Thanksgiving Day shoppers choose tablets over turkey

Thanksgiving is a day of abundance, tasty food and being with family and friends — but it also marks the first leg of a three-day binge for dedicated discount-hunting Black Friday shoppers.

“We’ve been here since midnight,” said Colleen Woodsid. Mrs. Woodsid, Alicia Passage, and Kylie Rasmussen were at the front of a line of more than 100 people waiting to enter Kmart on Thursday when the doors opened at 6 a.m. Mrs. Rasmussen said they made the trip from Carthage when she got a call from a friend saying there were already 30 people in line outside the door, but when they arrived there was no one.

She wasn’t sure if it was the cold weather that drove people in line away or if her friend was mistaken. In any case, the three women stayed and waited out in their car until the line began to build in advance of the store’s opening.

Mrs. Passage said she has been coming to Kmart and doing Thanksgiving shopping for more than 30 years. On Thursday morning she was in hot pursuit of tablets for $30, bedding, hunting gear, slippers, jeans, Christmas pajamas for kids and family, toys and Christmas decorations.

“I do it to beat the Thanksgiving crowd. We have a three-day haul and I break it down into lists of the things we want and the stores,” said Mrs. Passage. “We’ll be back tonight because of the pots and pans.”

As far as a meal with a turkey and all the trimmings, Mrs. Passage said she schedules her holiday dinner for the Saturday after Thanksgiving every year.

Mrs. Rasmussen said she has been going with her mom for the three-day Black Friday shopping spree since she was 15 years old.

“I’ve been doing this 11 years and people can get crazy,” said Mrs. Rasmussen. “Some people will try and snatch stuff out of your carts, and I learned you’ve got to be mean about it.”

For the past 17 years, Sandra Floetenmeyer, associate manager at Big Lots, Watertown, has been working the Thanksgiving shift. And although things tend to get hectic during the year’s busiest shopping weekend, Mrs. Floetenmeyer and her staff make an effort to stay upbeat.

“It gets busy. You get swamped at times, but we try to have fun,” she said. “It’s a party.”

Mary M. Dyer and her fiance, Christopher R. Bucher of Chaumont, were second in line at Kmart on Thursday morning. Miss Dyer and Mr. Bucher said they came with one mission when they headed for Kmart: a 46-inch flat-screen television. Mr. Bucher said they are going to get married this summer and want the television for when they get a new place to live.

“This morning has been very calm, we got the first TV and there wasn’t a mad rush,” said Mr. Bucher.

Sarah Coates, who traveled from Ottawa just for the Black Friday sales, said on Thursday morning everything seemed calm and people were being very respectful, but that hasn’t always been the case.

“Last year six fights broke out in Walmart in the toy department,” said Ms. Coates. “Not a good lesson for kids.”

Another year, she said a man took his shopping cart and grabbed armfuls of DVDs and then left the aisle. She said he went to another aisle and browsed through the DVDs in his cart. After picking out the ones he wanted, she said he abandoned the shopping cart and left.

Ms. Coates said that when shopping during the Black Friday sales, the inexperienced shopper misses out on the deals.

“You can’t browse shop; you have to have a plan and know where you’re going,” said Ms. Coates.

One strategy of Black Friday shopping, Ms. Coates said is, to have one person get in line with a cart and have everyone else grab what they need and bring it to the cart when the lines get long.

“I get a kick out of watching people in line,” said Ms. Coates. “They get feisty.”

“This is why you do it — it gives you an adrenaline rush and also gets you in the Christmas spirit,” said Mrs. Passage. “This is where you save money with a big family.”

Near the very front of a massive line that wrapped around Watertown’s Target store was Susan Lawrence, Kingston, who had been patiently waiting — despite the snow and sub-freezing temperatures — since 12:30 a.m. to take advantage of electronics deals that cannot be found in Canada.

“It’s the price and variety. And our Thanksgiving was a month ago,” she said, referring to Canadian Thanksgiving, which is held on the second Monday of October.

Robert Hall, Theresa, said he came to buy a 40-inch television that was on sale at Target Thursday for $119.

He had been waiting in line for five hours, but said the savings are well worth the time invested.

“This is better than waiting in line at 4, 5 in the morning on a Friday,” he said.

Times staff writer Jaegun Lee contributed to this report.

 

By Katherine Clark Ross, Times Staff Writer

Gouverneur native takes home at least $20 million lottery win

A Gouverneur native recalls that after scratching off her winning $1 Million a Year for Life state lottery ticket, she continued with her plans that day: a trip to the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino with her sister-in-law.

Judy E. Brown, 62, Watertown, was presented Tuesday with an oversized check by state lottery officials at the Valentine Nice N Easy, 238 W. Main St., where she bought a $30 scratch-off ticket from a machine Aug. 29.

“Oh yeah, let’s get the big check,” Mrs. Brown joked as Gretchen Dizer, a representative from the New York Lottery, formally announced her prize.

Several family members and others looked on.

The award is for at least $20 million over her lifetime, broken down into annual payments of $800,000, according to lottery officials.

After required withholdings, she will receive a net check totaling $529,440 a year for the rest of her life.

Mrs. Brown, a retired nurse, has decided to share her winnings with two brothers, Richard C. Whalen, of Murphy, N.C., and Michael H. Whalen, of St. Augustine, Fla. They each will receive $100,000, which amounts to $66,180 per year after taxes.

She said her plans also include donating funds to her church, Gouverneur Presbyterian, and the Gouverneur Museum.

“This is my hometown,” Mrs. Brown said, adding that she intends to move back to Gouverneur.

Mrs. Brown said she buys lottery tickets every day and has been fairly lucky in the past at winning smaller amounts, but the prize attached to this ticket was difficult to comprehend.

She was parked in the driveway at the Gouverneur home of her sister-in-law, Elaine J. Burt, when she scratched off a $10 ticket followed by the lucky $30 winning ticket.

“I was in shock,” Mrs. Brown said. “I ran in the house and said, ‘Elaine, look at this. It doesn’t look right.’”

After she signed the ticket and put it in Ms. Burt’s safe, the two headed to the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino, Hogansburg.

A few days later, she went with one of her brothers to the New York Lottery’s Schenectady Service Center to verify her winning ticket.

Richard Whalen said he initially thought the ticket was fake.

“I thought it was amazing, an astronomical amount of money,” he said.

Michael Whalen described his sister’s decision to share her winnings with her brothers as “quite a gift.”

“I don’t think she realizes how drastically her life is going to change,” he said. “This is a community of 5,000 people.”

So far this year, Mrs. Brown is the 117th New Yorker to claim a New York Lottery prize of $1 million or more, lottery officials said.

During fiscal year 2013-14, the New York Lottery has contributed $28,413,162.79 to school districts in Jefferson County. Statewide, it contributed $3.17 billion that year to help support education in the state.

The lottery’s contribution represents 15 percent of total state education aid to local school districts and is distributed to school districts by the same formula used to allocate other state aid for education. A school district’s size and income level are major factors, with larger, lower-income districts receiving proportionately larger shares.

Video of Mrs. Brown receiving the novelty check can be found at: http://wdt.me/lottery.

 

By Susan Mende, Times Staff Writer

Tops scrambles to fill shelves as Buffalo snowstorm delays deliveries

Sharon L. Messina was looking for chopped ham on sale Monday morning at the Tops Friendly Markets in the Seaway Shopping Plaza off Route 11, but she was disappointed to find its spot on the shelf empty.

“I realize the trucks aren’t getting in on time because of the snowstorm, but I’m disappointed they don’t have chopped ham,” Mrs. Messina said, adding that her next stop would be Price Chopper. “I need it for the chicken cordon bleu I’m making tonight.”

Customers at Tops stores across the north country had similarly frustrating experiences during the past week, as deliveries made by the grocery store chain were slowed by the snowstorm that pounded Western New York. The chain, headquartered near Buffalo in Williamsville, did not have sufficient truck drivers available to make timely deliveries during the storm and was slowed by travel bans on the state Thruway, according to Tops officials.

Truck deliveries were delayed to stores across the north country because of the Buffalo snowstorm, said Wayne C. Morris, manager of the store on Washington Street in Watertown. The chain also has stores in Adams, Lowville, Sandy Creek, Pulaski and Mexico.

“One of the biggest problems was that truck drivers who make deliveries in Buffalo couldn’t get to their trucks at the warehouse,” Mr. Morris said. “I’ve never seen anything like this happen before.”

On Monday morning, Karen L. Loftus was unable to find the regular variety of Wheat Thins at the Washington Street store.

“I’ve noticed there is less food on the shelves in the aisles. Some of the cookie and cracker items are gone, and the shelves look pretty bare,” she said.

Though some customers have complained about the shortage of items, most have been willing to overlook the inconvenience after learning about how truck drivers were delayed in Buffalo, Mr. Morris said Monday. Empty shelves were particularly noticeable at the store Sunday, but he said it should be restocked soon, as the store was slated to receive three truck deliveries Monday. He said the store fortunately never ran out of milk or eggs; to make up for the shortage coming from Buffalo, it ordered extra milk from Byrne Dairy, Syracuse, and eggs from Black River Valley Farms, Carthage.

“We might not have had some items, but they understand they’re coming,” Mr. Morris said. “We’re still a little light, but I think we have most of what everyone needs.”

Among the shoppers who sympathized with the grocery store’s dilemma were Raymond W. and Lois G. Zimmer of Cape Vincent. The Rochester natives, who have been loyal shoppers at Tops since the 1960s, said they planned ahead by waiting to do their shopping Monday, when they knew more items would be stocked.

Inside their grocery cart Monday was a 12-pound Jennie-O turkey that they made reservations to purchase Wednesday, Mrs. Zimmer said.

“When I called Wednesday, they told me the truck hadn’t come in yet and there was a delay because of the snowstorm,” she said. “When I called again Sunday to make sure they had it, they told me it was here.”

For his part, Mr. Zimmer said he knew the delivery of groceries at Tops would be affected when he saw that Buffalo “got clobbered with 7 feet of snow.”

“When we saw the snowstorm, we waited to get the turkey,” he said. “The people who know Tops is in Buffalo knew they were going to have a problem. What hurt them bad is people shopping more for the holidays. They were supposed to have a lot of trucks coming in.”

Katie McKenna, Tops public relations manager, said the chain’s main food warehouse in Lancaster received more than 60 inches of snow in less than 24 hours last week. A stretch of the Thruway from Rochester to the Pennsylvania border shut down, forcing hundreds of truckers to remain idle at truck stops and service areas.

Tops’s warehouse “was in one of those areas that was hit hardest by the storm,” Ms. McKenna said Monday. “It was dug out quickly, but there were a few challenges with getting drivers to actually make deliveries. There was also the challenge of having travel bans in areas where stores were hit the hardest, and others outside the affected area.”

She said although most Tops stores were still filling shelves Monday, most stores should be fully stocked by Wednesday. “It’s especially important for us because this week is an important holiday shopping week,” she said.

Price Chopper, headquartered in Schenectady, was largely unhampered by the snowstorm because it doesn’t have stores in the Buffalo region, spokesman Jonathan M. Pierce said.

 

By Ted Booker, Times Staff Writer

Hospitality industry readying to get swamped on Black Friday

Even the most zealous shoppers need a break on Black Friday to refuel with coffee and food, or to get their hair done.

That’s when businesses in the hospitality industry step in, opening their doors to serve customers who take a time out from buying the latest gadgets and trendy apparel on the national shopping day.

In Massena, a hot spot for hungry shoppers is Vino Vidi Vici, an Italian restaurant owned by Tarek and Crista M. Makdouli at the Harte Haven Shopping Plaza.

Mrs. Makdouli said she recommends that customers make reservations for the restaurant, which is flanked by T.J. Maxx, because it otherwise could be a challenge to find a table.

The restaurant is a major draw for Canadians who cross the border to shop in Massena, Mrs. Makdouli said.

“I would say they account for about 40 to 50 percent of our business on Black Friday,” she said. “They’re looking for a meal after they shop. And we always find that we’ll have a bunch of guys come in while their wives are shopping at T.J. Maxx. The husbands are looking for a nice lounge to crash at.”

Mrs. Makdouli estimated that business at the restaurant, open for nearly three years, has climbed by about 15 percent on Black Friday compared with a typical Friday.

And Vino Vidi Vici isn’t alone in the shopping-season buzz.

Dunkin’ Donuts, 1250 Arsenal St., Watertown, will open at 5 a.m. on Thanksgiving and stay open until midnight Saturday, keeping the same hours that were established last year to capitalize on the earlier shopping trend, manager Colleen Precourt said. The special hours are available only at the franchise’s Arsenal Street location because it draws the most Black Friday traffic, she said.

“We’ll have nine employees here the whole time,” Ms. Precourt said.

Five people work at the doughnut shop during a typical shift.

“We’re going to be ready,” she said.

Employee Isabella K. Keenan, who worked at the Dunkin’ Donuts on Black Friday last year, said the drive-thru lane that wraps around the store was jammed “all day long.”

To accommodate longer lines, traffic flows into the neighboring parking lot used by Pearle Vision, she said.

“On a normal day you can tell when there are spurts of traffic, but you can’t know that on Black Friday because it never stops,” she said, adding that “copious” amounts of coffee, sandwiches and boxes of doughnuts are sold that day.

Several big-box retailers will kick off the Christmas shopping season on Thanksgiving night, two or more hours earlier than they did last year.

Some shoppers might even adjust their dinner plans to wait in line at J.C. Penney, Sears, Kohl’s, Target and other stores.

Vina A. Bonner of Watertown said she’ll be hunting for a 70-inch smart television at Best Buy in Salmon Run Mall on Thanksgiving after her 10-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son go to sleep.

“I might buy one of the new curved TVs,” she said. “I think the savings will be great.”

Meanwhile, the Kmart off Arsenal Street will open at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving, which it started doing in 2010. Walmart on Arsenal Street will remain open 24 hours, but its best doorbuster deals will be from 6 to 8 p.m. on the holiday itself. The retailer also has locations in Evans Mills, Lowville, Ogdensburg, Potsdam and Massena.

As a matter of principle, Watertown resident Darlene D. Sheitz said she has never shopped on Thanksgiving to get deals. She said she might this year, though, because a Samsung smart tablet she wants for $50 at Best Buy could be sold out by Friday.

“I don’t want to be in stores on Thanksgiving, but I might have to,” she said. “If stores are going to open on Thursday, why are they still calling it Black Friday?”

The people who shop on Black Friday, waiting in the long lines to pay for their deals, also could have a wait for meals.

The line at Panera Bread on Towne Center Drive, Watertown, usually extends from the counter to the entrance on Black Friday, manager John H. Dillenback said. The fast-casual restaurant will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. after opening at 3 a.m. on that day in previous years.

“We didn’t get the sales we expected at 3 a.m. last year, and I think it’s because people are shopping on Thanksgiving and then getting out later on Friday morning,” he said. “About 9 a.m. is when we really start to see the traffic flow.”

From the customers’ perspective, Mr. Dillenback said, the restaurant strikes an appealing balance between fast-food restaurants such as McDonald’s and sit-down establishments such as TGI Fridays. Customers can order a cup of coffee and quickly fill it themselves using dispensers at the restaurant, which seats about 250 people.

Plus, Panera’s location, next to large retailers, helps make it a quick-hit destination for shoppers, Mr. Dillenback said. The restaurant is flanked by the likes of Bed, Bath & Beyond, Old Navy, Kohl’s and Target.

“It’s busy here all day long and doesn’t stop, but we keep the line moving,” he said, adding that about 30 employees will work the Black Friday shift.

Shopping breaks don’t just involve food and beverages, though.

Groups of women often get their hair done on Black Friday at Supercuts on Towne Center Drive, manager Elizabeth Shampoe said. She said the business, which opened during the spring of 2013, is expected to lure more shoppers this year because more people know where it is.

Though the store will hold normal hours from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Black Friday, all six of its hairdressers will work the shift — up from two on a regular day.

“Usually at about 11 a.m., it starts to get really busy because people have been shopping all day and want a break to have their hair cut and dry-ironed,” Ms. Shampoe said.

Not all businesses, however, have benefited from the recent trend of retailers opening on Thanksgiving instead of the early morning on Black Friday.

In Lewis County, Lloyd’s of Lowville, a diner on South State Street, used to get barnstormed with shoppers when it opened at 5:30 a.m. for breakfast, manager Melissa A. Zehr said. But she said most shoppers now go home to sleep after doing their shopping earlier on Thanksgiving night.

“People used to run up to Walmart at 3 o’clock in the morning, and as soon as they were done shopping they would come here and eat on their way home before going to bed,” Mrs. Zehr said. “But now they don’t need to wait in line to do that. We’re still busy on Black Friday, but it’s not like it used to be.”

 

By Ted Booker, Times Staff Writer

Kruger Energy meets with stakeholders to introduce plans to expand hydroelectric facility in Lyons Falls

Representatives from Kruger Energy Inc. met with Lewis County and local officials to introduce the Northbrook Lyons Falls LLC proposed redevelopment plan and to discuss the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission amendment and the permitting process for the hydroelectric plant.

Northbrook Lyons Falls LLC is a subsidiary of Kruger Energy Inc.

Daniel Parker, project manager with Kruger Energy Inc., said Northbrook Lyons Falls has a federal license for the Lyons Falls project. Three hydropower facilities on the Black and Moose rivers, the Lyons Falls Mill, Kosterville and Gouldtown, make up the project, and all three of the sites are part of the same FERC license.

The project has been in existence since 1920, when the hydro units were put in, and it was federally licensed in 1986.

In 2006, a redevelopment project was proposed to have a new powerhouse on the east side of the Black River, but there were concerns about developing that side of the river. Some residents suggested that development on the east side of the river would affect recreational, scenic and cultural resources.

Mr. Parker said the company is looking to amend the license for the mill project. This time the proposal is for the development to remain on the west side of the river at the original facility.

The capacity of the plant now is 5.8 megawatts, and the plan is for it to have a capacity of 12 to 13 megawatts, Mr. Parker said. Kruger wants to amend the license to expand the capacity.

Kruger wants to build a two-unit powerhouse within the footprint of the Lyons Falls Pulp & Paper mill site. However, the company is looking into the possibility of having three smaller units instead of the two larger units, because the plant then would be able to go down to a lower flow before having to shut the system down, Mr. Parker said.

He said the company is not looking to change the elevation of the river upstream, so the dam height will stay the same.

Lewis County Economic Development Director and IDA Executive Director Eric J. Virkler gave a brief overview of how the decommissioning of the Lyons Falls Pulp & Paper mill is a factor for the hydroelectric expansion.

The Lewis County Development Corp. has been working to secure funding to clean up the site, Mr. Virkler said. The LCDC has been working in partnership with Kruger, which put in $450,000 for the first phase and up to an additional $200,000 for other project costs that would come out of contingency. Kruger has made funding contributions to help move along the demolition so it can have access to the plant.

The demolition is focused on the top priority areas of the site to get it cleaned up so Kruger can move forward with its work, Mr. Virkler said. The intent is that Kruger will purchase land surrounding its facility so there will be room for the expansion.

Lyons Falls Mayor Catherine L. Liendecker said the community is on board with the project.

“The biggest advantage for our community is that when the mill site gets cleaned up and whatever goes in there, you could be selling (electricity) to whoever is right next door rather than getting it at a more expensive rate from National Grid,” Mrs. Liendecker said. “It is a plus for whoever comes into this area.”

The availability of cheap power could be a big draw to attract business to the site, Mr. Parker said. The site already has infrastructure with access to water, sewer services, the rail line and the natural gas line.

“You already have some attributes that are very attractive. Hopefully we can add something to make it that much better,” Mr. Parker said.

He said 37,000 megawatt hours are generated per year with the system. The expansion will add 27,000 megawatt hours, which would be able to power about 12,000 houses.

Mr. Parker said this facility could have the capability to supply Lewis County General Hospital, Lowville, and a number of commercial or retail facilities with that energy.

“Anything we can do to make our existing large businesses more economical is going to be important,” County Manager Elizabeth Swearingin said. “You know we are talking about a commerce park. That jumps to the top of my list. If we have a shovel-ready site that has an attractive power footprint to it, that’s going to be something we are very interested in.”

For the hydroelectric expansion to happen, Kruger must file an amendment with FERC.

 

By Whitney Randolph, Times Staff Writer

Good food draws community to Adams for fun and fellowship

The community came out in full force Saturday evening for food and fellowship at the second annual Taste of South Jeff: Savor Sixtown in Adams.

With a sampling of food from 10 area restaurants, participants ate their way through the Sixtown Community Hall.

“We came again this year because we had such a great time last year,” said Cathy C. Behling of Adams.

At the height of the event, some diners had obvious difficulties balancing their piles of food as they navigated the crowd. Plates were overloaded with lemon meringue waffles, chicken wings, cake pops, doughnuts, stuffed mushrooms, seafood bisque, pork sandwiches, pizza, macaroni and cheese and more.

“I love this event because of the food,” said Adams’ resident Nancy C. Murphy. “I also enjoy seeing people here that I don’t see every day.”

Sponsored by the South Jeff Chamber of Commerce, the event brought in numbers similar to those of the year before. With an hour to go before closing, more than 200 people had walked through the doors of the Sixtown Community Hall.

“Last year, the weather was great and we had 250 attend,” Susan L. Creighton, Adams Center, said.

Mrs. Creighton, a member of the chamber, managed the tickets and front door sales.

“It was a good turnout this year, especially with the snowy weather,” chamber member Paula P. Biazzo said. “The numbers were about the same. I’m impressed.”

Area solo artists Brittany M. Cean and Brian S. Topping provided a backdrop of blues and folk music.

The chamber gave out several awards to the participating restaurants. RJ’s Catering, Adams Center, won the People’s Choice Award and Best Booth. Gram’s Diner, Adams, won Best-Dressed Chef.

The 2013 Taste of South Jeff: Savor Sixtown earned $4,000 for the Adams Fire Department and the South Jefferson Rescue Squad.

All proceeds from this year’s event will go to the Historical Society of South Jefferson County and the historical societies for both Mannsville and Henderson.

Participating restaurants included: Gram’s Diner, Adams; Green Thyme, Adams Center; RJ Catering, Adams Center; Pearl’s Pastry Shoppe, Adams; Barley Pub, Belleville; Cooper’s Landing, Henderson; Mimi’s Depot Cafe, Adams Center; Pizza Shack, Sackets Harbor; and Embellished Catering, Henderson Harbor.

 

By Heather L. Berry, Johnson Newspapers

 

Eddy’s Caribbean Cuisine brings international flavor to Watertown

The fusion of Caribbean and Nigerian food isn’t seen much at restaurants in America.

But the combination is offered by Eddy’s Caribbean Cuisine, which opened in late September at the food court in Salmon Run Mall.

Nigeria native Edirin “Eddy” Igho-Akiti said he decided to open the restaurant to show the north country the delights of the international food he’s enjoyed since his youth.

On the one hand, customers can enjoy spicy Caribbean rice dishes with goat and oxtail meat; on the other, they can order Nigerian dishes that include pepper soup, fried plantains, bean pudding and Jolloff rice. Takeout orders are available.

Mr. Igho-Akiti decided to open the restaurant after launching Eddy’s African International Market on Franklin Street in March 2013. The eatery’s motto, “unforgettable taste,” has a special meaning for the owner, who said dishes are cooked with special care. He said his mother, who is from the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, taught him how to cook dishes from her homeland and from Nigeria, his father’s native country.

“I grew up watching my mom cook with passion and love, and that same passion made me start this place,” the 37-year-old said. “That’s why the motto is unforgettable taste. When you taste the food, you’re going to come back for more and more. And it’s because we cook it full of love.”

Mr. Igho-Akiti spent the first 12 years of his life in Nigeria, followed by four on the island of St. Lucia. He spent his time in London until 2001, when he earned a full-ride scholarship to play soccer at West Virginia University — his entry to the U.S. After earning a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, he went on to earn a master’s degree in business administration from the University at Buffalo in 2011.

He spent several years working in management positions at Olive Garden restaurants, including the one on Arsenal Street in Watertown, before deciding to launch his grocery store on Franklin Street last year. He said he was impressed by the warm reception he received at the store from customers in the Watertown area, who mostly have no connection with Africa or the Caribbean islands.

“It’s all about the taste. When a new customer comes in and tries the food, they almost always come back,” he said, adding that success at the store spurred him to open the eatery.

Weekends have been especially busy so far at the restaurant, which is staffed by five employees, Mr. Igho-Akiti said. He said it already has become a popular stop among Canadians from Ottawa who make frequent shopping trips to the mall.

“We had a group of Canadians that came down here two weeks ago, and they told another group about us who came down last weekend,” he said. “Most of the Canadians have been used to the cuisine we offer and are excited we’re here.”

Restaurant supervisor Barbara N. Robinson, a Carthage native, said she has been surprised by the mix of comments people have made about the international food.

“I didn’t realize how many people from Nigeria and the Caribbean islands were here,” she said. “They say they don’t expect to see this in the north country.”

Others with north country roots are sometimes surprised to see the diverse menu choices, Ms. Robinson said.

“They sometimes get taken aback when they see goat and oxtail,” Ms. Robinson added. “But when they try it, they say it’s actually really good food,” she said.

Follow Eddy’s Caribbean Cuisine on Facebook (keyword: EddyCaribbeanCuisine) or visit its website at www.eddycaribbeancuisine.net.

 

By Ted Booker, Times Staff Writer

Experts evaluate the nature of business closings in Massena, Potsdam

Despite the recent series of business closings in Massena and Potsdam, local business experts said while there will be an impact, the closings do not indicate a dying regional economy.

Experts instead cited competition with online retailers, past plant closings in Massena and the changing value of the Canadian dollar as bigger factors in local economic decline.

In just over a month — from late September to early November — six north country businesses have announced they will close for good: Violi’s Restaurant, Ponderosa Steakhouse, Guy’s Restaurant, Sears and OfficeMax in Massena, and Northern Music and Video in Potsdam.

Marc S. Compeau, an instructor of consumer and organizational studies at Clarkson University, said he does not believe a relationship exists between the closings, calling Massena and Potsdam different communities with different issues.

He called the loss of employment caused by the closings huge for Massena, but said closings and phase-downs of Massena’s Reynolds, Alcoa East and General Motors plants — and the resulting population loss — are bigger factors, which continue to erode Massena businesses.

Indeed, the numbers are down, with 332 manufacturing jobs lost earlier this year when Alcoa closed its east plant, and a total of 500 lost over the life of the GM plant which closed in 2010.

Between 2008 and 2012, out of 5,316 employed residents in Massena, 332 worked in manufacturing while 888 worked in retail trade, according to a U.S. Census Bureau survey. Margins of error were plus or minus 1.8 percent and 3.7 percent, respectively. Census data from 2000 showed 977 of 5,607 residents worked in manufacturing and 932 in retail trade.

The gradual change in the value of Canadian currency over the past two decades has made Massena’s St. Lawrence Centre mall less attractive to Canadian consumers, who came in droves when the mall opened in 1990, according to Mr. Compeau.

“I remember those days. It was such a busy, busy place,” he said. “That mall has struggled mightily for many years based on the lack of the Canadian market that it was founded on.”

Tourism Director Gary S. DeYoung of the Thousand Islands International Tourism Council said the change in the Canadian dollar’s value likely plays a part but is not the main cause for the closings.

He reported that the dollar’s value has been positive for five years, bringing increasing numbers of consumers across the bridges in Ogdensburg and the Thousand Islands, until last year, when those numbers plateaued. So far this year, he said, there has not been a decrease.

Competition with online retailers also has played a role, according Gregory A. Gardner, SUNY Potsdam associate professor of business administration, who cited it as the cause of the demise of the Sears store in Massena’s mall, a small part of a nationwide problem for the company which has struggled against Walmart and other discount retailers over the years.

“We’re seeing Sears trying to cut costs. They’re closing less-productive outlets, and we’re on that list,” Mr. Gardner said. “That’s just what the national trend looks like locally.”

And while Potsdam’s economy has not been as hard-hit as Massena’s by recent closings — thanks to increasing enrollments at its colleges and growth at Canton-Potsdam Hospital — it will nonetheless be affected by the loss of Northern Music and Video, according to Mr. Compeau.

“I think that Northern Music closing in Potsdam is like Market Street losing its Sears,” he said. “We’ve lost our anchor.”

Like Sears, the store has lost business to national and online retailers in recent years, according to Mr. Gardner.

Increasing popularity of online video and music streaming services has not helped.

Digital music companies Spotify and Pandora last year streamed a total of over 22 billion hours of music to more than 90 million users, letting them listen either free of charge or through subscriptions costing as little as $3 per month, according to the New York Times.

The New York Times also reported that subscribers of Netflix’s streaming-video service numbered 27 million in 2012 and are now more than 50 million strong.

Also last year, income from streaming services made up 21 percent of music industry income, up from 9 percent in 2011, according to Recording Industry Association of America data.

“In the end, when you can find most of the products cheaper on the Internet, it’s awfully hard to compete with that,” Mr. Gardner said.

Though he said neither community’s economy is driven by retail, both will take a hit economically, and while Massena will feel the loss broadly, in Potsdam the void left by Northern Music will be filled by outside sources, as people look online and in other stores outside the region for music goods.

Customers in line at the store’s liquidation sale Thursday said the loss of the store is more than just a material one.

Jason A. O’Connell, a Malone resident who has frequented the store since 1990, said he liked being able to make deals in person and avoid shipping delays by buying supplies at a local store.

“I realized I could get better deals talking to a human,” he said. “You can’t do that online.”

Michael P. Farley, an associate professor of music at St. Lawrence University who has also shopped at Northern Music since 1990, said an important meeting place for working musicians will be lost when the business is gone.

“I’m feeling a little bit like a vulture,” he said of the closing. “It feels like a funeral.”

SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music, which partnered with the store in several ways, such as by selling event tickets and the buying of equipment and supplies, was thankful for its relationship.

Michael R. Sitton, dean of the Crane School of Music, said the ways in which the store has benefitted the school and music education throughout the region could not be counted.

“We share the feelings of many, as this significant chapter comes to an end and we lose what has been a wonderful part of the business and musical community in Potsdam,” he said.

 

By Alan Rizzo, Times Staff Writer

Paquin honored as Woman of the Year by St. Lawrence County Chapter, NYS Women

Friends called her devoted, committed, dependable, hardworking, energetic, generous, full of laughter, always with a smile and an honored friend.

And she’s also the 2014 Woman of the Year for the St. Lawrence County chapter of New York State Women Inc.

Julianne C. Paquin was honored during a dinner Thursday night at the Village Inn, where family and friends came to celebrate a woman whose accomplishments took two full pages to name in her nomination letter from Nancy A. Fregoe, bookkeeper for the town of Massena.

Ms. Fregoe noted that Mrs. Paquin, whom she has known for more than 23 years, was the court clerk for the town and village of Massena for 20 years. She also had served as a speech therapist aide for six years in the Massena Central School system.

“I witnessed the dedication she had to her job — she worked many overtime hours without compensation to try and get everything done, as well as making sure each case was handled in a timely manner, which in turn saved the taxpayers money,” Ms. Fregoe said in her letter.

Mrs. Paquin didn’t slow down when she retired in 2003. She became a volunteer with the Massena Memorial Hospital Auxiliary, serving on the board from 2006 to the present. She served as eucharistic minister for St. Joseph’s Church, taking communion to nursing home residents as well.

She has served as a Brownie leader, chaired door-to-door canvassing for the American Cancer Society locally and volunteered at the Massena Free Clinic.

And, Ms. Fregoe said, it was Mrs. Paquin who decided to take an effort she had seen a news report about on television and localize it in Massena so that elementary children had healthy weekend snacks.

“Many people will recognize her name as the woman who brought Back the Pack to our community,” Ms. Fregoe said. “I remember her talking to me about it at the time and she told me that she wanted to give something back to the community that had treated her family so well over the years.”

Mrs. Paquin said that, in looking through the list of past Women of the Year, she realized she was in excellent company.

In 2011, the first year of the Back the Pack program, 42 snack packs were delivered to students in one school. This past school year, with the program now in all of Massena’s elementary schools, 261 children were served.

“In her small way, Julie has touched the lives of these 261 children and their families. She has done this by showing them that someone cares about them and wants them to have proper nourishment,” Ms. Fregoe said. “Massena is certainly a better place because of this one woman and her unwavering compassion for those in need.”

Loretta B. Perez said during Thursday’s dinner that she and other family members knew the day would come when Mrs. Paquin would be recognized for all she has contributed to the community.

“You are so giving to us. We are so proud of you. I can’t think of anything that you’ve done that would disappoint anyone,” she said.

“They are all such accomplished women,” she said, “and this room is full of accomplished women.”

She said no matter what she has done, it has been with the support of her family. Her mother, she said, “always talked about generosity and kindness and doing for other people.”

Mrs. Paquin thanked the other volunteers who assist with the Back the Pack program.

“They are such wonderful, wonderful people. I came up with this idea and they said, ‘We’re on board.’ The girls work so hard,” she said, “and they just give and give and give.”

 

By Bob Beckstead, Johnson Newspapers

Cinema’s future is in city’s hands

Ogdensburg’s only movie theater may soon be in the hands of the city.

In a letter to members of the City Council, Gilbert J. Jones, owner of Jones-Trombley Development Corp., Plattsburgh, offered to “gift” the 9,000-square-foot property at 219 Ford St. to the city.

At Monday’s City Council meeting, members did not discuss acquiring Ogdensburg Cinemas, but instead asked City Manager John M. Pinkerton to obtain more information.

Mr. Jones did not immediately return a call for comment Wednesday.

The two-screen movie theater closed in 2012 after a dispute between its owner and the city over waterfront development projects.

Mr. Jones clashed with planning and development officials over alleged violations in the construction of a concession stand near the former Ramada Inn at 119 W. River St.

According to signs outside the Ramada Inn, the inn is being offered for sale.

Mr. Jones bought the theater in 1980 and has invested heavily in the property since that time. Combining his own funds with a $50,000 state grant, Mr. Jones installed a $73,000 marquee. A new roof and ventilation system cost $85,000.

Mr. Jones has said he invested an additional $42,000 for further renovations. The theater was unprofitable when it was open, losing an estimated $5,000 annually.

A digital projection system at a price tag of $100,000 is still needed to modernize the theater.

Mr. Jones requested $100,000 from the Ogdensburg Growth Fund Development Corp. to purchase digital projection equipment for each of his two theaters. But the fund offered only a $60,000 loan, which was to be paid back in five years at no interest for two years and 2 percent annually for three years after that.

His counteroffer of $60,000 at no interest for four years was rejected.

In 2013, Mr. Jones offered to sell the theater to the city, which could not legally run a theater, Mayor William D. Nelson said at the time.

With the closing of the theater, city residents have to travel to theaters in Canton, Potsdam, Massena or Watertown to watch a movie.

 

By Amanda Purcell, Johnson Newspapers