My dad was a corporate real estate man. He mostly worked for the big chains like McDonald’s, Burger King, Midas, Dunkin’ Donuts. His job was to find the best locations for new businesses. He drove around the country, scoping out cities and towns, assessing traffic patterns and deciding what spot would give a new business the best chance for success.
Many owners of small businesses, if they’re buying the spot on which they will set up shop, rely on their broker for that kind of information. Renters often go with their gut. So what are they looking for in a location?
For Kim Burger, co-owner of the brand-new Paws & Tail Pantry on Main Street in Rosendale, her choice was made because of proximity to her home and a feeling that “something’s happening” in Rosendale. “I’ve been in the pet industry for twelve years,” she said, “at shops in New Paltz and Gardiner. But I live in High Falls and for me the price of gas and being closer to home made Rosendale really attractive.”
She decided against Stone Ridge because there was already a place to buy high-quality pet food there. “Everyone’s into buying local and they prefer to support their local businesses,” she said. “I figured being in Rosendale gave that opportunity to people on this side of High Falls.”
Burger also detects a growing buzz about Rosendale, a community that’s been featured in The New York Times as a haven for Brooklynites in need of a country respite. “There’s the theater, the café,” she said. “This is the perfect little town!”
On an early spring Saturday, there were few people on the street. The door to Burger’s shop regularly opened as another customer (and usually a happy-looking dog on a leash) arriving to shop for pet food or toys.
“Doing this was a big leap,” Burger admitted. She admitted to being “slightly terrified.” “But I’ve read that an entrepreneur is someone who isn’t afraid to leap. My husband is a leaper. I planned everything before I was ready to leap, but enough pieces fell into place that it seemed like this was the right move at the right time.”
Burger hopes that keeping her prices competitive and offering vaccination clinics in the shop’s back yard will attract a loyal client base that will keep her going seven days a week.
Just around the corner
Gabriel Vasquez, owner and chef at Gabriel’s in Uptown Kingston, was for months in the uncomfortable position of having a loyal following for his restaurant and nowhere to serve them. Faced with a hefty rent hike, he left his location on John Street in Kingston and went to work creating a new Gabriel’s around on Wall Street, in the storefront which housed Kimm’s Market for many years. He reopened in February.
He said the response has been “pretty good.” “People expect the old menu,” he said. “People don’t like change. But opening in the slow season gave us time to test our menu, to adjust. And Saturdays are great.”
Vasquez said he spent all his energy concentrating on the interior of the space. The kitchen, he said, took a year and a lot of work.
Now he’s noticing he has another issue — the storefront windows. “I never though about the windows. But an architect came and he loved the place, loved the interior. There was just one issue. He told me, You have a problem. The windows. And now there’s not a lot of money for window dressers.”
There’s a small retail shop up front, but from the street it’s almost impossible to tell what is inside. The restaurant is tucked back where the kitchen visible to the diners.
“I’m thinking of painting the glass with menus, or maybe eventually using that display space as seating,” Vasquez said. “Overall, it’s a better location than John Street. And as Kingston becomes a destination for restaurants, which is what I think is happening, it’s going to benefit everyone.”
Seeking a better spot
Farther up Wall Street is a vintage clothes shop which moved from Saugerties. “Saugerties was a great weekend town for business, but uptown Kingston is a great Monday-through-Friday location,” said Henrietta Goveia, owner of Vintage Clothing Out of the Past. “I get workers from the county building and the local offices popping in on their breaks, on their lunch hours, and I get the people on jury duty who are looking for something to do during their breaks.”
Goveia was at the Saugerties Antique Center in Saugerties for 30 years, but decided that it was time to move her business closer to where she lived in Kingston. Goveia said she enjoyed the tourist trade, but wanted to deal more with local customers and get more involved in her own community.
“I knew I wanted to be uptown, and this place was actually more expensive than another building I looked at,” she said. “But it’s hard to find a space this large.”
In the same block that is home to the original Ulster Savings Bank and with the county courthouse across the street, Goveia said it felt a bit like she was at the far end of the busiest area, but she decided to take a chance. “I opened in August of last year, and from day one I knew I’d made the right choice. I think now that this end of things is better. There’s no overhang over the sidewalk, and the shop stands out more.”