Pair eyes business group revival

Though it conducted monthly meetings regularly for the past two years, the Downtown Amsterdam Busine

Though it conducted monthly meetings regularly for the past two years, the Downtown Amsterdam Business Association hasn’t met since the fall, partly due to illness among its key members and lack of interest.

But with some new businesses opening in the area and an increase in interest, the two remaining members of the group are optimistic about reviving the dormant organization.

“We’re not ready to give up yet,” Sheila Pieniazek, the association’s treasurer, said. “We still want to try.”

Pieniazek and the association’s secretary, Donna Peterson, owner of Uniforms and More, 2 E. Main St., are planning a meeting at the end of the month. They know at least one local business owner will show up. Ileana Magaletti, owner of Magaletti Dry Cleaners, is planning to move her business to 12 E. Main St. She said she is interested in revitalizing the downtown area.

“Amsterdam has a lot of potential and the way you inject life into a town is to inject life into its downtown,” she said.

Magaletti has ideas about what she’d like to see downtown, from street festivals to flea markets and farmers markets.

“We have so many local farmers. Why wouldn’t we give them the opportunity to sell their products locally and give us a chance to buy local food?” she asked.

Neither Pieniazek or Peterson know exactly what caused the organization’s decline, but only the two of them showed up for the November and December meetings.

Peterson said the biggest problem the association had was getting people to care about revitalizing the downtown area, especially because Main Street is split in half by the Riverfront Center. She said the various businesses in the center, mostly professional offices, weren’t interested in helping. Also, new businesses weren’t coming in, and the established businesses weren’t interested.

But now, Peterson said, there are some businesses moving downtown with energetic owners who want to get involved, including Laura Osborne, 27, owner of the Natural Method Yoga Studio.

Osborne said at one time the downtown area was dead, but she now sees more enthusiastic people around.

“I’m always waving to people as they walk by,” she said. “When it’s slow we are always popping in and out of each other’s stores to see what’s going on.”

Osborne thinks that the area is coming back and is even contemplating buying the building her business is in and turning it into eclectic shops.

“What we need is people with a positive, open mindset to change the perception of this place and be patient enough to weather the storm and wait out the whole process,” she said.

Osborne has been working on her own to bring people into the downtown area by hosting gatherings at her studio the second Saturday of every month. Also she hosts larger gatherings four times a year to welcome the seasons.

Osborne said she has gotten to know her neighbor, Brian Desrochers, who just opened his new downtown business Derocom Graphics. He said he bought an existing business that was located in Amsterdam, but decided to move it to the downtown area because the rent was cheap and he has a good storefront in which to display artwork.

“I like this location. The people are nice and all of the small businesses work together and support each other,” he said.

He also said the location right off the Thruway is a bonus because he has a lot of customers from the Capital Region and out of state.

Desrochers said he feels like the downtown area could make a comeback with its easy access to Riverlink Park.

“I can see us having little niche shops here like on Jay Street in Schenectady,” he said.

Then there are people like the owners of Riverside Pizzeria who have been in business downtown for 10 years and five years ago decided to buy the building. Owner Josh Richards said he spent $60,000 of his own money to fix up the building with new windows and a new facade.

Peterson said so far, city government hasn’t been friendly to small businesses.

“We need to get with City Hall and coordinate a plan of action for this area,” she said. “We need some advertisements that there even is a downtown area. Everything is about Route 30, but we also need to support the small businesses.”

The downtown area does appear to be on Mayor Ann Thane’s agenda. She mentioned the importance of revitalizing the area during her State of the City address at the beginning of the year.

Ramon Rodriguez, district director of Amsterdam’s Resource Center for Independent Living, who is also a Montgomery County United Way board member, said he is setting up a meeting with Thane to discuss what could be done with the half-empty United Way building. Thane said she wants to use that meeting as a way to strategically plan for the entire corridor.

For now, the next meeting of the Downtown Amsterdam Business Association is scheduled for 4 p.m. Feb. 25 at Uniforms and More, 2 E. Main St.

Categories: Schenectady County

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