Mercy project’s site plans to go before Planning Board

The city’s Planning Board will take a first look today at COR Development Co.’s $30 million redevelopment of the old Mercy Hospital site. [Read more…]

May 2016 Cover Story: Economic Development

Securing a stronger future for the north country

COR Development’s Mercy Health Center Redevelopment project is set to begin its first phase of construction this summer on 30,000 square feet of commercial space and 108 apartments. Overall, the project will house 168 units and a community center on the grounds of the former Mercy Hospital in Watertown. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Business.

COR Development’s Mercy Health Center Redevelopment project is set to begin its first phase of construction this summer on 30,000 square feet of commercial space and 108 apartments. Overall, the project will house 168 units and a community center on the grounds of the former Mercy Hospital in Watertown. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Business.

Despite workforce challenges, regional economic development continues to power positive growth across Northern New York

By Karee Magee, NNY Business

A rural and historically challenged region where economic development was often stagnant, the Great Recession dealt a significant blow to New York’s north country as its counties saw a spike in unemployment and manufacturing jobs disappear, including about 600 from Jefferson County alone. [Read more…]

COR outlines progress of Mercy Hospital project

COR Development Co. plans to start the first phase of construction at the former Mercy Hospital site this summer with 108 apartments and 30,000 square feet of commercial space. [Read more…]

Shoppers on both sides of the border hit stores for post-Christmas savings

Walking into Salmon Run Mall on Saturday morning, the holiday tunes over the sound system and countless flyers proclaiming “50% off” or “BOGO” may have given the false impression that Christmas was right around the corner.

But some shoppers argue the post-holiday sales were more giving than during the holiday shopping season.

“It’s cheaper,” said Nicole E. Odett, whose first stop for savings was the Christmas Tree Shop. She was pushing a cart of discounted wrapping paper, although she planned to see what the rest of the mall had marked down. “I usually get clothes [after Christmas]. I have five kids.”

In the Bon Ton, Deborah J. Hadfield had come with a friend to return an item, but she stayed to eye some of the discounts.

“Everything’s a lot cheaper, of course. The deals after Christmas are way better than they were before,” she said. “Especially clothing is marked down. Get them while you can.”

A majority of items across the mall — and even at stores across the Arsenal Street strip — were discounted anywhere from 30 percent to 75 percent.

“If you have kids and its Santa Claus, you want to get stuff before Christmas. But if anybody could wait, you should do it after,” advised Ms. Hadfield.

Outside Target on Towne Center Drive, sisters Erin L. Mallory and Lisa M. Mills were just about done with their shopping.

“It was 50 percent off, probably about the same as Black Friday but less crowded,” said Ms. Mallory.

Inside the store, discounts on regular items ranged from just under $1 to over $20. Christmas items, like ornaments and lights, were cheaper than that.

“Target had a better selection than Walmart,” Ms. Mallory added.

“The prices at both stores, Walmart and Target, were the same. But Walmart was very much picked over and Target had a better selection — more things available,” said Ms. Mills.

Angela Bratton decided to take her granddaughter Christmas shopping at Target.

“I was late with her Christmas, so this is it,” she said.

Although she wasn’t looking for deals, Ms. Bratton could not deny the prices were a steal.

“You’re going to save money after Christmas,” she said.

Farther north, Martin Labbee, of Montreal, was enjoying lunch in the food court at St. Lawrence Centre mall in Massena after spending the night before at the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino.

The day after Christmas, or Boxing Day as it’s known in Canada, has turned into one of the biggest shopping days of the year with retailers north of the border offering Boxing Day sales and specials that often rival Black Friday sales here in the U.S. Not all Canadians, however, spend their money at home.

Mr. Labbee said while he doesn’t make special trips to the U.S. for shopping, he often finds himself shopping when in the country for other reasons.

“Since we were here, we decided to do a little bit of shopping,” he said. “We’re not really looking for the ‘big deal.’ When we’re here, it’s usually looking for stuff we can’t get at home.”

St. Lawrence Centre Marketing Assistant Lindsey S. Breitbeck said the traffic the mall sees on Boxing Day usually rivals that of what they see during the holiday shopping season.

“It’s definitely consistent with the holiday season,” she said. “It doesn’t drop off right away like people might think.”

Speaking early Friday afternoon, Ms. Breitbeck said she had already fielded calls from more than a dozen Canadian shoppers who wanted to make sure the mall was open.

“Since we opened this morning, we’ve received at least 15 calls from people looking to come over,” she said.

While the mall does rely heavily on Canadian traffic, many local shoppers also come out following the holidays to exchange gifts and spend money or gift cards they may have received.

“We get a lot of traffic because things that may be marked up because of the holidays are now marked down,” she said. “If there was something people wanted for Christmas, but they didn’t find it under their tree, today (Friday) is the day they’ll buy it.”



By Amanda Thomson-Tangalin and Benny Fairchild, Johnson Newspapers

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

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