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New Businesses Sought in Croton

February 20, 2006

While local barbecue lovers hunger for the grand opening of Memphis Mae’s BBQ Bistro in the Croton Commons, further up the street on North Riverside Avenue, cycle enthusiasts wonder about the fate of ET Cycles with its frosted windows and empty showroom.

While businesses come and go, a trend may be emerging within Croton’s local economy as a surplus of retail space become available for rent or sale. This is a trend that has been steadily noticeable for the last year or more. On a recent trip around the Village, there were seven vacant storefronts in the Upper Village, on Maple Avenue and on the North Riverside Avenue corridor (see slideshow).

In recognition of this concern, last year in the run up to the Village Election, then candidate Jim Steinberg introduced—as part of the Republican platform—the idea of “retaining a business consultant to look into ways we can enhance the shopping experience in our village“ (see following video clip and transcription). Nearly a year later, in pursuit of another bid (see: “Let’s Continue Moving Croton Forward, Together”) for Trustee, Mr. Steinberg and his running mate Jose Gonzalez, once again continue a pledge of “enhancing the village shopping experience” with $10,000 that has been “earmarked” for such consulting services.

In preparation for disbursements of funding—while writing a request for proposal (RFP)—the Village board should feel confident by looking to the business experiences of Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt. Mayor Schmidt, a local chiropractor, served as the president of the Croton Chamber of Commerce for several years, prior to its recent merger with the Hudson Valley Gateway Chamber of Commerce—where he continues his service as a board member. Additionally, Dr. Schmidt heads the newly formed Croton Business Council—a group of local business owners who meet monthly at the Law Office of Kathleen Reidy.

Also worth noting as resources for a business consultant are the Village’s Comprehensive Plan and the work of the Visual Environment Board (VEB). With the combined efforts, past and present, a healthy local economy should remain as a top priority for the Village. Granted, no politician has much control over business cycles and how they play out on even a small local level. But in the psyche of voters it’s all about the economy and how elected officials are viewed to be handling those sensitive issues.

In addition to an increase in sales tax revenue, a vibrant small business climate provides jobs for residents and provides convenience to shoppers. It also keeps our village looking strong in the sense that if non-residents or even prospective home buyers were to drive around our village and see so much empty retail space they might think there is some kind of blight on Croton-on-Hudson. That kind of negative stigma—even though it may not be warranted—would have both a short term and long term damaging effect on residential and commercial property values.


Video clip of then candidateJames M. Steinberg on Thursday, March 3, 2005 during the League of Women Voters debate between the Democratic and Republican candidates running for election of Mayor and Trustees.

Option: Download and watch this video clip of “James Steinberg on Shopping in Croton” in Quicktime format (1:23 mins. | 2.4 mb).

Video transcription:

[Opening statement] …“As a resident of Croton, I have been disappointed by lack of attention our current administration has placed upon on our Upper Village shopping. Over the course of the last few weeks of this election, I have had the pleasure of meeting many of you and one question that is always asked of me is why cannot, why do not have more shops in the Village. If elected, I will support the hiring of a business consultant so that we can attract the type of boutique shops that can survive in this Village. Apparel, shoes, toys, clothing for our children. Its an imperative step that we must take now and stop thinking about and talking about.”…

[Response to question] …“Jenny, if I am elected Trustee, I’ve got two things that will be at the top of my list. The first will be improving our shopping districts. I’ve been in this Village for a little over six years now. The Upper Village looks the same as it did back then. We have a wonderful cornerstone store in the Upper Village in Wondrous Things. But, you know what we have to do? We’ve got to bring more shopping up there. We have to bring boutique shops in there as I said in my opening statements. And why do we have to do that? Because our families, our stay-at-home parents; they are tired of driving up to the mall. They’re tired of dealing with the lines at Wal-Mart. Those are the only options we have right now. We have to bring a sense of community back to this Village by improving the shopping that is available here.”…

[Closing statement] …“I wish to see us improve our shopping district. So we can have the shopping needs available to our residents without going up to the malls. And without going up to Wal-Mart.”…

On February 25, 2006 11:08 AM, Reality Check said:

Time for another Reality Check.

Mr. Steinberg blows his horn a bit too loudly when he campaigns on the notion of retaining a consultant to evaluate commercial life in the Village and make recommendations for its improvement.

Long before Mr. Steinberg lost his last electoral bid, and long before he was appointed to the Village Board, Ann Gallelli and her Comprehensive Plan Committee had made just such a recommendation. Don’t believe me? Check out the Comprehensive Plan. I am sure it is available from the Village, if not on line.

And that, my friends, is a Reality Check.

On February 24, 2006 6:08 PM, SilverOne1997 said:

i know that we already have a devil’s advocate on the blog but if he or she will allow me to steal that title for a moment it would be most appreciated.

i think most of us agree that $10,000 can be better spent in other areas of the budget, but if we ever really want to know how to ‘attract’ businesses to the village isn’t it fair to say we will need a consultant?

i for one, have no real issues with the upper village. i think it’s a nice quaint place to walk around for a little while but i certainly wouldn’t want chain stores popping up there or anything of that sort. also, if we were to expand the shopping in the village where would we park?

if it is unanimously agreed that we need to do something about the upper village, i suggest we follow the plan and hire a business consultant because we can all use the help of professionals when it comes to comlex tasks such as this.

On February 20, 2006 3:19 PM, weewill said:

Please … do NOT spend $10,000 of our taxpayers dollars for a “downtown business needs assessment.” The last thing we need is for someone not from Croton to come and tell us what we need in our village. I respectuffly submit we need only look at our own shopping habits. We’ve had a shoe store here; it closed. We’ve had bakeries here; they’ve closed. We’ve had jewelry stores here; they’ve closed. We need to take responsibility for shopping locally and supporting our local businesses. We are a sophisticated population who appreciates personal service and quality goods. We don’t need an outside consultant to tell us what we already know.

If you, Jim Steinberg, and the board feel ill-equipped or unable to determine why businesses have closed in Croton, you might consider asking a few of the very talented marketing people who live here. And if you’re hell bent on hiring a consultant, I respectfully suggest that former Mayor Bob Elliott is recognized as the leading expert from New York to Albany on Main Street, USA and the revitalization of downtowns. He’s been hired by communities all alog the Hudson River for his knowledge and expertise. In addition, our current Mayor Greg Schmidt, has been an officer of local Chamber of Commerce for years as well as a local business man.

We have a wealth of knowledge right here in Croton. Please do not spend $10,000 needlessly.

On February 20, 2006 10:51 AM, SSmith said:

i whole-heartedly agree with this well thought out article… maintaining a vibrant and growing economy should be a key mission of all politicians especially local ones. their decisions have more direct impact on our lives than decisions made at the national level. i am hopeful that this promise made by mr. steinberg LAST YEAR is truthful and honest because i too have become alarmed at the number of vacant stores that have cropped up around town.

i also respectfully disagree with mr. steinberg in the type of stores he hoped to attract with LAST YEAR’S CAMPAIGN PROMISE. It seems to me that “boutique” type apparel stores would need to charge such high prices given the small store sizes in the village that people would not find shopping there economical.

also, there is nothing wrong with going to Wal-Mart or the mall when need be as mr. steinberg implicitly stated LAST YEAR that he hopes to stop. As any parent knows the low prices and large selection of goods offered by both, especially Wal-Mart, make it almost necessary to shop there.

perhaps some in our village are not as privileged as mr. steinberg and his family and need to find low prices and bargains.


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