Route 9: the road to success by Bill Fallon
Charlie North did not build Route 9 in Dutchess County, it dates to Colonial Days, but he speaks of its role in commerce and of its potential with the passion of the engineers who first graded it.
Route 9 thrums with traffic on the coldest days of the year. And this is where the praiseworthiness comes in - it thrums more and more all day long. In Houston, they say the smell of the oil refineries is the smell of prosperity. In Dutchess County, the bustle of traffic on Route 9 serves as the same reminder. Those big-rig airbrakes and those tooting horns are the sound of prosperity.
It's our Central Avenue, said Charlie North, president of the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce, now 1,982 members since consolidating with the former Greater Southern Dutchess Chamber of Commerce Jan 1. It is the Platinum Mile. With the exception of Downtown USA places like Rhinebeck, Hopewell, Pawling it's where business is densest.
The Route 9 corridor from just south of Interstate 84, to and including Hyde Park, is like Santa Claus, North said. As much as the goods and services it bestows, Route 9 bestows secondary activity. Yes, you started out to buy tires, but lunch and two pairs of shoes factor in for convenience's sake. Families go to the mall to see Santa Claus, but end up in the toy store and the food court, North said.
Route 9 is wide and it possesses the magic word, already in place: infrastructure. The road is good, he said. We have water. We have sewer. They're already there.
North called Route 9 an under appreciated resource, saying, I don't believe people recognize the types of revenues that are spun off by businesses on Route 9. That's not to say the small businesses in villages do not play a strong role, but Route 9 is the central area.
The Route 9 goal is basic: A good mix of businesses. While keeping the welcome mat out for national chains and franchises, North would like to see more local shops on the corridor. He acknowledges, There's a high price to pay to be on Route 9. Location, location, location.
But North also cites homegrown successes, including Davis Furniture, which moved from Main Street in Poughkeepsie to the Route 9 and Vassar Road intersection last year. And certainly the many mini malls on Route 9 are filled with the stuff of small-time entrepreneurial dreams like delis and nail salons. Route 9 is the magnet that draws people throughout the county, North said. And Orange County. And Putnam County. Pawling might be a stretch and Rhinebeck might be a stretch, but not really in the scheme of things. It?s worth the trip.
The Santa Claus analogy extends to streets such as South Avenue in Wappingers Falls, where businesses tucked among Victorian mansions benefit from proximity to the river of traffic on Route 9 a block away, as do business on more bucolic Route 9D.
There will be new tenants in the old Circuit City site across from the Poughkeepsie Galleria. North said. That's a key location, across from the mall. Talk about exposure extraordinaire. That?s prime real estate. He cited another empty store that had sold computers and said, They're not vacancies. They're opportunities. They are investments waiting to give a large return.
The Circuit City building on 4.64 acres at 1910 South Road was recently sold by Mountainville-based Goddard Development Partners for about $3.7 million to Orthopedic Associates of Dutchess County. The medical offices are slated to open in 2012.
Said Goddard principal Adrian Goddard, Route 9 is a very powerful draw Circuit City got that part right. It has an extraordinary traffic count. We like Route 9 quite a bit.
Also rigged and ready: I'd love to see the former Dutchess Mall site continue to grow where the Home Depot is, just below (Interstate) 84, said North.
Mid-Hudson Subaru owner Peter Maher sells 100 units a month at his 1715 Route 9 dealership in Wappingers Falls. We deliver to the Bronx, Albany, Danbury, and all throughout the Hudson Valley it's a very central location. Mid-Hudson is the biggest Subaru dealer regionally, he said, and that's because of our location, without a doubt. We are consistently around a hundred units per month. Route 9 is full of opportunities. It's the greatest place in the world. I wouldn't move this dealership anywhere.
Regarding the chamber consolidation, there were questions about how well this would work, said Maria Laudeman, who was with the Greater Southern Dutchess chamber for three years. Charlie is making sure everything's running smoothly.She called the new entity the best of both worlds,saying the Southern Dutchess voice was not being lost, but amplified with the new arrangement.
The chamber staffs are now combined, totaling 18, four of whom are associated with the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce Foundation, a separate corporation responsible for awarding college scholarships $32,000 last year and for raising that money.
The two chamber foundations remain separate for now. But, said North, We are running events together. The only thing that has not transpired is a change of the legal name.
It's the members who have gained, North said. Those who had paid dues to both chambers previously We had a lot of crossover members now pay only one chamber. And we've taken the best of both worlds the best of each chamber's events and put them out for the benefit of chamber members. In addition to that, we have a stronger lobbying voice. We're now a voice for 2,000, which has its advantages when lobbying for our members. We can become a stronger voice in government and a stronger voice in our communities.
We have very good representation in Albany, he said. And I think consolidation sends a very clear message that the business community means business.
North cited the ongoing social networking seminars the chamber is sponsoring as reflective of hands-on committee work. Facebook. Twitter. A blog. A lot of these small businesses do not have the wherewithal to pay a consultant to teach them about these things. It's our responsibility to go to the chamber members who know and have them share with the members who don't. And post-consolidation: A larger pool means larger resources. It means more knowledge. And it means more collaboration.
Importantly, said North, We maintain a good working relationship with all the volunteer-driven chambers to make sure we can be of help to their members: whether it's health insurance or something else. We're here to assist.
Consolidation may not be for everyone, but North said: I believe it is the responsibility of regional chambers to consolidate and collaborate.Peter was interviewed for the Poughkeepsie Journal, during the first week in February, in regards to all the storms and their impact on Subaru sales.
"...Owners of local dealerships say winter weather, along with an improving economy and availability of new products, has helped drive sales of four-wheel and all-wheel drive vehicles.
Peter Maher, who owns Mid-Hudson Subaru in Wappingers Falls, said about 40 percent of vehicles he sells go to customers getting rid of a two-wheel-drive car, and in January, about 40 two-wheel -drive vehicles were traded in at Mid-Hudson Subaru, he said. According to Maher, the number represents a 50 percent increase over two-wheel-drive trade-ins last January.
It's a big uptick, he said.
All Subarus are all-wheel-drive vehicles, Maher says.
Maher said two-wheel-drive customers tell him they are tired of having difficulty getting through the snow, don't want to replace their front tires with snow tires and just "can't take it anymore." He said the uptick sales also reflects a strengthening economy.
Maher said that while few shoppers will visit the lot on snowy days such as Tuesday, sales calls and internet traffic on Mid-Hudson Subarus website increase during winter weather. He said sales of all-wheel- or four-wheel-drive vehicles pick up immediately following snowstorms..."