Stores and businesses in downtown Irvington have come and gone throughout the years, but the one thing that has always remained the same is its composition of small and privately owned businesses.
Village Administrator Don Marra and Dorothea Marcus, Chamber President.
The continual preservation of a business district composed of privately owned businesses and "Mom and Pop shops" has made Irvington unique among many of the rivertowns.
Keeping the village’s business district this unique way in an age where the Wal-Marts and Starbucks of the world reign supreme is by no means an easy task. Many individuals, including Irvington Village Administrator Don Marra, wish to preserve an atmosphere where small businesses can flourish without the direct competition from a huge franchise. "Irvington has been against franchises and I do not expect that to change in the near future. Most residents are attracted to Irvington because of its unique character and they would like it to stay that way," Don Marra said. Through zoning restrictions, Irvington has been able to maintain its quaint and intimate atmosphere. According to Irvington-on-Hudson’s Chamber of Commerce President and Hudson Shores realtor Dorothea Marcus, "Irvington has done the best job in preserving its look and feel." The local government and the Chamber of Commerce are in concert for the betterment of Irvington residents and businesses. Yet, while striving to maintain the "old community" feel of Irvington, there are factors that can make it difficult for small businesses.
"Parking is always an issue — we could always use more," said Don Marra. Several villages, such as Irvington, were developed before the influx of such a large amount of automobiles. These villages are faced with the dilemma of where to place parking so that it won’t be taking away from other developments. In an effort to make parking more obtainable, Irvington has a no-meter policy. All parking on Main Street is free and cars can be parked in certain designated areas for up to 2 hours. This may appeal to the average resident who needs to run a few errands, but can be a difficult situation for local workers. "Some of the people I work with have to constantly move from one parking space to another so they don’t get ticketed," said Dorothea Marcus. She added that with the limited amount of parking available for residents and businesses it can create "tension."
Other factors that can stifle small businesses from thriving are zoning restrictions, which can be beneficial when eliminating large franchise competitors, but can also be an annoyance. There have been several informal talks about developing land on Bridge Street for mixed use which would include business and living space. One of the main obstacles that prevents the transition from talk to action is that much of the land in that area along the railroad tracks is zoned for industrial use only. For the ball to really get moving the area would have to be rezoned by the Board of Trustees. Currently they are in the process of discussing rezoning the industrial area to a possible mixed-use district. Zoning issues can also prevent the expansion of certain buildings, especially on Main Street where space is very limited.
Despite certain limitations, for the most part, Irvington business has thrived and welcomed new businesses while further nurturing its existing ones. The town recently added Amelia’s Attic, 39 Main Street Gallery and Flirt Sushi. The owners of River City Grill have purchased the building that formerly housed Solera, and Buttermilk Blue moved into a new building on Main Street. Irvington also will welcome in the near future a new stationery store to its Main Street family. "It’s funny, but even something like a new stationery store has created a buzz — people are really excited about it," noted Don Marra.
"It’s important in a healthy business climate to have magnet stores — stores that attract people. They don’t have to be big franchises but they have to be unique and serve a purpose," added Mr. Marra. Although Town Hall Theater and restaurants such as The Red Hat draw many residents and out-of-town visitors, Irvington is always interested in adding more "magnet stores." Both Don Marra and Dorothea Marcus would like to see a pharmacy, bookstore, and small coffee shop make their way into Irvington sometime in the future.
In a step to promote businesses in Irvington, the Chamber of Commerce is creating a 30- minute video on life in Irvington that will be distributed to each business and will be available on the Chamber of Commerce website. Dorothea Marcus notes that when it comes to Irvington they excel at "having the best of the old while embracing the new." The video, is expected to be available next month. Together, Village government along with the Chamber will continue to promote local businesses with further ventures such as the upcoming Fall Sidewalk Sale and a recent ad in the Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown, and Irvington Yellowbook.
"I have been active with the Chamber of Commerce and have seen it get stronger, playing a pivotal role in the health of Irvington’s business climate.
The Village, hand-in-hand with the Chamber, will be a positive influence on the future," said Marra.