The last set of Newburgher advice gave business owners insight on what they must do to draw in a younger crowd in to the downtown area and to just share general feelings. One point that was brought up more than once was the need for a gourmet “a la Whole Foods” or “Trader Joes” type of supermarket. Newburgh had one of these called Moo and Oink. They put a lot of work and money in to revamping the space. They got a lot of publicity and the community was really excited about it. But, they didn’t last. One person gave a reason for this saying, ” The specialty market we had, went out due to being too specialized and expensive. But the (Korean produce market) on Broadway survives.” The location they had was prime, right in the middle of Washington Market on Liberty Street, next to the Heights District, and across the street from Washington’s HQ. They were also close to the Foundry which is a bunch of lofts and condos. But no one would shop there because they were too expensive for even the middle to upper income bracket.
People want businesses like these in Newburgh and want to support them. Someone even said, “I am tired of spending my money out in the town when I live in Newburgh.” But just because you open a beautiful shop with great product and high end prices doesn’t mean you are going to draw in mass crowds of middle to upper income people. Like one comment said, businesses need to make a”relationship with the people that live (in Newburgh) already.” An example of this relationship is your relationship with other local businesses. A business owner commented on the downfall of Moo & Oink by saying that Moo & Oink did not establish a relationship with local businesses owners. They missed a prime opportunity to sell produce to other food establishments because of a lack of communication. Even non-food related business owners would not shop there for lunch because it was too expensive for them. If you want to open a food market, build a relationship with existing businesses and find out how you can do business together. See what advice they can give you to have a successful business that would benefit establishments in the entire area. They also said that Moo & Oink didn’t know what they wanted to be. They spread themselves too thin by trying too many ventures. They changed their direction too many times. One minute they were solely focused on selling high end expensive groceries, the next they solely focused on carrying expensive produce, the next they were a deli, the next the focused on catering, the next they were an entertainment venue. You do need to be creative in opening a new business, but one message stood out-know the direction you want to go and stick with it.
Another example of a relationship with the community for a future gourmet specialty market/restaurant would be to consider buying the produce from the many urban gardens that are popping up around Newburgh and advertise that you are buying locally. Employing local Newburgh youth was something that was voiced many times over as well. If you employ local youth and buy locally, use that as part of your marketing ploy to attract customers. Also, do not forget the current diverse ethnic makeup of Newburgh. Carrying ethnic affordable products will bring in all demographics. Don’t just cater to one group. Find your own twist on how to display and offer these products so that it is attractive to everyone. Hopefully someone will be up to the challenge to opening up something successful.
So what about the young university students that are already here at Mt. St. Mary and SUNY Orange and the ones that will be arriving in the Spring with the new SUNY campus? The waterfront area could still use improvement, but it is not the real target for this survey. That area is established, has it’s own website, receives it’s own traffic, has a steady following, and is cut off from the rest of the downtown area. People need to start coming up Broadway and beyond. Businesses could learn from what this one person said, “As a university student, many students pregamed so that they wouldn’t have to drink at the waterfront when we went out.” I assume ‘pregamed’ means drink for a lower price at a different bar before going to the waterfront. The same person went on to say, “The establishments would benefit more to lower the prices to attract a younger crowd.” “Establish college nights and specials for the students”, “bicycle racks”, “a safe bar area like New Paltz”, “more color, more trees and landscaping”, “widespread wifi available”, “walking police”, “lounges and comedy clubs” are all things the younger crowd would like to see. Another person said, “With the college expansion coming a book store would be ideal and will probably happen along with a coffee shop once the college kids and faculty start increasing.” Whatever your trade might be, try brainstorming about how you can reach out to the younger crowd. Speak to them directly, you might be surprised at the ideas they can offer you.
People also mentioned the need for branding certain sections for Newburgh, like “a collective group, such as the Art District.” I really liked one persons idea of “giving the neighborhoods new and catchy names like “The Quarters, Washington Square, Sobro, Nobro etc.” This is something that could start being used instantly, but decisions would have to be made about the boarders of these new neighborhoods. For this to be a reality, businesses would have to start concentrating in clusters for there to be a visible change. Liberty Street, aka Washington Market, already has a good concentration going on.
What about entertainment? How can you incorporate entertainment into your repertoire? Depending on the nature of your business could you open your shop up once a month a few extra hours for a special event? The Wherehouse has quickly become a night spot with a performance space for live bands. The owner also makes some great posters to promote their events. If you are thinking of opening a food related business, research what kind of successful events others are hosting to attract traffic. If you are going to open up the much requested bookstore or coffee shop, think about hosting book clubs, poetry readings, comedy night, book signings, mommy and me groups, and live music. Check out the Muddy Cup for ideas. Connect with Hudson Valley literary groups, or connect with the English and literary departments of the nearby colleges. Another thing to consider is the vast amount of artists who are trying to get noticed and will perform for free. I once had a friend who offered to play at a venue with his new band which was just his hobby. The owner agreed as long as he guaranteed full house that night. It worked, and they asked him back many times after. The artist gets the exposure, you get the business. Another opportunity would be to consider your decor. Leaving blank open walls gives you the chance to offer your business as an “art gallery.” You could change the art work every month, and pick artists work whom you love and whom can guarantee you a full house to debut their work. One of my favorite restaurants in Brooklyn does this all the time. The point is to be creative and open to new ideas that will help you along the way.
Everyone needs to remain positive and remind themselves of the great past Newburgh came from. If Newburgh was a City made in the year 2000 that fell into the dumps there wouldn’t be much hope for it. But it’s not. The rich historical past of Newburgh is what keeps it in the ranks of rich historical cities around the country that have been able to revive themselves. Someone said that it will take a whole new generation to change around Newburgh’s image. That can start now. There are thousands of people who have never heard of Newburgh, but that are looking for that perfect historical affordable home to restore in commuting distance of NYC, and the perfect downtown shop to open their business. Being so close to NYC no Newburgher has to give up Manhattan like some would have to do if you move 8+ hours away to find an affordable home down South. It’s all right here and it’s close. Newburgh had two previous attempted revivals in the past. But this time around more people are getting the message. Just look at what has happened in the past year and a half.
One thing I have always noticed about Newburgh is the frequent older person that strolls down Liberty Street or Broadway looking to see some kind of improvement, some place that they can walk in and feel for a moment that all of Newburgh is restored. As soon as a legit business opens up, people follow. Like someone in the survey said, “Even though the economy is bad right now, all that are from Newburgh always go back to Newburgh. By word of mouth we can help businesses grow.” By word of mouth and by the internet we can help businesses grow. A lot of you that follow this blog have moved far away, but you follow the blog because you hope to see a positive change happen in Newburgh. That hope is what makes Newburgh special.
Well…that was a whole lot of information! If you are an entrepreneur reading this and it all seems like a lot to think about, it is. But one thing I really want to put out there is that you don’t have to come up with all the ideas alone. This survey is proof of that. If you have a low budget to start off with and you aren’t that creative, use the internet to your advantage to get inspired from what other people have done. At least three different people mentioned three different businesses they would like to open up which they included in their survey answers. I hope this survey nudges you into seriously considering it. And remember, businesses need to start concentrating in clusters. Newburgh is going to have to see more change before CVS, Target, and Red Lobster come to town like some of you mentioned in your survey answers. Like one participant said, “Newburgh business owners have to take the leap and become models for others to follow. If they do not start a revolution, no one will.”
Thank you all who participated in my improv survey on Newburgh’s business scene. As I mentioned, I am working on perfecting this survey. I learned a lot from this recent survey about what to ask the next time around and the way to ask it.