Not long ago, I stood Downtown or “Downstreet” as we call it, and, well, just looked.
I saw an awful lot of things really. I saw Rathbun Jewelers with Sue & Howard busy talking with customers, Pat from Newberry’s hustling to get window banners up, I saw busy, busy, busy. Andy from Cooke & Sacco was measuring for a suit, Andy from the barbershop was out getting people involved, and when I looked very closely, I saw my Grandfather Fred with a broom.
I remember mornings at the coffee shop at Newberry’s. There wasn’t a McDonald’s or a Stewart’s, none of those things. We’d never even HEARD of Dunkin’ Donuts. We had three major grocery stores in town, and half a dozen little corner markets selling this, that and the other thing.
McDonald’s came first. I remember it well. I was there when it opened with a mic in my hands inviting people to come over and check it out.
I don’t think, however, any of us ever envisioned what was to come. We were a little town of 2,500 people (5,000 in the summer) and to even IMAGINE that the Walmart’s of the world would be able to spell our name, let alone find us on the map, seemed impossible.
But come they did, and with their arrival, widespread destruction of an entire way of life. Sadly, it’s been replicated over and over, in small communities around the Country.
Now it’s NOT Walmart’s “fault” per se, it’s just the way things are. “New and Improved,” generally speaking, means old and out of date is dead, and that’s what we’ve seen.
Downtown now, is essentially a ghost town. That isn’t to say that they aren’t trying. They are, they’re trying HARD. There have been some big wins. Getting the Star Trek deal was huge and it brings in tons of people every year. But they’re here, and then they’re gone.
The “problem” with all of that, especially with the area being SO seasonal, is just exactly HOW do you stay afloat 12 months out of the year, when realistically, there are perhaps 6 months of income available.
Add to that, the now overwhelming Online Shopping environment and the Bricks & Mortar environment crumbling, and you’ve got yourself a dilemma.
Keeping Downtown alive and functioning is a serious issue.
There are some communities who have seemingly solved it. Look at downtown Saratoga New York. It’s borderline out of control with growth and general “busy.”
There are other issues though, that complicate life in the Adirondacks. The Adirondack Park Agency rules, and so many other things that make the northern frontier a huge challenge.
You really have to admire the folks who not only persevere, but literally do daily battle with all of the things that conflict doing business in a place that sometimes seems like it really doesn’t WANT any business.
What do I mean?
There is a delicate balancing act between keeping the Adirondack Park pure and pristine since that single natural resource is what literally MAKES the place special, and the clear and obvious need of a population of people who live there for jobs, recreation, schools, and all of the SAME things that people want everywhere, even if they don’t live in a “park.”
I tell you this, knowing full well that those of you who live here already know it. You feel it everyday in one way or another. It’s nothing new, certainly NOT “breaking news.”
But there is still such a huge part of me that see’s things the way I WISH they were, as opposed to how they are going to be. I remember the good times, the great days in the sun, the wonderful privilege of having been born and raised in the North Land.
I have now lived far more years away then I did there. I’m getting older now, older than I’ve ever been as they say….and yet my memory of all of this is SO vivid…so colorful, so FULL of emotion.
For me, it’s like stepping back in time. I’m no longer part of the culture here, no longer an active “member” of the group we always thought of as “local.”
And still, those memories.