More students, more sales

Business increases downtown with colleges back in session


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer     
Tattoo artist Tim Allen tattoos a string of hearts on cosmetology student Justine Francis at the Sacred Art tattoo studio on Main Street. The tattoo shop is one of many downtown businesses that experiences an increase in sales with the annual return of SUNY Cortland students. “How can you put 7,000 people in the community and not have an impact on business?” said Nordic Sports owner Al Saracene.

Staff Reporter

As Camille Lightell went to swipe her card at Bargain Town downtown Tuesday afternoon, the storeowner teased her about her purchases.
“Camille, come over and give your life away,” John Leonardo said.
Lightell, 19, a sophomore communications major at SUNY Cortland, was ordering personalized clothing with two of her Delta Phi Epsilon sorority sisters.
They are among thousands of returning SUNY Cortland and TC3 students whose arrival in Cortland has boosted business at downtown stores and restaurants.
Leonardo said that each fall the returning students push his sales up by at least 30 percent.
“I’m smiling,” he said. “I’m sure the whole town is.”
Leonardo said one big reason students make the trip downtown is that his store, at 42 Main St., keeps up with the latest trends. Right now, for example, students are seeking out its spandex pants, he said. Also, sorority and fraternity members like that they can order clothing bearing their organization’s Greek letters, in the front they want.
Leonardo said he not only loves the student’s business but their personalities.
“They’re fun to be around,” he said. “They keep you young.”
Cindy DeLaney, of Trends, at 11 Main St., said she also loves the SUNY customers. When they’re in town, the store gets 15 to 20 percent more business, she said.
“They come; they buy jewelry, candles, a lot of cards, gift wrap; a lot of things they really can’t get anywhere else,” she said.
DeLaney said a rush of students and parents hit the store a week ago. She expects business to slow a little as students get used to campus, their classes and rooms. Then it will start picking up again, she said.
“They’re trickling down right now; once they get established and all settled in they’ll be there in droves,” she said.
Kate Mendillo, owner of Jack Danielson’s, at 60 Main St., said the same pattern holds true for her restaurant. Also, certain events bring more students than others, she said.
“We do have our bigger weekends when the football games start,” she said.
Mendillo said the students replace a lot of the locals who just go downtown in the summer. They keep Cortland’s economy alive, she said.
“Well, you know Cortland struggles economically, and I’m happy there’s a SUNY school to jump-start the community,” she said.
Al Saracene, owner of Nordic Sports Inc., at 45 Main St., said he’s happy about the students’ arrival, too. Since last week, they’ve increased his business, he said.
“How can you put 7,000 people in the community and not have an impact on business?” he said.
Saracene said students have visited the store for things they forgot at home, such as shoes, clothing and related items. They also showed up to have their bikes, skis and snowboards tuned up, he said.
Students aren’t the only ones bringing more business downtown at the start of the school year.
Wayne Allen, owner and chef at the Starr Bistro, at 117 Main St., said a new school year also brings more college faculty and staff downtown.
“The college does a lot of business with us,” he said. “When people come here from out of town, the college likes to make a good first impression. It brings them here to show them the culture in Cortland.”
The faculty and staff, paired with parents who take kids out to eat, largely explain why Starr Bistro’s business goes up by at least 50 percent in the fall, he said.
Also, people that support the college, such as insurance companies, financial companies and state representatives, bring the restaurant business, too, he said.
“We’re pretty reliant on the business the college brings to town,” he said.
But students usually just frequent the restaurant if their parents have taken them there before, he said.
“They come in kicking and scratching,” he said. “But when they leave they have a big smile on their face.”
Three 21-year-old senior students who were downtown Tuesday afternoon said they are more drawn to fast food restaurants and food stands near their favorite bars than nicer restaurants farther away.
Jim Rubas, a speech pathology major, Steve Siciliano, a criminology major, and Matthew Pugdak, a fitness development major, said they like Subway and a nearby hotdog vendor because they are relatively close to the Dark Horse and Patino Murphy’s Tavern, their favorite bars.
Rubas, 21, a senior speech pathology major, said those establishments are the main downtown places he and his friends take their money. And convenience lures them downtown often, he said.
“We live down here so we come here almost every day,” he said.




Panel looks at flooding issues

Staff Reporter

The county Legislature’s planning subcommittee on flooding Tuesday identified several areas in which it hoped to address flooding issues with a collection of grants and local funding.
Portions of McGraw, Cincinnatus, Marathon and residential areas of Cortland that lie near creeks and streams were identified as problem areas, with McGraw likely to receive the committee’s initial attention due to engineering work already done in the village.
The subcommittee has already decided to target neighborhoods in the city along Dry and Otter creeks, between North Main Street and the Tioughnioga River, by applying for state Community Development Block Grants and has indicated that it would like to use the same types of grant money in other county areas.
“We’re certainly hoping to have a site outside the city limits that we’re working on as well in 2007,” said Committee Chairwoman Carol Tytler (D-3rd Ward).
Dan Dineen, director of the Cortland County Planning Department, identified for the committee 92 properties in McGraw, which amount to more or less the whole of the village, he said, along with 32 in Cincinnatus, along portions of Route 26, Telephone Road and Piety Hill Road, and 49 in different areas throughout the city, including areas east of south Main Street and areas near the Tioughnioga River, between Kellogg Road and Port Watson Street.
“He basically identified what we would consider hot spots, areas that are always having problems or are looking at increased incidents lately,” Tytler said.
Based on census data, those areas did not appear to meet the income requirements for a CDBG, but a more refined survey of each area could tell a different story, Dineen said.
“If we can pin it down to a smaller area using a localized economic survey, we’ll be able to determine better whether or not they meet those qualifications,” Dineen said.
CDBGs require that residents earn less than 80 percent of the county’s median income.
A survey could be performed by Thoma Development Consultants, which is working with the committee to apply for the CDBGs, Tytler said, and would be included in the grant application.



C’ville zoning back up for review

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — The town Planning Board Tuesday approved the latest series of zoning changes put forward by the town and sent them on to the Town Board for its review.
The county Planning Board had reviewed the changes and offered recommendations to the town.
The county suggested adult entertainment businesses be limited to industrial, I-2 zoning, which the town Planning Board supported in theory but asked if an adult entertainment establishment were to apply, that the Planning Board would have the authority to approve the application.
Town code and zoning officer Bruce Weber told Planning Board members he didn’t have any maps that clearly showed where that zoning would be. A strip of I-2 zoning is located along Luker Road, he said.
Board Chair Kathy Wickwire said she had no issue with the restriction of adult entertainment to I-2 zones, but wanted to be sure that there would be no residential neighborhoods contiguous to the areas.
“Years ago, we went through this because they wanted to put adult entertainment near the movie theater,” Wickwire said after the meeting. “I’d prefer it not to be near residential homes or somewhere where 18-and-under kids won’t frequent it.”
Weber said that regulations already prohibited locating an adult entertainment outlet within certain distances of schools, libraries, and the like.





FEMA extends its deadline to apply for flood aid

Staff Reporter

The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Tuesday that it would extend by a month the deadline for residents to apply for assistance in the wake of this summer’s flooding.
The original deadline of Sept. 1 has been extended to Oct. 2, allowing residents a little more time to get their names into the system, according to Brenda DeRusso, emergency manager for the county.
“This is great for residents in the county who’ve had damages, but I really want to urge them to call the state hotline as quick as possible so they can get moving on the application process,” DeRusso said.
There are currently 58 Cortland County applicants for personal assistance in the state’s system, according to the Department of Labor.
As of Aug. 4, $31,012 had been paid out to nine applicants in Cortland County, DeRusso said, and while that number was likely considerably higher by now, it was indicative of how quick the turnover for personal funding could be.
“The disaster period ended July 10, so to think that people were already receiving assistance by early August, that’s a pretty decent response time, and it should be encouraging to people,” she said.
While she was pleased with the extension of the personal assistance deadline, DeRusso was disappointed to hear Monday that a state application to extend the federally declared disaster period, which spans from June 26 to July 10, had officially been denied.
“We had been holding out hope because with some municipalities, most of the damage they had were after the 10th of July,” DeRusso said.
The New York State Emergency Management Office also heard of the denial on Monday, spokesman Dennis Michalski, and SEMO now has 30 days to decide whether or not to appeal the decision.
“We believe we made a strong argument,” Michalski said. “Right now we’re going back and reviewing all the documentation, and we’ll have to decide if we want to appeal it.”