By Bera Dunau Staff Writer
---- — With final numbers in on the summer season, there is no one answer for how business went in the village.
“We were down a bit, but not a great deal,” said Vin Russo, owner of Mickey’s Place on Main Street. “It wasn’t an incredible decline, but it was a decline.”
Russo also said that he didn’t feel that this year’s smaller Hall of Fame induction weekend really affected his business much, saying that the decline was more the result of a softer season in general.
“It wasn’t catastrophic by any stretch of the imagination,” said Russo. “In comparison to the year before the size of the crowd wasn’t substantially different.”
Russo also didn’t think that Cooperstown instituting on-street paid parking downtown for the summer hurt his business.
“I think the overwhelming majority of tourists were totally indifferent to it,” said Russo. “If anything it might have helped the tourist related businesses.”
At the same time, Russo said that there was no question that some businesses were hurt by the policy.
As for the other seasons, Russo said that his business was reliant on the National Baseball Hall of Fame to attract customers to town.
“It’s difficult for us as an independent store to bring customers to Cooperstown.”
On next year, Russo said the only thing he could see improving the business climate in Cooperstown would be attendance improving at the Hall of Fame.
But as Russo said, other stores had different results and opinion. Businesses that rely more on local customers seemed to be the hardest hit from the new paid parking. At least that’s the feeling at Rudy’s Liquor Store where summer was not a good season.
“We were down almost $1,000 a week (for June, July and August),” said Fred Lemister, owner of Rudy’s, which is also on Main Street. “That’s a lot of money, particularly in a small business.”
Lemister said he blames the decline in his business the new paid parking.
“Cause: Paid parking. Effect: Decreased business,” said Lemister. “My books say that and my customers say that.”
Lemister said that most of his customers are local people, and that he was told by a number of them that they refused to pay for parking on principal.
He also said that a weak economy, this year’s smaller induction ceremony and paid parking served to create a perfect storm that negatively impacted his business.
Since Labor Day, when paid parking stopped being in effect, Rudy’s has not seen a rebound in business, according to Lemister.
“It’s very hard to get back lost business,” he said.
Aside from December, he said that June, July and August are normally his best months.
“We need that summer business to carry us over January, February, March.”
As for next year, Lemister would like to see paid parking eliminated, but he said he doesn’t see the village government doing anything about it. To this end, Lemister is supporting political action.
“There is a group of people who are very interested in a change in government,” said Lemister. “I see no other solution. It’s a matter of economics for me.”
But not all Cooperstown businesses had a rough time this summer; some even had an increase in business.
“Actually really great,” said Tim Haney, owner of the Cooperstown Bat Company, when asked about his summer season. The company’s store is located on Main Street, while its factory is in Hartwick.
Haney attributed the company’s success to hard work and promotion, as well as their wholesale business and a large number of online orders this year.
Haney said that while they did less business on Hall of Fame weekend than normal, they’d prepared for it since January, when the Hall of Fame class for 2013 was announced.
“It didn’t affect us one way or another when it comes right down to the end of the summer,” he said.
For the rest of the year, the Cooperstown Bat Company will be doing a lot of traveling, as well as preparing for a big step forward.
“We’ll be applying for major league on field use,” said Haney.
If accepted, this would mean the Cooperstown Bat Company’s bats would be able to be used in Major League Baseball. Currently the bats are used in high school, college and travel leagues. Should its application be successful, the bats would start being used in spring training of 2014.
“A little more of the same that we had this year,” said Haney, when asked what he’d like to see for next summer.