With the surrounding towns all having a chamber of commerce and an upcoming countywide joint chamber event, several people in the community met about a month ago to discuss the possibility of restarting the Nanuet Chamber of Commerce.
A general meeting date, time and place was set after that initial meeting a month ago, which included Risa Hoag, of Nanuet and GMG Public Relations, George Hoehmann, Clarkstown councilman and Nanuet resident, Bill Demarest and Kim Tran from Patch.
At Monday night’s general meeting, about 40 people attended to discuss and bounce around ideas of a Nanuet Chamber of Commerce. Unfortunately, this general meeting was planned on short notice, but the next meeting will be in a few weeks, which will give the community, shop owners and landlords more notice.
Every $10 you spend, $30 goes back to the community, so it’s more valuable to shop locally. Many topics were discussed such as the county-wide chamber event, Nanuet’s Main Street, involvement from the town and county and the incoming Shops of Nanuet with its outdoor "Main Street" concept.
“I see this (chamber of commerce) as a way to support business growth in Nanuet and increase community involvement,” said Hoehmann.
“We need to capitalize on Nanuet’s spirit,” said Risa Hoag, referring to the large community efforts in rebuilding the Highview Community Playground last year. She suggested that the chamber be more than just business based and more community driven with the businesses as a major part under a large community umbrella.
“We could have the restaurants get together and for their own committee, one for retail, another for students (who need community services hours through the ‘Participation in Government’ class),” Hoag said.
“I’m very interested in all of this. I want to get more involved in the town,” said Jason Franzone, co-owner of Tre Amici Café in Nanuet. “I grew up in Nanuet, I plan on staying here for a while and keeping my business here for a while.
Nanuet Resident Jim Flynn said that the schools’ big annual event, Nanuet Family Festival (June 2), has very little involvement from businesses.
“A lot of people don’t even know what stores are on the little side streets or the back end. I think the chamber of commerce is a wonderful idea,” said Jim Flynn, a Nanuet resident who realized how many stores were in Nanuet after volunteering and helping out on the Nanuet Highview Community Playground committee.
“(The library) is a great place to disseminate information,” said Gretchen Bell, the Nanuet Library director, who also added that she supported the idea of a Chamber of Commerce with a community involvement base.
Pearl River Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Hardy is pushing for more involvement from Pearl River’s residents within his chamber.
“I’m trying to get more interaction going on. I’m trying to create an atmosphere that’s more promotional toward the businesses and also get more residents involved,” he said.
“I remember the memorial day parade when I lived in Nanuet,” said Hardy. “Coming down the street and the kids with their bikes.”
“It was also the after party. You went behind the high school, you’d throw ping pong balls into the fish, the pie in the face,” said Risa Hoag. “It was a really fun community event and really successful and it brought everybody together. It didn’t involve businesses per say, but it was just a great feel-good community event. I would love to see something like that resurrected.”
Joint Chamber Event
Hardy, who is in his second term as president of the Pearl River Chamber of Commerce, is planning a joint effort across multiple chambers of commerce in June. He hopes to open up the networking on a county level. He added that this joint chamber event can also help with cross promotion.
“I found it interesting that there isn’t much interaction between the chambers and each town has unique features and they put on unique events. Some (chambers) are stronger than others,” he said. “One of the things we’re going to do, which has gotten a great response from all of the chambers, is on June 13, we’re going to have a joint-chamber event. It’s not going to be a meeting. The whole idea is can we establish some sort of relationship (to share ideas across chambers).”
He added that neighboring chambers should be networking because there’s a lot of things that happen in the community that affects the surrounding hamlets, such as the Palisades Center and the incoming Nanuet Mall.
The incoming Nanuet Mall’s effects were also discussed. There was concern about the inconsistent look of Nanuet’s downtown against the upcoming, most likely impressive, “Main Street” of the Shops at Nanuet.
Hardy suggested that the Nanuet Chamber of Commerce should look into how to develop off of what Simon is doing and work with them.
“(Simon) They’re actually creating something that already exists that apparently has some sort of appeal,” said Hardy.
Nanuet Main Street
One of the worries among some people is the condition of Nanuet’s downtown Main Street with its “cheap signs,” empty storefronts and inconsistent look.
“I’m looking forward to the new mall coming in. My concern is, when you leave that mall and make a right onto Main Street/Middletown Road, there’s a lot of buildings in terrible disrepair,” said an attendee “A lot of business owners don’t seem to care how they look on Main Street. How can we attract businesses (that will care and update the building)?”
Town Supervisor Alex Gromack said that there Clarkstown’s Architectural Landscape Board has a new standard on signage and all incoming businesses must conform to the new forms.
“It’s a slow process in the beginning, but if you go into downtown New City … you’ll notice the new signs and gooseneck light. It does make a difference, it’s a branding. There’s some cohesiveness to the shopping centers in their style and color,” said Gromack.
He added that there has been pressure for existing businesses to upgrade their signs and façade to keep up with their new neighbors and their exterior upgrades.
“I was at a New City Chamber of Commerce mixer,” said Demarest. “You could hear the peer pressure … for people to step up and improve their properties, but also work together so they can afford it.”
It’s not just tenants and shop owners that need to be on board, but more importantly the landlords and property owners.
“If (the landlords) are not sitting in this room and are not buying into this process, (Main Street) it’s going to look (the same) 18 months from now,” said Hoag.
“As improvements are made (in downtown New City), the owners of properties, the landlords, are coming to our planning board and ALC saying, ‘now’s the time that we want to make our private investment,’” said Gromack.
Clarkstown and Rockland
Representatives from Clarkstown and Rockland County were also present.
“What we’re looking for is to promote business. For every dollar you spend, you get a multiplier effect of three because that will typically be spent in the community,” said Hoehmann. “It’s not so with some of the chain stores you’re going to … it’s not being reinvested directly back into the community. The chamber can help with this.”
Hoehmann also suggested ideas such as a park concert series.
“Certainly we want to get involved and be supportive. Maybe at one point invite the New City Chamber in because they’ve gotten reorganized and reinvigorated,” said Gromack. “We’re trying to make Clarkstown more business-friendly. (The town board) can start talking about new and innovative zoning that may help the business community and business district.”
Gromack added that the town joins forces with local groups, such as the New City Chamber of Commerce.
“When the New City Chamber got reinvigorated, they had a (street) fair. We’re full partners. Our recreation department is involved, making donations to help with entertainment and some bands,” he said. “We can be investors and partners in these activities because it is important to draw people and have that spotlight on our downtown.”
The town also partnered with the Congers-Valley Cottage Rotary with the annual Italian Festival with things such as police support.
“It was good for the rotary, but it was also good for the downtown (area) because 5-10,000 people converged.”
Legislator Chris Carey said that the Nanuet Chamber of Commerce needs to partner with not just the town, but the county too because Middletown Road is a county road.
“We (the town and county) both have issues with (Route) 59 because it’s a state road,” he added.
Unfortunately, this general meeting was planned on short notice, but the next meeting will be in a few weeks, which will give the community, shop owners and landlords more notice.
Check back with Patch for that date later this week.