The first full week of May, the 4th through the 11th, is Small Business Week, a time to celebrate the many enterprises—shops, services and restaurants—that line our main streets and give character to the rivertowns. As luck would have it, this celebration falls just in time for Mother’s Day, high school and college graduations—in other words, a good time to patronize (in the best sense) local businesses.
Small town businesses have faced existential competition for decades and have been regularly written off in the Darwinian world of commerce. First, it was the chains that would do them in, then the giant malls, the big box stores and most recently e-tail that threatened to keep everybody at home by their computers waiting for the delivery van.
To be sure, there have been victims over the years in every one of our villages, but more have survived—and many more have sprung up from out of the entrepreneurial soil to take root. The local Chambers of Commerce—particularly the new Rivertowns Chamber that covers Hastings, Dobbs Ferry, Ardsley and Irvington—are increasingly populated by the young faces of new business owners, full of optimism and energy, anxious to network and absorb best practices. The Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow Chamber saw an increase in membership of over 30% last year—most of them new businesses.
Restaurants, which depend on the presence and success of other businesses, are thriving: Tarrytown alone has 37 eateries with more scheduled to open up; Dobbs Ferry and Irvington have a number of highly regarded mainstays as well as several exciting new places to dine. Their success, indeed their mere presence, is an indication of a healthy climate for commerce. With the new, shared use pedestrian/bike path across the Mario Cuomo Bridge due for completion later this year, we can expect more visitors who will see firsthand the charm of our villages. There’s reason to be optimistic, but it starts with supporting these enterprises ourselves.