later. It allowed us to gradually ease into this new normal, which was less daunting.

Some people fall apart during a crisis, but you are definitely one who has risen to the occasion. Why do you think that is?
From day one, it reminded me of surviving Hurricane Katrina when I was a child living in New Orleans. What mattered was that we had each other. Everyone’s house was floating; the loss was overwhelming. When there’s so much need, you have to be of service. Right now, there’s a lot of invisible need. I knew we had to keep showing up. 

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