Ups and downs in villages’ downtowns
By ARTHUR CLEVELAND
North Main Street of the village of Broadalbin appeared busy Thursday, even as the rain drove people indoors. A local pizzeria was churning out orders and guests were coming in out of the rain. Much of the streetside parking was used.
Despite this activity, village residents say downtown business is nothing like it once was.
Longtime Mayor Eugene Christopher said the last few years have seen a decrease in businesses in the downtown area of the village, and many people go elsewhere to do their shopping and business.
“A few [businesses] have gone out and a few [storefronts] are vacant,” Christopher said.
Along North Main Street, several businesses are still open, including a market and a branch of Citizens Bank, but there are many vacant storefronts.
Broadalbin Pharmacy closed several years ago when its owner retired. Next to Pizza Supreme, the former drugstore is vacant, with empty rows of greeting cards still visible through the front door.
“The big problem was the drug store,” Christopher said. After it closed, more local people started to do their shopping outside the village.
“It’s a community where everybody travels to work,” Christopher said.
He many people drive to Amsterdam or Johnstown to handle their shopping.
Ed Vickers, who opened Broadalbin Wine & Spirits in January with his wife, Phyllis, said business hasn’t been stellar, but he blames the time of year and the weather rather than the state of the community.
According to Vickers, liquor stores tend to have their worst months between the end of the Holidays and spring.
“We’re just kind of hanging on until May,” Vickers said.
Vickers said the loss of customers is not the only reason downtown businesses have closed. He said many building owners have increased the rent they charge shop owners in recent years.
Christopher said the village at one point had a business association, but it has since gone defunct, with many of the businesses having closed or moved.
Vickers said he would like to see local officials take some action to help businesses in the village.
“There is nothing I see in the works that could help,” Vickers said.
According to Pizza Supreme co-owner Tony Calderone, who has been running the pizzeria for the last 10 years with his brother Frank, many local businesses have closed since they opened, including Mohawk Furniture and Big Daddy’s Bakery.
“It’s just hard to keep jobs around this area,” Calderone said.
However, Calderone said, his business has been doing well despite the nationwide economic doldrums. Pizza is a cost-effective and popular product, he said.
Calderone said tax cuts for small businesses could help bring businesses back to small downtown areas.
Mayfield Mayor Jamie Ward said businesses in his village’s Route 30 commercial district are doing well, though the original “downtown” in Mayfield , on School Street, is rather sleepy.
Along the state highway, several businesses have thrived, including a Stewart’ Shop, the Fuel N’ Food convenient store, and others.
“Nothing is dried up, we just expanded,” Ward said.
According to Ward, more businesses have talked about moving into the village. He said a jujitsu and mixed martial arts studio may open in the village, and an insurance and investment office will be appearing soon.
“We got a lot of bright or brilliant entrepreneurs that are doing a good job running village businesses,” Ward said.
Longtime Northville Mayor James K. Groff was just as optimistic about his village’s downtown, saying it has only one or two vacant storefronts.
Groff credits the location of the village on the Great Sacandaga Lake, saying people stay local and buy from local stores or chain locations.
“I think we are just far enough away from the Gloversville/Johnstown area,” Groff said. “… We’re doing as well as anybody if not better.”
Arthur Cleveland covers rural Fulton County news. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.