Penn Yan downtown sees resurgence

Jan 31, 2013

Despite the sluggish economy, at least one small town in the Finger Lakes has been seeing some promising signs of life in its downtown corridor.

Five years ago, Penn Yan’s Main Street shopping area featured a lot of empty windows: 12 out of 50.  Today, only two vacancies remain. Steve Griffin, who heads the Finger Lakes Economic Development Center, credits a few specific improvements - like a nearby redevelopment project and the opening of a downtown gallery. But he says, it also has a lot to do with a change in attitude.

"As people start talking more proactively, more positively about all the things that are going on, they start to believe it, they start to talk about it, as opposed to 'oh, that can’t ever work here.' So that’s happening, and people are buying into it and they’re going downtown," said Griffin.

Brian Whitney, who recently relocated his jewelry shop to Main Street says it does seem like more people are making active decisions to shop locally.

"They realize that it’s a better thing for tax base, blah, blah, blah. Overall it’s just a better thing to keep money in town," Whitney said.

But Jim Long isn’t quite ready to call it a boom. His book store has seen many ups and downs in its 45-year existence and he says real growth depends on one thing: jobs.

"And that’s what we miss more than anything, are those jobs," said Long. "The tourism is great but on a more consistent basis we need more manufacturing jobs and that sort of thing."

Still, the change in Penn Yan has been significant enough to attract the attention of regional leaders, who recently asked local officials to share their experiences at a meeting of the New York State Economic Development Councils in Albany.