August 20, 2008
Longtime business closing doors
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
The Saracene family, from left, Fred, Charlotte and Al, owners of Nordic Sports, are closing their doors at 45 Main St. after selling their building.
CORTLAND — When a Main Street business covers up its windows and announces a store-closing sale, shoppers notice.
Customers poured into Nordic Sports at 45 Main St. Monday, some attracted by the sale and the others by the chance to say goodbye to the Saracene family after 32 years in business.
Al Saracene said that with the sale of the building pending, it made sense for he and his wife, Charlotte Saracene, to retire from the retail business.
“So now we’re moving on,” Al Saracene said Monday in between helping customers with their questions and explaining the situation to old friends.
“In 20 years, I don’t think I’ve had a week’s vacation. That’ll be a little different.”
The business is selling off not only its merchandise but the store’s fixtures, as well, and offering promotions to customers whose traffic in and out of the store has been “steady,” Saracene said. The store could close in four to five weeks, depending on how fast the inventory is sold.
The business started on the western side of south Main Street, where DP Dough is now situated, in the late 1970s. At that time, the merchandise was primarily cross-country skiing related, as Al Saracene was a ski coach through SUNY Cortland at the time.
After a year in that spot, the business relocated to 31 Main St., where the Spirit and Life bookstore is now. Over time, the store added running shoes — the family was made up of runners — swimsuits, backpacks and other merchandise.
With the closing of the only local downhill skiing shop, Chip’s Kandahar on Tompkins Street, the business added a full-line of downhill equipment and winter clothes. Bicycles and other sports equipment followed.
The business opened in its current location in 1993.
In 1997, the Saracenes purchased Lund’s Ski Shop in Syracuse. That location closed in April when the lease expired and the terms for a new lease were not acceptable.
Like Al Saracene, Fred Saracene, the second generation to be involved in the family business, will miss the interactions with the customers.
“This has been a part of my life since we opened,” Saracene said in between helping customers. “As long as I can remember.”
While Al and Charlotte Saracene will keep themselves busy through retirement — Al said he would concentrate on his beekeeping, garden and grandchildren — Fred Saracene will be moving on to a new career.
“I have no idea what I’m going to do, so if anyone needs me they can call,” Fred said, laughing.
Nordic Sports’ steady customers will also have to readjust. Wendy Burton of Evergreen Street picked up two children’s bike helmets for her 12-year-old nieces midday Monday, and detailed her purchases at Nordic Sports over the past year — some downhill skis, mountain bikes and winter clothes for layering.
“I’ve spent good money here,” Burton said. “It’s a nice family, I can see how it’s sad for people in Cortland and surrounding areas.”
Burton said she tries to buy local, and would have to change her shopping habits with the store’s closing. Fred Saracene said he has had to reassure a few customers.
“I’ve had a few that I told, when we close and they wake up the next day, the world won’t end,” he said.
Although the building sale has not been finalized yet and the Saracenes declined to comment on the new tenant, Downtown Manager Lloyd Purdy said the situation is not all bad for the outlook of retail on Main Street.
“It’s always sad to see a longtime retailer close up shop — it’s not unexpected, and I hear there are great things in store for both the whole building and the new retailer in that location,” Purdy said Monday afternoon.
Mark Zaharis of Ithaca is purchasing the building, and will open up a branch of his Unfinished Furniture Store in the location. He has also expressed an interest in creating upscale apartments on the second and possibly third floor of the building.
But not until the Saracens have moved on.
After all three of Fred and Charlotte’s children worked at the store, they have also had grandchildren helping out. Emily Saracene, 12, hung out at the store with her father, Fred, and grandfather Monday.
“It’s sad, because my dad and grandparents have done it for a really long time,” Emily said as she sat on the counter.
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