The rise of big box stores -- huge corporate chain stores -- and online shopping sources are threatening the very existence of Main Street shops across the country. While many towns in Southern Madison and Chenango counties have only a smattering of locally owned stores, Hamilton's downtown has a healthy string of retail, grocery, hardware, office supply, and food and beverage establishments. But do they have the patronage and financial strength to stay in business?
Leslie Yacavone, owner/operator of the Peppermill kitchen and gourmet store on Madison Street says that just being there for out-of-town visitors isn't enough.
"There is a perception that smaller stores have higher prices," said Yacavone, "but that really isn't true. We have so many things that local people need at prices that are still affordable."
According to the Census Bureau, "mom and pop" shop owners account for about 70% of all US businesses, but these corner stores or home-based businesses are under constant attack from sources that sometimes don't even realize the damage they are causing. The biggest offender? The average consumer.
Dave Palmer, who works at Curtis Lumber, appreciates that people choose to shop there rather than driving to chain building supply stores up to 30 miles away.
"Shopping around here keeps our local economy going," said Palmer, "and you save time and gas. Besides, the sales tax is 8% in Hamilton and 8.75% in Oneida County."
Joan Prindle, a member of the Hamilton Historical Commission who works at the public library, believes that local businesses often come up with creative solutions based on caring for their customer.
"There is a feeling of responsibility and a level of customer service in a mom and pop shop that is different than a chain store," said Prindle.
Elder Silva is chef/partner at La Iguana Restaurant on Broad Street in Hamilton. He said that when you focus on independently owned businesses, you focus on the community.