SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Dark Horse Mercantile, a new store coming to 445 Broadway in late June, is the brainchild of Marianne Barker, her husband Dave, and Maddy Zanetti, all of Impressions of Saratoga.
The Dark Horse Mercantile started out as a brand called The Dark Horse, launched by the three in 2014. Items in the brand included a specific line of high-end gifts, memorabilia and garments that embrace Saratoga’s history and love of horses, and of course the Dark Horse. The phrase “The Dark Horse” was coined in 1831 by Benjamin Disraeli in his book called “The Young Duke” and is often used in politics, sports and life. The phrase especially rings true to the history of Saratoga as it is known as the “the Graveyard of Champions.” Saratoga is the site where the legendary racehorse Man o’ War was defeated by an underdog named Upset in 1919 and most recently in 2015 when favorite American Pharoah came in second to Keen Ice.
These underdogs inspired the expansion of The Dark Horse brand. In fact, Zanetti even wrote a children’s book about Upset.
“It’s a spin on the true story that’s all about believing in yourself and overcoming the odds even if you’re the underdog,” Zanetti said.
The book is illustrated by local artist, Gretchen Tisch and expected to come out when The Dark Horse Mercantile opens as well.
“A month ago we would not be thinking that we would be sitting here talking about this,” Barker said. “I just believe in fate and things happening when they should,” she added.
"We’ve been really happy with how The Dark Horse brand has grown and is getting a following... Mare and I have been considering doing a store at some point, but we never had a timeline or anything,” Zanetti added.
Less than a month ago the two were walking their dogs on Broadway, which you may see in Impressions of Saratoga fairly often, and passed a space for rent.
“The next day, we were like ‘we should just do it!’” Zanetti said. So they did. The store will feature a full range of high quality gifts, sportswear, memorabilia and items for the home branded with the Dark Horse logo. The service and attention to detail you have become accustomed to at Impressions of Saratoga for the past 40 years will continue at this new location.
This year Impressions of Saratoga celebrates its 40th anniversary.
“So it’s fitting that we start another project,” Barker said.
Barker and Zanetti go way back.
“Maddy, I’ve known since she was tiny. She used to come in and spend her hard earned dollars on Breyer Horses... another one just after my own heart... just loves horses,” Barker said.
Zanetti has been working at Impressions of Saratoga since 2005 and in 2011, after graduating college, showed interest in one day owning her own business.
“So we were at the point where we were starting to think about the future and succession planning; we had a conversation and Maddy was definitely interested,” Barker said.
“It’s a business that we poured our hearts and soul into forever but it’s just great to know that it could go for another 40 or more years,” Barker said. “It’s really important to us to keep that history going,” she added.