Thursday, December 10, 2015

The dark side of Downtown Troy

For every business that has opened along River Street in Downtown Troy, an almost equal number have been closing in recent weeks. If only the average tourist would just look past River Street and move further into the heart of the downtown district........!

For example, a Dominican beauty parlor closed its Troy location right before Halloween, and relocated to Schenectady, while maintaining an Albany location. The beauty parlor used the business space directly beneath my apartment, and kept longer hours than advertised, likely so family members could have their hair done at a more convienent time.

A second-hand shop on Third Street, occupying space that once housed a clothing store, quietly closed its doors a week or three later. No fanfare. The owner was a family friend who didn't advertise much, and relied on word of mouth to promote the business. Problem was, anytime I went by, there was never a crowd in the store. The owner tired of the red ink and decided it was better to close.

Finally, a long running newsstand on Broadway shut its doors right before Thanksgiving. A month earlier, the owner, a second generation businessman, had been arrested on fraud charges. Seems he was allowing EBT card holders to use the cards, today's equivalent to food stamps, if you will, to pay for cigarettes and other items that you normally wouldn't use those cards for. I've known the owner since I first moved downtown in 1979, and I understand what he was trying to do, helping the poor and destitute. Unfortunately, his good intentions went in the wrong direction.

There's been bad history in that particular shop. The owner's father, you see, was running a shady operation back in the day, and that eventually got him in trouble with the law. Former Valleycats executive Vic Christopher owns the building, and has already started making changes. While I was at the Victorian Stroll on Sunday, I noticed that one wall had already been torn down, where the owner's office stood. By this time next year, Christopher and his wife, Heather, will have turned it into something else entirely, continuing their makeover of Broadway and Second Street. A bar & restaurant across the street became the 2nd club to have its liquor license suspended in the last three months earlier this week after it was found that more than 170 underage students had been served. Even though the suds are gone, the restaurant remains open, thankfully.

The other club, a urban jazz club on Fourth Street, was shuttered in October, even though their owners claim a fight that broke out outside the club was actually off club property, but the police, taking no chances after the Kokopellis brouhaha a couple of years ago, saw it differently.

This, then, is what has to be a priority for newly elected Mayor Patrick Madden when he takes office next month. New businesses on River Street are nice, but there's still turnover in that area. Rehabbing the businesses in the primary section of downtown, along Third & Fourth Streets, needs to be next on the to-do list.

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