October 23, 2021

Store closings seen as a loss and a gain

Nick Graziano/contributing photographer

The announced closings of several retailers in Cortland County in recent months is seen by some as a loss to the community and to others as an opportunity.

In a small community, no one likes to see a business close, even other businesses.

So far this year, three chain stores in the Cortlandville have announced their closure: Rue21, Kmart and Staples.

While some office supplies stores may gain more foot traffic once Staple closes Aug. 5, there is a negative side to the store closing.

“I have mixed feelings,” said Betsy Allen owner of Cortland Press & Carbon Copies, at 87 Main St. “We shop at Staples for office supplies.”

She acknowledged her walk-in traffic will probably increase for people looking to make copies and prints. However, she added it is not a good thing for the community to have stores closing and people losing their jobs.

“It sucks because there is nothing here,” said McGraw resident Ron Hayes about Kmart closing. “I don’t blame people for leaving Cortland.”

While there are other stores like Kmart around where Hayes can shop, he said he likes to stick to the same places he always shops at. Walmart is not an option to him because it is too big. He prefers the smaller size of Kmart.

“I like to go in and get what I want,” he said. “I don’t want to live in the store.”

He may look at going to shop in Ithaca, if the stores he likes keep closing, he said.

Adam Megivern, executive director of the Cortland Downtown Partnership, said the big chain stores closing has been a decade-long trend, and gives small businesses a great opportunity to hit markets they may not have before.

Everything sold at Staples can be found locally, said Robert Haight, executive director of the Cortland County Chamber of Commerce, pointing to Hummel’s Office Plus on Route 13 in South Cortland. He mentioned how the store sells many products online that could have been found at Staples, too.

Mullen Office Outfitters Inc., at 28 Main St. in Cortland, has been in business for more than 100 years, Megivern added.
Megivern also iterated it is good for small businesses to try and take advantage of starting to sell products online, or increase their online sales.

The first quarter of 2017 accounted for $105.7 billion in online sales in the United States, an increase of 14.7 percent from first quarter sales in 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

While many enjoy the ease of shopping online, others want nothing to do with it.

Hayes said he won’t do anything online after his wife’s credit card was hacked and used to buy something for about $1,000.

Groton native Dianne Benson shops in Cortland often because she does not like to deal with the traffic in Ithaca, and also does not like to do online shopping. She said she disappointed stores like Kmart are closing, but she will probably start going to local small businesses more now.

Tina Minervini, co-owner of Cinch Art Space of Cortland, which carries only handmade products from people in Central New York, said she thinks people in the community like supporting local stores and buying local items, it “taps into the positive energy of the community.”

While some businesses may benefit from larger stores closing, Stacey Goldyn, owner of Magpie Custom Creations, at 75 E. Court St., Cortland, said it gives her pause anytime a store closes.

“It is always sad to see any business close,” she said. “It is the sign of the economy. It shows how tough it is for all of us.”

Her business is focused more on the service of custom sewing and alterations, but she said this year she has seen a decline in her retail — clothing and jewelry — sales. She said it was hard to say why, and it remains to be seen if there is any kind of ripple effect with Kmart and Rue21 closing.

She does not believe she will gain more business by them closing, but hopes to gain more foot traffic.

One of her main concerns with the larger stores closing is what happens with the buildings, because she does not want to see the buildings stay empty.

Haight said he thinks another large store may move into the Kmart space after the retailer moves out in September.