On Monday morning at J.P. Doyle’s, representatives from the Chamber of Commerce and Village of Sleepy Hollow met with a handful of village business owners to inaugurate a new Sleepy Hollow Merchants Council.
The Merchants Council will operate as a subcommittee of the Sleepy Hollow Tarrytown Chamber of Commerce, though merchants needn’t be council members to participate. (If they are, they can benefit from the perks of Chamber membership. For more on joining the Chamber and what it has to offer click here.)
The Council will focus on Sleepy Hollow’s downtown and aims to open a “direct conduit to the Village,” said Village Administrator Anthony Giaccio, who was there on Monday with several Village Trustees.
Business owners brought up some of their major complaints and concerns, all of which gravitated to beautifying Beekman.
There was talk of what would become of that eyesore empty lot adjacent to Fleetwood Pizzeria that now at least sits behind a new wooden fence. Giaccio said a developer was in the process of getting building permits but the deal fell through because the lot was too expensive. He did say the village is considering taking it over in a private/public partnership whereby a portion of the property would have to serve a public use like much needed upper level parking.
Leslie Blanco-Ishoo and Theresa McCarthy, the new co-presidents of the Chamber, were there to introduce themselves and their efforts to get Sleepy Hollow business on board in order to improve both villages.
“It’s important for the community to be active to try to better the whole look of the town, create activities and get a dialogue going with officials,” McCarthy said. “The more we’re involved the better the two villages will be.”
Pat Studley, owner of Hudson River Acupuncture, recently celebrating its first-year anniversary in the Van Tassel building, expressed his concern over vacant shops, which he noted would “probably take care of themselves” over time and then those shops that while technically open, rarely are. There’s the seasonally run gun and bait shop on his block, and the bike shop that leaves customers wanting for more hours.
Moon River Grill employee, who was not in attendance but talked about her concerns to Patch, said, on her list of biggest issues were: street parking on the river end of Beekman where train commuters can cheat the Tarrytown system and park here for free. She also worries for the GM development, if ever that happens. How will this one road accommodate it all?
In general, recalling the restaurant’s long struggle to simply have bar stools, the employee said, “they make it difficult to be a small business owner in this town, they really do.”
Giaccio hopes this group will ease the process of getting open and staying open, affording a forum for business owners to get information and feel supported.
“Often businesses are in conflict with the building department and confused about fines, awnings, sidewalk fees,” Giaccio said, hoping clearer communication on these and other matters would boost the pro-business atmosphere the village means to foster.
Separate from Downtown Revitalization efforts, this council depends on the participation of business owners. Many shopkeepers speak Spanish on Beekman so an ad to advertise the group was posted in English and Spanish, full page, in the River Journal. Flyers were handed out. And Ishoo intends to continue her door to door outreach.
Just only five business owners in attendance Ishoo called a good start. “With five committed members, you’ll affect change.”
Giaccio noted that in addition to a village-wide clean up day on April 30 for Earth Day, 45 North Dakota college students are stopping here on the way to D.C. on March 14 and asked how they could pitch in for a few hours of community service.
The village will be providing them “real New York pizza” and putting these kids to work cleaning the streets and sprinkling park woodchips before they get on a bus to D.C. Any suggestions or offerings that will help thank these students can be directed to email@example.com.
On Main Street in Tarrytown, shopkeepers started an initiative to hang flower pots from lightposts in the spring. People here noted perhaps Sleepy Hollow could do the same. Ishoo suggested an “exteme makeover contest” with a friend of hers offering up pro bono professional interior design.
All of these efforts will certainly get a boost as well from the $60,000 grant Sleepy Hollow secured from the state to "brand" Sleepy Hollow and Halloween specifically and our immediate region and the fall season in general. More on this on Patch tom come.
“We’re cautiously optimistic,” Ishoo said. “This is a great first step.”
Merchant Council meetings will regularly change times and venues, to be determined. For more information contact: Ishoo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What changes/improvements would you like to see on Beekman and beyond? Are you a Sleepy Hollow business owner? What are your main hopes and concerns? Weigh in here.