Broadalbin business district hit hard by decline


Recorder News Staff

BROADALBIN -- The Broadalbin Pharmacy. Java Junction. Nonni's Flower Cart. Maggie's Place.

In the last few years, Linda Eastman has helplessly watched as, one by one, her friends and neighbors have quietly, but permanently, closed their doors.

What was once a thriving business district in the village of Broadalbin, Eastman says, is quickly becoming little more than a series of empty storefronts.

"It's very sad," Eastman said. "We've lost a lot of businesses in the last few years."

Eastman, who owns and operates both the Broadalbin Christian Bookstore and Linda's Antiques & Collectibles, has witnessed more than three decades of growth and decline in the village's business district.

When she first opened shop, Eastman said, the district resembled the one residents know today.

"There were seven empty stores when I opened," Eastman said.

Over time, however, that changes, businesses thrived and the Broadalbin's downtown flourished.

"Seven years ago, people were fighting over who was going to be the next store on the street," said Eastman.

Then, in 2010, the Broadalbin Pharmacy, which had anchored the district for decades, shut its doors.

That, Eastman said, was the beginning of a decline that was further fueled by a stumbling economy.

People, Eastman said, simply aren't shopping, preferring instead to travel out of town and frequent the more well-known chain stores.

"There are times when I feel like saying: 'The last person to leave the business district, please turn off the lights," Eastman said. "A lot of it is people's perceptions and the perception is there's not a lot in Broadalbin."

Eastman operates a community Facebook page dedicated to the village of Broadalbin.

"Every time I post another closing people are so sad," Eastman said. "They say: "Oh, it's terrible' or 'how horrible.' "I don't see those same people shopping downtown."

Next door to Eastman, Bonnie Pera has owned and operated Mountainview Custom Framing for 22 years.

Just two weeks ago, she resigned herself to the fact that 2013 would be her last and announced her intentions to close her shop.

"In February, if I saw a half dozen people, that was a lot," Pera said.

Pera, too, identified the closing of the pharmacy and the downturn in the economy as having been detrimental to the village's small business community.

"We lost our pharmacy," Pera said. "That was like losing an anchor store. Our draw was the pharmacy."

"I'm an extra," she added. "This is a really extra thing that people can't afford when the economy goes bad."

Though Pera is still struggling to hold on to the business she has poured more than two decades of hard work and sacrifice into, she is no longer in need of a "Closed" sign.

She's been granted what she called "a miracle."

"I got a shot in the arm, so I'm going to stick it out," Pera said.

Just as she prepared to begin the long, arduous task of clearing out her shop, Pera experienced a sudden boost in business.

"A lady came in with this huge framing order," Pera said. "That morning -- when I finally had my head wrapped around it."

Additional orders quickly followed Pera said, allowing her to hang on for at least a little while longer.

"I'm going to try and stick it out as long as I can," Pera said. "I don't want to leave another empty spot on Main Street."

For Eastman, there really is no rhyme or reason to how she's managed to keep her doors open for 31 years. Just faith and resolve, with a little help form the income provided by the numerous part time jobs she's worked over the years.

"It's a miracle akin to the parting of the Red Sea," Eastman laughed. "By the grace and mercy of God. There's no other reason I can think of."

Eastman is also struggling with just how to turn the economic tide in the community.

"I don't know the answer," Eastman said. "In 31 years, I've tried every marketing strategy I know and looked for new ones."

"What it takes, honestly, is people to care the way they cared when Bonnie announced she was closing, but they need to care about all of downtown," she added. "We need more people with a vision for retail in Broadalbin, a vision for community stores, a vision of what community stores mean compared to chain stores. We need people who realize that small businesses are the background of this community."

Though discouraged by the reemergence of empty storefronts along Main Street, Eastman is far from defeated and still holds out hope that her beloved community will thrive once again.

"I'm not going to call it the end because we're not going to quit," Eastman said.