OSWEGO, NY – At its meeting this week, the Administrative Services Committee recommended the chamber be funded for programs benefiting the city.
Beth Hilton, executive director of the Greater Oswego-Fulton Chamber of Commerce, requested approval of the proposed 2011 agreement between the city and the chamber for the support of the chamber’s various programs designed to encourage and promote economic development and commerce in the city of Oswego.
The city, “in consideration of the promises and covenants of the chamber,” agrees to pay for the specialized services and skills of the chamber for the operation of programs $23,500 for the fiscal year 2011.
The programs include the Independence Day Parade, Veterans’ Stage concerts, Pumpkin Fest, Taste of Oswego, Project Bloom, and the Oswego Farmers’ Market.
There was, however, quite a bit of discussion regarding the DOERS (Downtown Oswego Energetic Retailers) attempting to re-take control of the Oswego Farmers’ Market.
Beth Hilton, executive director of the chamber, provided information to the mayor and council addressing issues that were brought up by the Farmers’ Market Federation.
“We have absolutely no issue with the downtown merchants reforming the DOERS group,” she said. “However, we do have a number of concerns with some of the concerns that were in the letter that supported the request by the DOERS to have the farmers’ market removed from the chamber of commerce.”
Several years ago, the DOERS were a group similar in mission to the chamber. It was comprised of mainly the large cluster of merchants who, at the time, inhabited many of the shops in the downtown area.
The group conducted the weekly farmers’ market.
Over the years, the DOERS evolved into the OCBD (Oswego City Business District) and eventually disbanded to have (some of) its members swallowed up by the chamber.
“We aren’t trying to ‘take’ the market from the chamber. But, there are a lot of downtown merchants who feel they aren’t being helped by the chamber as much as they should be. The chamber is doing a good job (with the market), but the past couple of years things haven’t gone so well,” Oswego business owner Sean Pelkey told Oswego County Today.com
Pelkey, owner of Flowers by Mr. John on West First Street, is spearheading the drive to resurrect the merchants’ organization. They will be meeting again later this month.
Hilton said she didn’t want the city to make a decision on whether or not to provide the chamber with funding to support the market based on “misinformation.”
For example, she said the federation alleged the market was decline.
Prior to 2009, the Oswego market averaged about 50 vendors; in 2009, the market only averaged about 47 vendors, Hilton said.
“In 2010, which is the year that is in question, we did average nearly 60 vendors per week,” she said. “So, we do feel that we are growing the market. One of the things we’re doing for the 2011 market is bringing back the market committee, which we had several years ago. And we would like very much to work with the DOERS and actually have representatives from that group on the farmers’ market committee.”
Administrative Services Committee chair and council president Ron Kaplewicz suggested a meeting of the two groups to iron out the issues.
“That’s entirely possible. But, the only issue I have is there is a sense of urgency; we are already getting calls from vendors. We typically have all our letter out to the vendors by the middle of January. People want to secure their spot, they want to get their season permit. Farmers’ market planning basically starts the day the market closes. So, time is definitely of the essence,” Hilton said. “We’ll put the committee together as quickly as we can. But time is definitely an issue.”
“We haven’t heard anything from the chamber regarding getting together for a meeting,” Pelkey said.
According to Pelky, the market hasn’t been as productive in recent years.
“We (downtown business) rely on the additional business the market attracts Thursday nights,” Pelky said. “That’s why small businesses need to get the DOERS back together.”
“The chamber is hot to keep (the market) and we’re fine with that,” he continued. “We don’t want to fight and argue. We want to work together, with everyone, and improve things. We would just like to see them run the market more effectively. We want to get back to the basics, bring people back downtown; keep the city active and make a more comfortable environment for the merchants.”
One of the things that upset some of the downtown merchants in 2010 was the change in time for the market.
The chamber moved the time without seeking input from the majority of either the merchants or vendors, Pelkey said.
Marilyn Boyzuick owns a business on West First Street.
There was some good and there were some negatives, she said of the changes to the market last year.
A lot of people came down to the market in the evening only to find that is was over with, she pointed out referring to the 8 p.m. closing time.
“They stopped by around 7:30 and the vendors are already picking up and leaving,” she said. “The other (negative) was taking away two weeks from the market in the fall.”
According to Hilton, the time change “did what we hoped it would” in allowing more senior citizens access to the market before it got too congested and alleviated many of the problems associated with some teens. The YMCA’s programs, directed at teens during the same hours as the market, were also a big help, she added.
If the chamber could get something organized with the DOERS, “that’s a plus,” Boyzuick said. She added that she believes all the downtown merchants would like to be involved and get more information/input regarding the planning of the market.
Some of them feel they can’t go to the meetings because they aren’t chamber members, she said.
“Set up a time when everyone can meet. Let’s do it right away. We do need to work together. We have some good businesses downtown. We need your help; downtown is suffering,” she told the councilors. “Everything about having a downtown farmers’ market is a plus. The worst thing you could do would be to move it elsewhere. Keep it on (West) First Street, involve Second Street sometimes. Do something that we can all be part of.”
“We’re just a small group with some big ideas,” Pelkey said. “The chamber needs to communicate with all of the businesses, including the small businesses.”