October 26, 2021

Filling downtown void

Shops first tenants since 2005 Main St. Cortland fire

Travis Dunn/staff reporter

Stacey Twigg, owner of Floristry by Ithaca Flower Shop, prepares her new business at 51 Main St. for a grand opening Jan. 31 at 10 a.m. Twigg’s flower shop, as well as Affordable Home Furnishings Inc. next door at 55 Main St., are the first two businesses to occupy these downtown ground floor storefronts after 15 years of vacancy.

The ground floor storefronts at 51-55 Main St., Cortland, are back in business, after 15 years of vacancy, following a 2005 fire that gutted the building.

Two new businesses now occupy the properties: Affordable Home Furnishings Inc., at Main and Court streets, and, one door north, Floristry by Ithaca Flower Shop.

Both businesses will have grand openings in the coming week. Affordable Home Furnishings, which had a soft opening Jan. 11, will officially open its doors with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Feb. 1, and Floristry will open the previous day, 10 a.m. Friday.

Affordable Home Furnishings Inc. will offer lease-to-purchase household items, including furniture, appliances, TVs and game systems, said coowner Greg Dicola of Auburn.

Dicola said the business will offer city residents a local place to buy household items locally “instead of driving to Syracuse … or Binghamton or Elmira.”

“I think it fits the needs of downtown,” he said.

Stacey Twigg, the owner of Floristry and the Ithaca Flower Shop, said she decided to set up shop in Cortland to plug into the heart of city and the continuing downtown revitalization.

“I love Cortland. I’m really excited about it,” said Twigg, who is originally from Groton and now lives in Cortland. “It’s been a big thing of mine — having kids here and wanting to be more involved in the community where I live.”

Twigg said she will continue to run her business in Ithaca, but the main distribution operation is now being moved Cortland.

She intends to offer a different floral shop experience than many customers are used to. Example: A do-it-yourself terrarium bar, where customers can mix and match glass terraria and various plants. There will also be free coffee for patrons, she said.

“It’s a little bit of a different flavor here, which I hope everyone will like,” Twigg said.

Mayor Brian Tobin said he was pleased to see the building back in productive use.

“Any downtown is essentially a showpiece for any community. So we’re proud of this project,” Tobin said. “It’s adding to the attractiveness of Cortland.”

The process of getting the building back in operation was not easy, he said.

“It was a long, difficult road to get that property back online,” he said.

State grants played a role in making that happen, as well as logistical help from the Cortland County Business Development Corp. The property owner, 55 Main Street Holdings LLC, received about $100,000 in state grants, according to Richard Cunningham, president of Thoma Development Consultants. The property owner also secured about $200,000 in state funds through the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council.

The upstairs floors were renovated several years ago and rented out as student housing.

The ground floor storefronts have been vacant since a fire swept through the building in 2005. The building’s then-owner, Andrea Stevens, was convicted of third-degree arson, a felony, for setting the fire, which destroyed her businesses — Smooch, a beauty and gift store — the adjacent Shangri- La, an antiques store, a secondfloor art gallery and third-floor apartments.

Following the fire, the investigation took three years. Prosecution took years more, then came the appeals. Stevens, was convicted in January 2010, and two appeals were denied, during which the building remained untouched.