GLOVERSVILLE - Volunteers and businesses are working together to liven up the city's Four Corners intersection with a fresh coat of paint and decorated display windows that will serve as portals to a past when Main Street was packed with a variety of vendors and merchants.
Judy Ferrara-Flanger and other members of the community plan to work for the next several months to dress up vacant storefronts, allowing local merchants to use window displays to both advertise their businesses and improve Main Street's curb appeal.
Ferrara-Flanger said she became involved with the endeavor while organizing the 50-year reunion of the Gloversville High School Class of 1963, which will take place in July.
A row of recently vacant store windows, on the corner of South Main Street and West Fulton Street in Gloversville, is pictured Thursday after being decorated to help advertise local businesses and improve the overall appeal of the downtown area. (The Leader-Herald/Levi Pascher)
Ferrara-Flanger said she called Mike Teetz of Glove City Realty and told him she had a group of people coming back to Gloversville for the reunion. She sent a brochure from the Business Improvement District that shows the city beautifully displayed, but she feared when her classmates return they are going to ask what happened to the Four Corners, where many of the retail buildings are vacant.
Being the business person she is, Ferrara-Flanger proposed Teetz fill the vacant storefronts with local businesses' merchandise.
The owner of Glove City Realty, Teetz manages several properties along South Main Street for Two Great Guys and said he contacted the owner to see if he was interested in supplying one window for the class of '63 but it quickly expanded into a monumental effort to fill every vacant window.
"I called the owner and told him what we were doing, and he loved the idea," Teetz said. "The benefit of this speaks for itself."
In addition to Ferrara-Flanger's Sessions Hair and Day Spa, businesses that took advantage of the opportunity include TaylorMade, Kingsboro Golf Club, Chef Lomanto's Kitchen, Chapeau de Valse, Ruby and Quiri and others.
The storefronts were painted by the president of the Class of 1963, Tom Thomson, but each interior window display had to be cleaned and decorated by the business using it, Ferrara said.
"Everybody came to clean and set up their own windows," Ferrara-Flanger said.
She said the paint used to touch up the stores was donated by Kingsboro Lumber Co.
"This is really a win-win because we are filling the stores and helping local businesses market themselves," Ferrara-Flanger said. "I want to have some kind of decor in every window on Main Street before July."
The Class of '63 will have its reunion July 19 through 21. The class will have a mixer at the Pine Brook Golf Course on the 19th, with the main celebration at the YWCA on the 20th, and it will conclude with a breakfast at Dick Ruberti's on the 21st.
Ferrara-Flanger said they would like to have the class walk down Main Street during the celebration to talk about how things used to be and see how buildings have changed.
"This is going to be stepping back 50 years ago," Ferrara-Flanger said. "On a Friday night, you would have to step off the curb because there were too many people. Main Street was the place to be, and you would be dressed up in your best attire."
Ferrara's friend Donna Cerasuolo, who isn't a member of the class but decided to help the cause, reminisced that there was nothing better than being on the city's main drag and doing things like stopping at Pedrick's restaurant for french fries and gravy.
"Friday night was always a special occasion because that is when everyone would dress up and come out on the town," Cerasuolo said.
Several local business representatives expressed gratitude that a group of volunteers are taking the time to promote business and improve the appeal of downtown.
Chris Curro, manager of the Mohawk Harvest Cooperative Market, said he is thrilled.
"I think Gloversville has quite a few assets," Curro said. "Her wishes to bring maximum attention to the positives will encourage people to seek downtown when they can see it filled with those possibilities and witness the beauty of the architecture."
He also brought up that downtown businesses shouldn't be competing against each other but rather embracing one another to bring more people to the area. Although the businesses being advertised in the vacant storefronts may not necessarily be on Main Street, the windows will make the entire area look better, Curro said.
"The local people are hungry to come downtown to shop and the tourists that frequent the area would open up their hearts to a downtown with a lot more options," Curro said. "I think one of the biggest problems we have is the perception of our self. I think any attempt to alter the way we see ourselves is a gain for our store and the community as a whole. That starts from the top down, but what you see here is someone trying to work from the bottom up."
Mayor Dayton King said he appreciates the volunteers' efforts to improve Main Street and believes it is a "fantastic way to bring to light the potential of the downtown area."
"Her taking the initiative is something that people of all ages can certainly learn from, and I hope it continues more positive energy," King said. "I think these types of things just breed more good stuff, and I think she deserves a ton of credit."
Mark Kilmer, president of the Fulton-Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce, which has its office on the Four Corners, also praised the volunteers' efforts.
"That is going to be a great benefit to everybody in downtown Gloversville," Kilmer said. "There is no downside to this. When you have a vacant storefront with either soaped up windows or empty windows, that makes it so much less appealing to a renter or even purchaser. Just by doing that, it is all upward in terms of positives in this type of volunteer effort."
Both Ferrara-Flanger and Cerasuolo said they hope this will influence other GHS?classes and organizations to attempt to rejuvenate and improve the city's downtown area and other parts of the city.
"It takes a village to make something like this happen," Ferrara-Flanger said.
"It is kind of like an aircraft carrier," Teetz said. "It's going to take a awhile to turn it around."
Local business people who are interested in joining the effort are encouraged to call Donna Cerasuolo at 725-9606 or Judy Ferrara-Flanger at 844-5074.
Levi Pascher can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.