Business is booming only four minutes from downtown Jamestown; the bustling NorthSide shopping Center is growing and thriving, drawing shoppers from all across the region. Whether shoppers want an eatery or jewelry, groceries or auto glass, antiques, books or goldfish, even a haircut, NorthSide is the new normal for shopping in Jamestown.
Mayor Sam Teresi said, “The merchants on the North Side of Jamestown are doing a yeoman’s job in reviving that valuable real estate for all of us. The community owes them a debt of gratitude.” At a recent gathering of local residents and business leaders, the Mayor revealed that even some outdated city codes are being updated to facilitate the new businesses who have exciting plans and new products. “Great things are happening in Jamestown,” mayor Teresi said, “thanks to our local businesses.”
“It‘s all personal and local,” said Steve Senske, owner of the busy and popular Farm Fresh Bakery Café on Fluvanna Avenue. “It’s neighbors serving neighbors in the NorthSide neighborhood, no Big Box stores here. Even franchises, like Sav-A-Lot, are owned and operated by local folks who know you.”
“It’s simple,” a local merchant said, “in business, you go where the people are.” The Washington/Fluvanna crossroads district is said to have one of the highest traffic counts in the entire region, according to the merchants who have responded to the draw of the NorthSide business magnet.
Technology has added a new flavor to old businesses too. A good old country auction, for instance, is always an exciting treasure hunt. Unique Sales & Auctions is bringing that excitement to the NorthSide. But this local business, with 25 years of experience in auction sales, will become international with an innovative new Internet auction feature. Unique Sales & Auctions will bring the antiquing and curio world to Jamestown and may even attract antiques, unique and collectables from around the world. Opening is slated for November 1.
The NorthSide shopping region became a natural attraction for new businesses within the last decade as some older, established businesses left. New entrepreneurs immediately seized the opportunity. A former bank was replaced by an insurance agency, Farm Fresh Bakery & Café was once a coin-op Laundromat and a pharmacy became an antique and auction house. More store frontage is still available. The NorthSide merchants’ community says it is just the right “location-location-location.”
Local businessman, Steve Senske, who started his own career in retail groceries as a 17-year-old bag boy at the old Super Duper Market on Fluvanna, has now purchase that old North Side Plaza, back where he started. “It was a significant investment,” Senske admitted. The plaza has now become a spearhead of the NorthSide renaissance movement. “Merchants’ rents are much lower here than on Fairmount Avenue, and we’re even closer to downtown,” Senske explained.
“Our city and county politicians are really trying to do a good job here,” said one of the new store owners on Fluvanna. “They’re going all out to help us rejuvenate the North Side.” Another merchant pointed out that traffic for any single business increases the traffic outside everybody else’s front door. A restaurateur added, for instance, “I don’t sell cars, but a lot of people come to “car alley” on Washington to kick the tires and maybe buy one; then lots of them stay for lunch, discover the rich local shopping and come back again. The more traffic the better.”
When a shopping center like NorthSide is run by community store owners, the business environment and shopping experience can be quite different from a corporate, impersonal mall.
The word “Coopetition” has been coined to reflect cooperation between competitors. It is a sign of health in a secure business community. “If I run out of, let’s say, sacks of flour, and I need six,” a NorthSide bakery owner said, “I can call another neighborhood baker and he’ll gladly help me out. He knows I’ll do the same for him, no charge, just trust. That kind of cooperation keeps the whole neighborhood alive and thriving,” the merchant said proudly. “I think a Big Box Store or mall manager, whose boss might be a thousand miles away counting pennies, would probably get fired for acting like that,” he said.
Local store owners also improve service quality. They often work directly with their personnel, giving them a stronger understanding and sense of connection to the business. “I refuse to allow any of my workers call me “Mr.” Steve Senske said with a broad smile. “We work side-by-side and we learn to trust each other. And even if it takes a few extra rings, you’ll always get somebody you probably know picking up the phone, not a computer or someone in Bangladesh. We’re local.
“The work that is being done in Jamestown’s NorthSide shopping district,” Mayor Teresi explained, “is so successful it is being replicated in other neighborhoods and communities. We have become a model for how business expansion and success can work.”
“A dollar spent in Jamestown,” Mayor Teresi added, “stays in Jamestown. It is good for the whole community to do business with our local business owners.”
Another local merchant simply said, “Give your local businesses a chance. Save yourself a trip to Erie.”