Members of the Downtown Association in Plattsburgh meet for the second time at Champlain Wine Company on City Hall Place on June 28.
Downtown business owners are taking the vitality of the city into their own hands in a grassroots effort to make the city center a destination.
Around 20 people from several Plattsburgh businesses gathered at the Champlain Wine Company, 8 City Hall Place, for their second official Downtown Business Visitors Association meeting on June 27.
“We want to create an atmosphere to help revitalize the downtown,” said Colin Read, owner of the Champlain Wine Company, prior to the meeting. “We don’t want to focus on taxes or city practices; we want to focus on creating a fun place for visitors to come.”
Right now, Read said the businesses that are thriving are accounting, law and other kinds of firms. Though these businesses are important for the city, he said they are not businesses people travel from out of town to visit.
“There are still a few open storefronts here. It would be great for people to come and find a niche that is missing here and build a business,” said Read.
The Association members decided to focus initial efforts on the First Weekend celebrations and to creating a map to outline all businesses downtown.
“A lot of people don’t know what’s downtown, and while they are at my business waiting to get their car worked on, they can see the different shops downtown,” said Bill Ferris, owner of Big Apple Audio on Durkee Street.
Ferris said one of the best types of advertisement would be for the businesses to promote each other.
“People downtown tend to walk,” said Ferris. “People come downtown for a local experience, going to Walmart and the mall aren’t local experiences.”
Business maps would have the name of the business with a small blurb to describe the products or food available there. The maps could lead people down new streets they have never explored in downtown Plattsburgh. Currently there are business maps provided by the City Recreation Department and several information kiosks downtown, but an expanded map could tell people more about their downtown.
“We’re not going to compete with the mall, people who want to shop at a bargain and compare at chain stores,” said Read. “Here we want to host a leisurely dining, music and shopping experience.”
Through First Weekend, the members of the alliance are hoping to attract people to investigate all the downtown has to offer.
Members of the association are asked to offer a 10 percent discount to patrons who attend businesses on Friday and return again on Saturday during First Weekend.
The next First Weekend is scheduled for July 5 and 6. The series is scheduled to continue with events in August and September.
“We expect about two dozen businesses will be offering discounts for the First Weekends,” said Read.
In order for the association to be successful, there must be a combined effort with members not only talking about changing but stepping up to do the leg work, he said.
“We all take pride in our downtown. I think hopefully others will join in and they’ll look around and say what a beautiful downtown,” said Adirondack Soup Company Owner Laura Dominianna.
Dominianna said in recent years she has noticed a social change in the community. In the past, flower boxes were destroyed or had the flowers ripped out. But today, she feels confident leaving her flowers hanging outside her business.
“Maybe there is a little change going on in this community,” said Dominianna. “I’m hopeful that it will continue and we will be able to beautify our streets and our downtown.”