The City of Newburgh was made for business. Newburgh had retail space like Lady Gaga has crazy outfits-A LOT. Everything you could possibly need was in walking distance from your home, and you could shop around for the best prices. In 1940 there were nearly 800 retail establishments producing an excess of forty million dollars (Newburgh, 75 Years a City, 1940). The “urban renewal” project between 1970-73 tore down about 2,000 structures on the waterfront, the majority of them having retail spaces on the first floor. There were many shopping districts to choose from. Newburgh still has an immense amount of retail space available, even today. The retail areas that still remain are on Broadway, Liberty Street, Williams Street and the many commercial spaces that exist in between. Modern day retail spaces usually come to us in the forms of strip malls and shopping centers. Yet everyone loves the charm of old villages and town centers and the brick and mortar shops that adorn them.
A few weeks ago I sent out a survey to get a glimpse at what people think about Newburgh’s retail scene. I also did this as an attempt to provide entrepreneurs that extra push into considering Newburgh as the new spot for their store since I often get emails from prospective business owners. You know, I’m trying to get the creative juices flowing. As someone mentioned in the survey, “Why build a giant mall outside of Newburgh when you can use some of the great buildings right in town?” Right now much of downtown Newburgh’s retails spaces are far from charming or vacant. However, businesses are starting to reemerge slowly. SUNY Orange will be opening in the Spring of 2011, and it is no secret that there is not enough parking for the 2,000+ students who will be studying there. The negative side to that is that the parking situation in Newburgh is going to get really tight. But the positive side is that students and faculty will now have to walk the streets, and walk past a lot of retail space everyday. There will be an opportunity to get some sidewalk traffic that otherwise never existed. This is an opportune time for people to start thinking about opening a business in Newburgh.
When the survey was closed, there were 62 people who participated. Here are the percentages of the participants age groups:
41-60 – 47.5%.
26-40 – 31.1%.
19-25 – 18.0%
13-18 – 1.6%
When dining out, hanging with friends, or shopping 41.9% of people considered the waterfront, 21.0% people considered Liberty Street, 8.1% don’t consider Newburgh at all, and only 3.2% of people considered Broadway. When asked what had a direct effect on where people choose to do their dinning, shopping, or hanging out with friends, 47.5% said environment and ambiance played a major factor. Then neck and neck were price/value and safety. When asked what kind of businesses participants felt the City of Newburgh is lacking, the majority felt entertainment was the most lacking followed by small retail shops.
As for what kind of small retail shops participants would actually shop at if one opened in downtown Newburgh, a coffee shop and a bookstore were tied with the most votes. Only one vote away for having a triple tie was a gourmet food market. The next shops most desired were a clothing store and vintage boutique. For the large scale retail shops participants said they would actually shop at, 59.6% want a supermarket. Next in line were a diner, a fitness center, and a dance center. More than half of participants (67.2%) said that the interior design of a location affects their decision on visiting a certain establishment. Of course, these results are constricted to the options I gave in the survey. A survey with more options might bring different results.
Now down to the ideas you all had to share. Admittedly you all some great ideas, and some points that current business owners and future business owners alike need to take into consideration. First let’s look at what kind of other small and large shops Newburghers would like to see besides the choices the survey gave them. “Art galleries, small toy and novelty store, hardware store, meat market, sporting goods store (includes hunting), game store (non-electronic and electronic), bicycle shop, home and housewares store, organic/health food store, a green business, bagel shop, deli’s, craft store, a children’s theater.” Surprisingly some of you mentioned things that already exist in Newburgh, others recognized that. It makes one wonder if the answers were biased to businesses that people feel equate economic and social change. So ask yourself, are you really supporting downtown businesses for your most common needs? For example, art gallery, art store, stationary store, fitness center, and bakery were mentioned more than once. However, have you ever stopped by the Ann Street gallery, the Newburgh Art Supply store, Simple Gift and Goodies, Body Soul and Fitness, or Mary’s Cheesecake Headquarters? Since ambiance is important to more than half of you when visiting an establishment, perhaps they aren’t your cup of tea. But the more you shop locally the more business owners can invest in decor, ambiance, and appearance. Many of these businesses have websites with email addresses. Check them out on the left hand side of the site. Shoot them over an email and let them know what you think they could do to get your business. Think of it as an Internet suggestion box.
Newburghers have a range of tastes when it comes to food. That was evident in the selections many of you would like to see in new food establishments. Here is the list of what your taste buds are craving, “Thai, Indian, Arabic, Sushi/Japanese, Italian, a wine bar, fruit juices/smoothies bar, Cuban, vegetarian friendly cuisine, any quality bistro or cafe, salad shop, buffet, side walk cafe, cafe with live music, non-chain specialty sandwich shops, home cooking/soul food establishments, specialty home made ethnic foods, Korean, Brazilian, Portuguese, Colombian, a good steak house, Mediterranean (Greek/Turkish), French, more places like Caffe Macchiato, affordable GOOD food, Vietnamese, a breakfast destination, Asian (not just takeout), good clean Hispanic food, a great jazz lounge with food, and a sports bar to watch the Yankees play.” Whew! That was a lot! But there is a lot to learn from this. It shows people want diversity, quality, and food that is affordable. They are looking for a certain kind of shop with a certain kind of feel. The waterfront is missing out on loads of business from people who feel that it is too expensive, yet still want to have a good time and spend their money in Newburgh. If you want to open a business, you need to find out how to tap this resource. My advice would be to check out businesses that are well established in Newburgh already, and see what you can learn from them. The idea isn’t to take away their business. But, figure out what keeps people coming back to them and try to offer something similar in your own way so that Newburgh can be offered as a destination point. Or, check out businesses that are in transitioning neighborhoods similar to Newburgh in the Hudson Valley and beyond. See how they have been successful. You don’t have to figure it all out on your own. Research!
Organizing and presenting all of the results led to a very lengthy report. This is part I. Tomorrow we will look at part II.