Some of the newest stores in Gloversville are hosting burlesque shows, serving healthy local foods, and selling witch magic jars.
As the city and other parishes of Fulton County continue their revitalization efforts, part of the story will be how well less traditional businesses are doing.
Some of the newer companies in Gloversville are:
North Star, a cafe, bookstore, and art gallery that opened in November in the 1880s Opera House building, has already hosted live entertainment events ranging from an indie acoustic performance to a drag show.
The Happy Mug, currently located in the Agora Marketplace, opened in December and will soon feature a menu of a turkey sandwich with mango chutney, brie, green apples and a Dijon sauce. The Happy Mug also plans to host community events – from children’s craft activities to musical performances.
And The East Witchery, which opened on Fulton Street in June and sells crystals, incense, and other metaphysical products, hosted a Halloween event that drew more than 400 visitors.
Meanwhile, newer stores on Johnstown’s Main Street include Second Wind Coffee, which has a hip vibe that’s part rustic farmhouse, part motorcycle bar, and McLemon’s Boutique, which specializes in new and unique vintage-style womenswear.
Kenneth Adamczyk, economic development specialist at Fulton County Center for Regional Growth, said these different types of businesses can be a boon to the city centers, and add additional attractions to more traditional types of shopping and entertainment venues that benefit, such as the Glove Theater are taken from the $ 10 million Gloversville under The New York State Downtown Revitalization Initiative.
“Fulton County has historically been agricultural. That brings something new, ”Adamczyk said last week at the North Star Café and Bookstore. “It creates a little more interest in what’s going on in the city. If you can have a bookstore that does concerts and the like, that’s a huge niche. And with some of the other stores like Agora and The Apothecary all centrally located around the theater and then building it up, everything in this area is going to be something that draws people in and gives them other things to do. “
Adamczyk said the county has many funding options to support small businesses and cafes, including a micro-business grant program that recently donated $ 300,000 to businesses in Fulton County.
Mayor of Gloversville Vincent DeSantis said less traditional businesses help downtown cities like Gloversville get “sticky” instead of “slippery” – meaning they give people reasons to hang out instead of hopping in and out.
“The most important thing for an inner city is the synergy between the companies. Each company complements the other companies’ business, ”DeSantis said. “Synergy creates a myriad of different reasons to stay downtown,” DeSantis said, and when you combine synergies with pedestrian-friendliness and welcoming public spaces, you build an interesting downtown area. “You have to have different things for people to come here.”
A big question that could determine the future of cities like Gloversville and Johnstown is how much pushback companies that put burlesque shows and sell magic glasses are getting. So far, the owners say, the community has been largely hospitable. But that doesn’t mean their openings haven’t been subjected to some friction.
“More church people come in here and they have a lot of questions that I’m happy to answer,” said Stefani Brown, co-owner of The East Witchery. “Some people come in and say, ‘This is demonic.’ and I say ‘I don’t do that’. “
Brown said the metaphysical store is focused on earthy materials like crystals and lotions that can exude positive energy.
Brown said her store and other similar stores offer a different type of outlet for Fulton County’s shoppers.
“For anyone who has their own rhythm and is not entirely mainstream, this is something we love to do, and we are able to bring this to the community.”
Robert Tomlinson, an artist who found Gloversville through Catskill after moving to New York State from Berkeley, California and Portland, Oregon, said he opened North Star as a “third place” in Gloversville. That said, it’s not a home, it’s not a work, but a third place where people can spend time. Tomlinson said he was attracted to the Mohawk Harvest Cooperative Market and the city’s investment in Gloversville public library.
“When people say what you do, I say I’m building a community center disguised as a coffee shop and bookstore,” Tomlinson said.
Tanyalynnette Grimes, whose Micropolis Development Group owns several Gloversville businesses – including Kingsboro Golf Club, the new Happy Mug at Agora Marketplace, and The Apothecary – said her priority is her people. She said she has a “humanistic” approach to her business, which means starting all of her nearly 30 employees on $ 15 an hour, giving vacation time, and even paying for some education expenses.
“As an entrepreneur, there has to be a really good balance between profit, profitability and how we treat our people. If I get a dollar but don’t treat the people who help me get that dollar well, then I essentially stole that dollar, ”Grimes said. “It’s about how we hire people and then develop them further into holistic people that they can be.”
Grimes said the people who work at Gloversville’s company are in many ways the faces of Gloversville because they are the people the public is in contact with on a daily basis. So as you grow people and support their ideas and visions, you start building communities as a whole – and you start helping those communities develop, Grimes said.
“It does not allow the cycle of poverty to continue from generation to generation. It offers options and someone to believe in you and tell you it is possible no matter what your dream is, ”Grimes said. “Maybe it’s not about riding a unicorn through the fields, but maybe it’s about training horses, and maybe in a few years we’ll be sledding horses across the golf course because it’s someone’s passion. That’s really what development is about – not just limiting myself to the breadth of what comes to mind. It really cultivates everything that is out there as a community and helps make it a reality. “
Fulton Counties say they have already noticed a difference in their communities. Riley King, 21, said she was now proud to be from Gloversville.
“I was born and raised here, so I really want to go out and dare. But I wouldn’t feel bad if I got back, ”said King, who now works at Happy Mug. I’m not like, ‘Oh no, I’m from Gloversville’. I thought, ‘Oh, we’re rebuilding Gloversville. You should come and see how it looks now. ‘”
Lauren Day Lathers, 39, said she wanted to stay in Gloversville after considering moving from Syracuse to Kingston, in part because of artsy spaces like North Star. Today she is the manager of the store.
“There are people these days who really just want a place where they can fit in. It’s not that we’re trying to push the envelope. We try to keep up with the times. People change. That’s how we’ve always felt, ”said Day Lathers. “We love diversity, we love art and creativity. So that offers a platform for it. “
Tomlinson, the owner of North Star, said a big focus for him is transforming small cities to make them more attractive to people like his 30-year-old son who works in the theater and is currently in Brooklyn with his new baby lives. Art galleries, entertainment venues, restaurants, cafes, and quirky shops in walkable city centers all help create a vibrant tapestry that appeals to a wide variety of residents, Tomlinson said.
“I think this community will change completely over the next few years and be a great city for the locals to live in,” said Tomlinson. “It will be great to visit, but it will also be really good for the locals, and I hope you will see generations of people enjoying this.”
Andrew Waite can be contacted at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.