October 21, 2021

Ready to make its move

Cortland ReUse prepares new site on McLean Road in C’ville

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

John Zelson stands outside the Cortland ReUse building Wednesday in Cortlandville. A lease for the property was signed earlier this month.

Planning for where Cortland ReUse would have its store and community space could lead to planning paralysis at times, John Zelson, the board president of Cortland ReUse, said Wednesday.

Going over spaces and reviewing models and details with no action over the last year left him ready to pull the trigger on a space.

“Basically, we just got sick of being in meetings and said, ‘We just got to go,’” he said.

That action has come in the form of signing a lease earlier this month for a 4,800-square-foot store and an accompanying 2,600-square-foot storage shed on McLean Road in Cortlandville. The site, which used to be CNY Rental and Sales, is located west of Footie’s Freez and north of the Kwik Fill gas station.

Work has been underway clearing, fixing up the store and planning the setup, Zelson said, but a soft opening may not happen until September.

The center will serve as a part-thrift store and part-community space as people will be able to buy used items donated by the public, but also to give people spaces to practice new skills such as art or learn about waste reduction.

Additionally, Zelson said he hopes it can grow to the point of having a job training program.

“I think it’s a great asset to the community,” said Kevin Fitch (R-Preble, Scott and Homer), chair of the Cortland County Legislature’s Agriculture, Planning and Environmental Committee.

Fitch, who regularly donates to the Finger Lakes ReUse in Ithaca, said the county will benefit from having its own ReUse space as a way for people to donate used items, have others buy them at an inexpensive price and reduce the amount of waste going to landfills.

The waste reduction “is one of the biggest assets right there,” of having a ReUse site, he said.

The idea for Cortland ReUse having their own store dates back to 2019 after the organization wanted Finger Lakes ReUse to bring a site to Cortland, Zelson said.

Zelson and others from Cortland ReUse met with Diane Cohen, the executive director of Finger Lakes ReUse, on that idea, which she declined as she said she was too busy to expand into Cortland but would help Cortland ReUse through the process of getting and setting up its own store.

A planning committee was created, and the organization began meeting with stakeholders in the summer of 2019 about a potential location, according to the Cortland ReUse website.

A public meeting was held that fall and a survey was sentout gathering further interest from area residents.

Through spring 2020, business plans were developed and potential sites were explored before the organization salvaged and sold parts from a house being demolished in the summer and held a pop-up sale in the fall to raise funds to purchase a site.

The McLean Road site was chosen, in part, because of the open set up of the store but also because the storage shed added extra space, Zelson said.

Maintenance work, including electrical and plumbing, still needs to be dealt with before the store can properly be set up, he said.

“I think it will be so great for the community and I think it’s really needed,” Zelson said.

Zelson said he hopes the center “will look like something that could only exist in Cortland” and include the artistic nature of the area with work by local artists.