Franklin Building full with tenants for first time

The Whimsical Pig Custom Services, owned by Shannon Allen, Danielle Carman and Kira Cody, took the final vacancy in the Franklin Building on March 3. Norm Johnston / NNY Business

The Whimsical Pig Custom Services, owned by Shannon Allen, Danielle Carman and Kira Cody, took the final vacancy in the Franklin Building on March 3. Norm Johnston / NNY Business

Spaces for tenants in the Franklin Building are full for the first time since the building was restored about three years ago. [Read more...]

Fort Drum finds environmental improvements, savings

Fort Drum’s environmental chief, James M. Miller, checks the tank storage area for off-spec fuel and used motor oil. Norm Johnston / NNY Business

Fort Drum’s environmental chief, James M. Miller, checks the tank storage area for off-spec fuel and used motor oil. Norm Johnston / NNY Business

When it comes to finding ways to go green and save green, officials on post see how small changes locally can make a big difference.

“It’s about savings; it’s about stewardship,” said James M. Miller, the post’s environmental chief. “They augment each other.” [Read more...]

DeKalb purchases St. Henry’s Church for library, community space

The town of DeKalb has purchased St. Henry’s Catholic Church in DeKalb Junction for $10,500 and plans to use it for a library and community space. Jason Hunter / Watertown Daily Times

The town of DeKalb has purchased St. Henry’s Catholic Church in DeKalb Junction for $10,500 and plans to use it for a library and community space. Jason Hunter / Watertown Daily Times

The town of DeKalb has purchased St. Henry’s Catholic Church for $10,500 for use as a library and other community purposes.

“We’re trying to look at the future,” Supervisor John M. Frary said. “It’s nice to make sure these old buildings are used.” [Read more...]

Demolition at former Mercy Hospital complex to start May 1

COR Development Co. plans to construct commercial and residential space at Stone and Sherman streets, where a new complex will replace the former Mercy Hospital. The developer hopes to get approvals to start next year and finish in 2016. Photo courtesy DALPOS ARCHITECTURE & INTEGRATORS

COR Development Co. plans to construct commercial and residential space at Stone and Sherman streets, where a new complex will replace the former Mercy Hospital. The developer hopes to get approvals to start next year and finish in 2016. Photo courtesy DALPOS ARCHITECTURE & INTEGRATORS

Buildings at the former Mercy Hospital complex will start coming down May 1, Steven F. Aiello, president of COR Development Co., said during a meeting with Times editors Wednesday. [Read more...]

Flooding prompts state of emergency declaration for St. Lawrence County

Rising floodwaters across St. Lawrence County prompted county Legislature Chairman Jonathan S. Putney to declare a state of emergency Tuesday afternoon.

Several roads and bridges were closed because of flooding Tuesday in Winthrop, Brasher, Stockholm and Fine.

The towns of Brasher and Stockholm also have declared local states of emergency because of flooding along the St. Regis River.

Among the closures is a portion of County Route 53, just outside the hamlet of Brasher Falls. The area is frequently under water in the spring when the St. Regis River overflows its banks.

“There’s three feet of water or more over portions of the road,” county Deputy Fire Coordinator Frank W. Burns said. “I’ve never seen it that high there before. Luckily for us, the ice went out two days ago. You can plan all you want, but you can’t stop Mother Nature.”

Mr. Burns said he also was aware of reports of flooding on North Road and in the Hogansburg area. A portion of Barnage Road in the town of Lawrence and the Days Mills Bridge on County Route 49, Hopkinton, are closed. Route 11C in Brasher Falls was closed Tuesday evening. Flooding previously had closed portions of County Route 15 between Heuvelton and Rensselaer Falls, Route 58 near its intersection with Route 184 in Pope Mills and portions of County Route 3 in Rossie and County Route 7 in Macomb.
The Route 420 bridge south of Winthrop is closed as water is rising along the west branch of the St. Regis River, Michael J. LeCuyer, director of St. Lawrence County emergency services, said in a news release.
The South Edwards dam in Fine activated its emergency action plan, and Brookfield Renewable Energy has operators on site to monitor the dam.

Colton firefighter Shawn A. Wright stands in the doorway of the Masonic Temple in Colton Tuesday as water is pumped out of its basement. Jason Hunter / Watertown Daily Times

Colton firefighter Shawn A. Wright stands in the doorway of the Masonic Temple in Colton Tuesday as water is pumped out of its basement. Jason Hunter / Watertown Daily Times

The biggest concerns are the Oswegatchie and St. Regis rivers, but the Raquette and Grasse rivers could become greater concerns as 1 to 1.5 inches of rain was expected Tuesday, Mr. LeCuyer said. [Read more...]

Owens visits Omniafiltra, gets hands-on tour

Omniafiltra mill manager Scott C. Sauer, left, talks with Rep. William L. Owens as he toured the Beaver Falls facility on Monday. Amanda Morrison / Watertown Daily Times

Omniafiltra mill manager Scott C. Sauer, left, talks with Rep. William L. Owens as he toured the Beaver Falls facility on Monday. Amanda Morrison / Watertown Daily Times

It was business as usual Monday afternoon at Omniafiltra as U.S. Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, toured the industrial paper and fiber manufacturing facility.

So usual, in fact, that Mr. Owens got more than a walking tour.

“This is hands-on management … literally,” Mr. Owens said as he watched mill manager Scott C. Sauer operate one of the large machines.

When one employee was called away unexpectedly for a family matter, Mr. Sauer stepped into his role on the machine line, taking just a few minutes to meet with Mr. Owens before returning to the machines.

“It’s a real collaborative effort here,” Mr. Owens said. “It’s real. It’s impressive.”

He decided to visit the mill after learning employees had recently celebrated 10 years in business. In the struggling paper industry, startups and similar successes are almost unheard of.

“We’re just ending the best week we’ve ever had,” Mr. Sauer said, explaining that with today’s strength of 35 employees and the hope of adding six more, the business is a far cry from where it started 10 years ago.

“We had no power, no transformer,” he said. “We had one customer.”

Mr. Sauer attributes the success to the dedicated employees, hired after the mill was sold and stood empty for several years.

He discussed the challenges of operating the facility with few inexpensive options for shipping and receiving.

“It’s expensive and we’re far from the Thruway,” he said.

Mr. Owens asked about the possibility of the return of railroads to the county, and Lewis County Economic Development Director Eric J. Virkler said there are several other businesses that would be potential rail users.

“It might be worth taking a look into,” Mr. Owens said.

The leaders mentioned that rail-freight operator CSX Corp. is investing $100 million to improve rail lines between Montreal and Syracuse.

Mr. Sauer also explained how his crew’s flexibility has helped Omniafiltra continue to grow.

“Anything the big guys can’t or won’t do … that’s our niche,” he said.

Though offering specialty products many others do not, Mr. Sauer said, it still keeps prices low.

“Our prices are extremely competitive,” he said. “We’ve gotten good at our game.”

-Christina Scanlon, Watertown Daily Times

2013 Class of 20 Under 40: New leaders, classic values

20U40_logo_2012_webA family nurse practitioner, a few engineers, a financial controller, an environmentalist, an insurance agent, business advisors, small business owners, an educator, a grant writer, a real estate broker, a fitness instructor, a pair of nonprofit leaders, two Fort Drum professionals, and a physician. Our third annual 20 Under 40 class was the most competitive field yet, and these individuals represent a snapshot of Northern New York’s most accomplished, dedicated and involved young professionals, across a wide spectrum of industries, and across three counties. All of these young men and women are involved in some shape or form in their community, whether by serving on an organization’s board, coaching a Little League team, teaching Sunday School, or something as simple as helping to organize community 5K runs or making time to donate to food banks. All of these leaders, who are between the ages of 25 and 39, were chosen not only by the editors and staff of NNY Business magazine, but by virtue of glowing recommendations from their peers and employers. And not only do these emerging leaders, who embody the prized north country values of compassion, hard work and selflessness, make time in hectic schedules to volunteer in the community, they give their very best in challenging career fields each and day, all out of an effort to make the place they have chosen to stay in and call home the very best place it can be. NNY Business recognizes these 20 men and women along with their companies at a special luncheon at Watertown’s Hilton Garden Inn. The 2013 20 Under 40 class:

Cyber Monday: Small businesses jump on bandwagon to boost sales in north country

Shawn Massey sits next to a computer displaying the Massey Furniture Barn website and the store’s deals for Cyber Monday. Amanda Morrison / Watertown Daily Times

Shawn Massey sits next to a computer displaying the Massey Furniture Barn website and the store’s deals for Cyber Monday. Amanda Morrison / Watertown Daily Times

On Cyber Monday morning, Massey’s Furniture Barn in Watertown received an unexpected phone call from a Fort Drum soldier serving overseas in Afghanistan.

The soldier was interested in an online special: the purchase of a five-piece furniture set would net her a free queen-sized Serta memory foam mattress, which was valued at $648. The promotional code on the website,

“CYBER13,” was given over the phone, making her eligible for the deal. (The soldier wasn’t identified.)

“We told her we could hold the furniture for her until she’s ready to pick it up,” said owner Shawn E. Massey, who launched the Cyber Monday sale Monday for the first time at his Arsenal Street store. Customers “can make the purchase on the website or over the phone, as long as they mention the code. I’m hoping to create some business on a needy day that I usually miss out on after Black Friday weekend.”

Although big-box retailers traditionally are associated with Cyber Monday, more small businesses are offering cyber specials. This year the National Retail Federation projected that 131 million people would shop online on Cyber Monday, an increase of about 2 percent from last year. Sales were expected to reach nearly $2 billion, up from $1.47 billion last year. About 81 percent of retailers planned to offer online specials.

Early results released at noon Monday showed online shopping was up 21.4 percent compared with the same time last year, according to IBM Benchmark, a marketing software program. Mobile traffic, which includes smartphones and tablets, accounted for 31 percent of all online traffic.

At Massey’s Furniture Barn on Monday morning, Mr. Massey said he was optimistic that a few customers would make online purchases to redeem the trendy 8-inch memory foam mattress. The deal was available to customers who bought a sofa-loveseat combination or a five-piece furniture set.

“We’re testing it out to see how we do,” he said, adding that the sale likely will be expanded next year. “If I can get one or two people to make purchases, then it’s worth it.”

By 6:30 p.m., the store confirmed it had one sale.

Another Watertown business that decided to offer Cyber Monday sales was the Spicy Wench, which sells pepper jellies, fruit jams and spices. By Monday afternoon, four customers had checked out the “buy one, get one half-off” sale available at www.thespicywench.com, according to Christine E. Hoffman, who started the business in 2011.

“I’ve had a few more sales today than I had over the weekend with the (Cyber Monday) sale going on,” Mrs. Hoffman said. “I think more small businesses that already sell things online are going to be drawn to Cyber Monday, because they know it’s a trend for consumer spending. It’s almost kind of an equalizer, because you can do the same thing as the big-box stores.”

The majority of the business’s sales are made at summer festivals, she said, while the website accounts for about 10 percent. But Mrs. Hoffman, who launched the website in the spring of 2012, said she believes online sales will grow as awareness builds among customers who live outside the region.

“The website is going to play a huge role, because I don’t have a physical storefront,” she said.

Customers across the country who stayed home to shop on Cyber Monday were able to capture online deals earlier than last year. Walmart began offering online-only deals Saturday, including $500 off a 55-inch LED TV bundle and free shipping on orders higher than $35.

Brandon Harris, 27, from Memphis, Tenn., started shopping at midnight Sunday and by Monday had spent about $300 and completed half of his Christmas shopping, including a Barbie doll for his niece and a TV for his mother.

“I haven’t shopped for a Christmas present in a store in three years,” said Harris, who made the purchases from his iPad. “It’s a lot more convenient to be at home and shop.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

-Ted Booker, Watertown Daily Times

Shoppers head to the stores Thanksgiving night

Old Navy cashiers Sadie J. Boshert, center, and Samantha L. Deal, right, check out customers Thursday night. Justin Sorensen / Watertown Daily Times

Old Navy cashiers Sadie J. Boshert, center, and Samantha L. Deal, right, check out customers Thursday night. Justin Sorensen / Watertown Daily Times

As turkey dinners and family gatherings wrapped up on Thursday, shoppers took to their cars and drove into the cold Watertown night. There were deals to chase.

Big box retailers including Walmart, Target and Kohl’s as well as the major stores in the Salmon Run Mall kicked off their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving evening. Discounts led shoppers to pack the stores, and many people planned an all-night bargain-hunting blitz. At Best Buy in the mall, more than 100 stood in line during the final hour before the store opened at 6 p.m.

Javier Morales, of Fort Drum, said he was expecting a rush of people as he pursued a television and Playstation 4 with his friends Joshua A. Olson, Evans Mills, and Aaron Gutierrez, Fort Drum.

“I’ve been playing Madden,” he said, referring to the popular football video game. “A couple spins, jumps, no problem.”

Many of those shopping at Best Buy and other Watertown department stores Thursday night were Canadians who traveled south for lower prices.

William Hughes, who came from Kingston, Ontario, to shop for computer gear such as monitors, said he could save as much as 35 percent by making the trip to Watertown.

“We know what the prices are at home, and we know what the prices are down here,” he said.

Immediately behind him in line, Linda M. March interjected that she planned to go back to Ottawa with a car full of purchases.

“You’ve got to go somewhere to get a good deal,” she said.

As Best Buy opened, customers entered in staggered groups of 20.

Store general manager Dannielle M. Richardson said safety was key, as she directed customers toward televisions, computers and video games.

Stocking for the weekend was a process months in the making. Now that the big night was finally here, “it really is controlled chaos,” she said.

Among the bargain hunters were Narayan Poudyal and Sudeep Khadka, of Fort Drum. The pair said they saved about $500 in buying two computers and a television.

“We found the deal,” Mr. Poudyal said.

Many families could be seen shopping together.

Waiting in line before the 8 p.m. opening at Target, Theresa S. Thilges and her son Andrew, 14, both of Watertown, said they made their decision to shop over dinner.

“This is fun, too,” she said. “We can talk about the year we lost our toes.”

Over at Walmart, Kristy M. Perez of Watertown left the store with her mother, Carol A. Graveline, and daughter Hannah C., 13, with bags of items.

“I’ve got my family here,” she said. The three had a few more stores to hit before the end of the night, she said.

However, not every shopper was enthusiastic about the chilly wait.

Tammy Clark of Adams Center said she thought the timing was a little early, as she waited about two hours before the 8 p.m. opening of Target. She said she preferred the early Friday morning shopping, which affords time for a little sleep.

“I’m not excited about it, but I’m here,” she said. Ms. Clark and her daughter Amanda A. Pike said they were looking for a deal on a Keurig coffee maker and a Shark Mop steam cleaner, and by shopping Thursday they expected to save up to $150.

Was it worth the cold? “With the amount of money you save, yes,” Ms. Clark said.

The holiday all-night shopping was a family affair, with relatives spread throughout multiple stores, Ms. Clark said. Her other planned stops included Kohls, Sears, Bon-Ton and J.C. Penney, where she hoped to purchase a globe available only after 4 a.m.

Many stores are scheduled to remain open through late tonight.

-Gordon Block, Watertown Daily Times

Cost of Thanksgiving meal down slightly this year

Amanda Morrison / NNY Business

Amanda Morrison / NNY Business

The cost of preparing a traditional Thanksgiving dinner this year is slightly less than last year, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual informal price survey of classic Thanksgiving meal items.

The cost for this year’s meal for 10 is $49.04, which represents a 44-cent price decrease from $49.48 in 2012, and the first time the cost has declined in three years.

Items on the survey list included turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray, pumpkin pie and beverages of coffee and milk. The most expensive item, and the one that showed the largest price decrease compared to last year, was a 16-pound turkey for $21.76, about 3 cents per pound cheaper than in 2012.

The AFB says that average cost of the dinner has hovered around $49 since 2011. It has conducted the survey since 1986.