These are boom times for retail in the four counties.
“We’re seeing a huge influx of the businesses that you find in more metropolitan areas,” observes Carolyn Lewis, the Otsego County Developer. “But at the same time, were really seeing a desire for those Main Street stores to come back, for people to own their own businesses and have that one-on-one customer service. The small retail store is really something that we treasure here. But at the same time, for the consumer and large scale employment, we do have the 200-300 employee businesses here that are doing quite well.”
Small, independent retailers are still the norm in Delaware County according to Economic Developer, Glenn Nealis. “The majority of retailers in the county are typically the ‘mom & pop’ shops. There are excellent opportunities for people who want to be their own boss.”
Mary Beth Silano, Executive Director of the Delaware County Chamber agrees. “Small businesses have shown the most growth in the county. We see a lot of people relocating here, opening up their own small business. The county chamber has 850 members and 70 percent of those are ‘mom and pop’ self-employed.”
Alicia Terry, the County Planner in Schoharie sees a similar draw for entrepreneurs, stating that, “Most of our growth is in small businesses.”
Norwich in Chenango County and Oneonta in Otsego are seeing a trend toward the establishment of box stores by large, national retailers.
Tom Pritchard, formerly of the Otsego County Office of Employment and Training explains.
“Oneonta is the largest urban, geopolitical entity in the whole sub-region. We’re the biggest thing between Albany, Binghamton, Utica, and Kingston. Ergo, we are the retail magnet.” In addition to the number of box stores (WalMart, Lowe’s, Home Depot, etc.) that continue to open in the Oneonta and Norwich areas, Pritchard points to another indicator of the retail sector’s vitality.
“We’re getting fast food franchises that will only go into markets that demonstrate a really healthy opportunity.”
Dave Hall, past President and CEO of the Chenango County Chamber of Commerce sees the incursion of large retailers into the community in different terms.
“Retail is growing in many respects. We’re starting to see some of the large retail stores come into this area. Restaurants are growing, because of those.”
However, he cautions, “The small, family shops are struggling. But I think those folks also realize that because of their level of service and their level of commitment to the community, they’re going to continue to flourish despite the big boxes.”