Businesses react to changing venue for holiday tradition
JOHNSTOWN – The Classic Image Johnstown Holiday Parade has long been the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season for retailers in downtown Johnstown.
With the recent announcement the 15th annual edition of the parade will be moving to downtown Gloversville, business owners in Johnstown expressed disappointment, sadness and anger.
Vincent McCallum, owner of collectible toy business Toying Around, has used innovative marketing strategies to generate foot traffic for his store, including a life-size Spider-Man statue outside of it and employees dressed up in Stormtrooper costumes waving to cars as they drive by and posing with the public for pictures. He said the holiday parade would have been a tailor-made event for his business and he had big plans for the event.
“I wanted my son to have a front row view. We wanted to be a part of the town and hand out candy. We were going to dress up in costumes,” he said.
McCallum recently moved his business to 17 W. Main St. and after a $10,000 investment in his new store – and help from a state grant to improve the facade – he had hoped the parade would provide him another opportunity to introduce his business to the public, particularly parents thinking about purchasing toys for kids for Christmas.
“We worked so hard to get to Main Street and then they take [the parade] away from us,” he said.
David Warren, who owns the video game store Game Guys, 12 Market St., said his shop has only been in business for about six months and the holiday parade could have helped him have a stronger holiday retail season.
“It’s definitely a good business generator, a lot of people, a lot of eyeballs,” he said.
Parade President Karen Coppola, who has organized the event for 15 years, sited city officials’ desire to move the event from Nov. 20 to Dec. 4 as her reason for moving the event to Gloversville. City officials, including Mayor Michael Julias, have said they hoped to save money on overtime costs for the city’s police and Department of Public Works employees by having the parade on the same night as the planned Colonial Stroll event.
Nancy Blanchard, owner of Something Special, a children’s clothing shop, 14 W. Main St., said she supported combining the parade with the Colonial Stroll because she thinks it would have provided more foot traffic for the businesses closer to the intersection of Main and Perry streets. She said the Colonial Stroll and the parade tended to focus people more near the West Main street park.
“At first I was excited to hear that it was going to be combined with the Colonial Stroll because I thought it would better for the businesses down on this end of the block. A lot of people come out for the parade, but now I’m sad because she feels she needs to move it to Gloversville,” Blanchard said. “I don’t know what the impact will be for us not having the parade. We didn’t get a lot of traffic into our store that night for the parade, but it got people downtown.”
Vince Mannino, owner of Vince’s Pizza & Pasta, 118 W. Main St., said the holiday parade was good for his business, but he’s more sorry for the community than himself.
“It’s very disappointing. This was a big event for us, but besides the business aspect of it, when you eliminate things like that you don’t have people coming downtown. There should be more events like that,” he said. “I think they should have them in both towns. I mean, Gloversville isn’t even worth going to anymore so they should rebuild it and have their own parade instead of taking away ours.”
Mohawk Harvest Cooperative Market Manager Chris Curro said the Classic Image Holiday Parade is an opportunity for downtown Gloversville.
“As an organization, we’re interested in regional thinking and unifying the area, so, while we are all for cooperation and we’d rather see no controversy at all, we welcome the opportunity to have a front porch moment for Main Street and show what is happening and is very wonderful for downtown Gloversville,” he said. “We do a very good job of warming the shopping public’s hearts. One signature tradition we have is providing hot apple cider or hot cocoa for every child for free.”
Veteran downtown business owner Charles Rossbach, whose family’s shoe store Rossbach Shoes has been in operation at 10 W. Fulton St. for more than 100 years, said he thinks the parade could be very good for downtown businesses.
“It’s a nice thing that’s happening here. I think it’s good for Gloversville and the merchants who are here,” he said. “I’m pretty happy it’s happening. I was very surprised, but I think it’s all good for the city of Gloversville. I’ll be open. Whatever they’re going to do I’ll go along with it.”