Original Content


Hello Hornell,

Over the past six months we’ve explored many ideas and philosophies of what Hornell Partner’s for Growth is supposed to do for Hornell–what its role is, the main function of the organization…  There are a couple things that we know for certain, and a couple things I’ve continually beat you over the head with: 1. Hornell Partners for Growth is a business improvement district that utilizes a levy on commercial real estate within an assessed area, and 2. Promotion of that district seems to be the fundamental goal.  So where we all get confused or have differing opinions on is how to evenly distribute the promotion, and what the best form of promotion is.

I believe that the approach is multifaceted, but is actually simpler than expected.  We’ve been living in the ever-evolving era of technology our whole lives, and now more than ever that technology is difficult to keep up with.  Methods of media and social media change constantly, and it’s as easy as a iPhone click to get any information you want at your fingertips.  So, naturally in an technologically evolving social media realm, it’s difficult to stay relevant.

Keeping the topic of social media, let’s explore Facebook for just a moment.  Facebook helped HPG become relevant under the previous director, and she did a fabulous job utilizing this tool.  And today, Facebook still ranks as the most trafficked social media outlet in the US.  However, that is not the only outlet people are using.  Instagram, Snap Chat, and Twitter are all still very relevant (and I think there is still Myspace out there???).  And different age groups tend to use one outlet over the other.

Let’s break it down a step further, and let me remind you that we have 220+ businesses within the BID.  Approximately 50% (maybe more, I haven’t crunched the numbers), or approximately 110 businesses have a Facebook page.  Approximately 40%, or 44, of those businesses that have a page use their Facebook regularly.  Another approximate 33 businesses (30%) only use their Facebook periodically. Another approximate 22 businesses (20%) only use their Facebook monthly.  And approximately 11 (10%) have Facebook pages that they haven’t used in years.  So therein is a problem with how we have been going about utilizing social media.  Because of the varying usages of social media, some businesses get more individual promotion than others.  And some, because of there absence of social media, get zip!

I purposely stayed away from any Facebook sharing this past month (September) as part of an experiment of sorts… I wanted to see if there would be any backlash.  I wanted to see if people noticed.  And all in all, only a few people were really concerned.  Mostly because we were sharing upwards of 30 businesses/day, a lot of the shared posts get lost on the timeline.  So, we’ve been spinning our wheels a bit.  Not to say that sharing business’s posts don’t have any traction, but it was certainly saturating our page and making it difficult for people to find pertinent information.

So, what is the answer?  Good question!  With questions I don’t have the answers to, I turn to successful models and see what they do.  The most relevant successful BID in close proximity to us is Corning’s Gaffer District (que in all the naysayers that say I can’t compare Hornell to Corning), and if you take a look at their Facebook Page you’ll notice that they don’t go through every day and share each individual business’s post.  But what you will find is original content rooted in the Gaffer District’s major events, and pertinent to the ENTIRE BID.

So, my answer is one of trial & error.  What I’m implementing this week  (starting Thursday) is a new Facebook sharing schedule, along with an original content sharing schedule.  Mondays & Thursdays will be “Sharing Days” where I search out the individual business’s Facebook Page and go crazy sharing posts.  Mondays I’ll leave for the professional services like banks, insurance, health and medicine, and so on.  Thursdays will be your dining, drinking, and entertainment.  Tuesdays and Wednesdays I’m going to try to blog a bit more and keep it fresh with original content.

The more original content we can provide, the more evenly dispersed the promotion of the BID will be.  And, at the end of the day we want to ATTRACT PEOPLE TO HORNELL!  I think if we continue to show the diversity, quality, and excitement of our businesses in unique, original ways we will start to develop that “place identity” I’ve mentioned before in previous blogs.  Alongside the originality of what we produce, if we continue to speak transparently about our current issues, repertoire of ideas, and the possibilities of the future, we, as a BID, can really hone in on what it means to be a desired downtown area.




Hornell for the Holidays


Hello Hornell,

As I’ve mentioned before, focusing on a couple of really solid events will reflect a more significant benefit to the businesses that pay the levy for the Hornell Partners for Growth Business Improvement District.  So, the first grandiose event that HPG can really focus on is our Holiday event–formerly Holiday Aglow and WhoNELLville.  This year, we have decided to call it “Hornell for the Holidays” and have created a website hornellholidays.com to help you better navigate the event.

We are keeping the Holiday staples like tree lightings, horse & wagon rides, Santa Land, the parade, and so on, but we plan to add some fun events within the event.  “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” travelling music is one new idea.  This event will entail a live musician playing a series of 4 separate gigs throughout the business improvement district.  The goal is to showcase the entire BID and get some activities going on each area of the BID.  Accompanying the music, there will be a hot chocolate & cookie competition, and other rockin’ necessities for a great winter party.

This event is great because we can infuse the community aspect that is needed, cater to the family element that is crucial to Holiday events and heavily incorporate the youth, and also be able to give a few nightlife opportunities for the adults.  And on top of it all, we can showcase the businesses throughout the entire district.

We’re still doing a decorating competition between businesses within the district, but we are changing the theme this year.  WhoNELLville was great and there were many great decorated storefronts, but we’ve decided to open it up to ANY Holiday Movie, to allow for more and new competition.

We’ve also confirmed some real reindeer for the opening weekend, along with a few other new additives.

I’ll be blogging a bit about the Hornell for the Holidays event over the next month, as well as continually updating hornellholidays.com, our HPG website, and also our social media to keep you informed about the event.  If you’ve got ideas, thoughts, or concerns, now is the time to let me know (email hornellpartners@gmail.com), as I’ll be heavily planning this event out over the next month!



HPG Walking Tour Part 8: Broadway & Main Street

Hello Hornell,

Today I wrapped up the majority of the walking tour of the business improvement district.  I’ve learned quite a bit since I started the tour last month, and I hope that learning has been extended on to all that have been following.  Before I begin today’s tour, I want to note that the businesses listed are ones with visible signage or storefronts.  So if I missed anyone, I’ll apologize in advance (I am actually physically walking when I do these tours and not just looking at an outdated map).  There are a couple of extended parts of streets I’ll have to circle back around to in a later blog so that I accurately showcase the entire BID.

I started off on Broadway this morning and walked towards Main Street.  The Ryan Agency and Hornell Association start us off, followed by Paddy’s Pub, the Elks Club, and the Hornell Community Arts Center.  Across from them is the Off Track Betting and Peebles.  Hopping back over to the other side of the street, Miss Lisa’s Artistry of Dance, Allegheny Eye Associates, and the Spectator are in one section, with the Texas Café directly across from them.  Next to the Texas is an event project by the Flaitz brothers that will soon come to fruition, and across from that is the AM Vets, Hornell Senior Center, Thrifthauser & Salmon Orthodontics, Revolution Dance Studio, and Heather Stanford Photography.  Rounding out the end of Broadway is Maple City Savings on the right, and Sunset Hydroponics on the left.

Skipping on down to the corner of Center Street and Main, I continued my walking tour.  Directly on the corner is the Spotlight Movie Theater, followed by the Dollar General, Hornell Furniture Outlet, and Davidson’s Furniture.  Across the road is Pizza King, The Main Frame, The Classy Café and Deli, Ed’s Computers, State Farm, Nails Tech, Spectrum, Doug’s Flower Shop, Data Processing Company, and Hornell Hearing Center.

The next chunk of Main Street has us going down the opposite side of the street with Remax leading us to Erie Line Antiques, Family Life Services, The Brute, JHL Architecture, the CATs Cradle, Metro PCS, Howard Hannah, and Burger King.  Heading back up the other side of the street, we have N3 Vapor leading us off, followed by Andolina Dental, City Hall, John P Meyer, DDS, Salon 96, Lions Will, Soho, BOCES Adult Education, Kickin’ Country 105.3, Shear Perfection, Sports Fanatic, Woody’s Pawn Shop, Erica Leigh’s, and Andy’s Sub Shop.

Twenty Five percent of the businesses in the BID are located on this short stint of the walk.  That makes sense, as in theory these two streets should be the downtown center.

Now that we have completed (for the most part–I’m sure I’ll have a follow up blog hitting all the places that I may or may not have missed) the walking tour, we will be breaking the blog down into original content pertaining to the different sections of the BID, to the different types of businesses that the BID encompasses, to the urban design of the BID, and to the potential of the BID.

Thank you for walking along!


HPG Walking Tour 7.5: Remaining Side Streets Erie & Elm

Hello Hornell,

Today’s walking tour takes us back to starting on the corner of Loder and Erie Ave.  Heading towards the city center on Erie Ave, we only have two business that are in taxable locations, and that is the Chinese Buffet and The Erie Federal Credit Union building (but they are merged with newly opened First Heritage Federal Credit Union).  Continuing down Erie Ave and turning on Elm Street,  we have Maxfit 24 (an upcoming gym), Oak Orchard Health, and St. James (UR Medicine) Express Care.

Although this walk was short, we now have completed all of the side streets that are in the BID.  This leaves us with just Broadway and Main Street left to walk.  The majority of the businesses within in the district will be located on the last chunk of the tour.

It was important to see all of the major streets and side streets within the BID because now we have a working visual as to what the BID encompasses–which is quite a bit.

We’ll take a look at Broadway and Main at some point this week to round out our tour!  After the walking tour is complete, you can expect some original blog posts pertaining to the plethora of businesses within the district.  Our goal is to bring to you more than just a Facebook share.

Thanks for following.




Taking Root


Hello Hornell,

A simple internet search will give you the definition of a grassroots movement, which is one that utilizes the people in a district, region, or community as the basis for a movement. Grassroots movements use collective action from the local level to inspire change at the local, regional, national, or international level. Grassroots movements are associated with bottom-up, rather than top-down decision making, and are generally more of a spontaneous act.

The reason I give you this definition is because I have seen an increased energy amongst the community and business owners.  And in just the past week, there has been a couple instances of a grassroots beginning.

First off, our Coffee Connections–which are as simple as they sound and entail people gathering over a cup of coffee and discussing urban issues and ideas–have increasingly peaked the interest of the local business owners.  This past Coffee Connection was a re-cap on all of the other topics we’ve previously discussed, such as tactical urbanism, planning, place identity, and tourism.  And we also discussed the future of our holiday event for this year.  The Coffee Connection is a great platform to discuss concerns and also network.  But, the main point is that the people present had IDEAS that are tangible and reachable.

Following the Coffee Connection, John Lusk of JHL Architecture (located on Main Street) had a public meeting with officials from the City, as well as business owners on an updated urban “Masterplan” proposal for the city.  This would detail everything from beautification, to making 2nd & 3rd story floors accessible, to utilizing parking more efficiently.  I thought it was interesting to note that John and fellow architect Quinten Castle spoke about how there has been a major shift in how people aspire to live.  They mentioned that urban sprawling is something that my generation is overall against, and that downtown living is a more appealing environment for a number of reasons–transportation needs are minimal, grocery & retail are available, entertainment is accessible, etc.  The ideas that John and Quinten proposed were exciting.  The focus for their next meeting, which they plan to make more public, is to decide on a first step in tackling this masterplan, and trying to get the city and other organizations involved.

Back tracking a bit, a week earlier I proposed a plan for the 2019 events to the HPG board of directors–which was approved.  And the events will be tailor fit to this whole concept of re-imaging and renewing downtown.  So for 2019 you can expect a more focused event on our city heritage, an event that focuses on a major act, and an updated & improved holiday event.  You can also expect a more organized, legitimate Farmers Market, and a consistent lineup of local musicians throughout the summer.  With our budget, it made the most sense to concentrate on a few quality events, and promote the district as a whole.  These events should have the most trickle down effect, as compared to the plethora of small events we currently provide.

So, with people energized about giving Hornell a facelift and our plan to generate more meaningful events for downtown, I’m led to believe that we are at the beginning of a grassroots movement where the community is involved, as well as the businesses that want to see Hornell flourish.  There has been some naysayers, but I think that at the very least, these talks and events have people asking questions and wanting change.  And it leaves me in an interesting position–being both the Executive Director of Hornell Partners for Growth and a business owner in the district–a position of diligent action.  And if I can with these positions be a catalyst of a movement where we all want to see change, then I will use this platform to do so.

So the question for the other powers that be is simple: do you want to see the Hornell downtown develop and flourish?  Yes or no?

I’d hope that the answer would be yes, 100 times over.  So, lets see where these events and these ideas take us….




HPG Walking Tour Part 7.0: Remaining Side Streets

Hello Hornell,

Over the past two weeks I’ve walked the different portions of the business improvement district (BID).  The goal has been to lead us to the “downtown” city center.  We’ve learned many things on these simple walks about Hornell’s urban design and the perplexing layout of Hornell Partner’s for Growth’s district.

The first few walks focused on the larger streets that act as the outlying boundaries to the BID.  These last few walks are a bit different.  Today we are going to focus on a small portion of Genesee Street and then later today I’ll talk about Erie & Elm, and then we will finish our Walking Tour this weekend with Broadway and Main Street.

Genesee Street only has four businesses in the BID, but I thought it was worthy of its own blog post because it really illustrates how very sectioned the BID is.  Genesee street is a larger street and houses a few businesses on it, but only a small portion of it is actually assessed.  So, a few viable businesses just miss the cut off to part of the BID.

The ones that are in the BID, starting on the corner of Seneca & Genesee are Allstate Insurance, Verizon, the United States Postal Service, and Hornell Surgical Group.  Once you go past the corner of Genesee & Church, the BID ends.

Later today we will take a look at Elm & Erie.

Hang in there, the walking tour is almost over!!!


HPG Walking Tour Part 6: Center, Church, and Maple


Hello Hornell!

We are starting to get close to rounding out the walking tour.  Today I lumped Center, Church, and Maple Streets together because they are some of the smaller tertiary streets in the business improvement district.  They are just a bit off of the main drag, but still much more tangible than some of the outliers.

Starting at the corner of Center and Loder and walking back into the city, the first business is Raymond Callahan Insurance, followed by Envoy Environmental Consultants, UR Medicine’s Pinnacle Family Medicine, soon to open Maxfit 24, Oak Orchard Health and the Hornell Area Family YMCA.

Taking a slight detour on to Main Street, I head over to Church Street.  Family Farm Insurance, College Suppliers, Tip-Toes, St. Ann’s Academy, John Dagon’s Attorney at Law, Oak Orchard (second location on the short walk) accompanied by Dr. Collins and Dr. Pieklo, and Dagon’s Funeral Home make up the entire Church Street section.

Rounding the corner onto Maple Street, Bee-Bop Hair Shop, Steuben Trust, Bullfrog Realty & Property Management, and Brandy’s Cup of Joe end the little tour.

I thought it was interesting to note that on these side streets, with very close proximity to Main Street, the majority of the businesses were professional services and health oriented businesses.  This actually makes sense to me because in a perfect world a city’s Main Street would be the focal point where the “dynamic” storefronts are located.  And on the side streets close to Main Street, professional services should set up shop due to the proximity of the downtown scene and feasibility for flow of traffic without completely clouding the dynamic scene.  Now don’t get me wrong, having professional services on your Main Street (or primary, showcased street) is a good thing.  But having dynamic, moving storefronts, retail, restaurant, and entertainment is critical to establishing a consistent and appealing district.  The ratio should be (and this is purely based on personal observations of other thriving downtowns and holds no scientific weight) 70% dynamic businesses, 30% professional services and the like on your showcased street (and this means 1st floor-ground level).  The surrounding streets (and above the storefronts) should account for the majority of your professional services.  And I think that this is something that Hornell’s downtown certainly maintains and does well.  The problem is that there are TOO MANY vacant storefronts on Main Street.  So, since we are NOT living in a perfect world, filling ANY vacancy in the downtown with ANY type of viable business is still WAY MORE appealing than empty windows.

Tomorrow we will hit up the remaining side streets.  Join me as we venture towards the city center.



HPG Walking Tour Part 5: Slight Detour


Hello Hornell!

As you already know, I’ve been walking the Hornell Partners for Growth Business Improvement District.  This weekend I finished it up, and will talk about the remaining section in the coming days.  Today, however, I’m going to take a slight detour from the walking tour, and talk more at length about a concept I’ve talked a bit about at the Coffee Connections and in our semi-bi-weekly newsletter.  That concept is: Tactical Urbanism.

To give you a summary on what tactical urbanism is, I looked to tacticalurbanismguide.com for a concise definition.  According to the site, tactical urbanism is “all about action. Also known as DIY Urbanism, Planning-by-Doing, Urban Acupuncture, or Urban Prototyping, this approach refers to a city, organizational, and/or citizen-led approach to neighborhood building using short-term, low-cost, and scalable interventions to catalyze long-term change.”  So in essence, temporarily changing the flow of traffic (pedestrian and vehicle), or using dynamic and visual approaches to building or public space to encourage business.  Tactical Urbanism is often a blended approach of community oriented projects to facilitate urban and economic growth and prosperity.

So, when I first took the HPG Executive Director gig, I too was a little uneducated on what exactly a Business Improvement District is and does, as I think a lot of others were.  Realizing that (and I’ve said this before) a good way to business is through the community, I noticed that the relationship between HPG, the community, and the businesses within HPG was (is) strained and is not symbiotic.  So, in an effort to educate myself as quickly as possible, I instantly formed contact with the Albany BID, the Central BID, and simply asked “where should I start?”

The answer was a Placemaking & Tactical Urbanism conference at the Gloversville, NY Downtown BID.  I attended this conference on the 7th and 8th day of my hire, and it quickly pointed me on a path for Hornell.  Gloversville’s urban design is much like Hornell’s.  There is a downtown that resembles Hornell greatly, but it’s major highways lead traffic away from the downtown.  And there is no reason that Gloversville shouldn’t thrive, as it is 25 minutes or less from major tourist destinations like Saratoga, the Adirondacks, etc.  But, due to some design flaws and unwillingness for change, the downtown slowly became more and more empty.  Until, the BID started utilizing a few new concepts including Placemaking & Tactical Urbanism! (Que in the “great idea” light bulb)

So, after attending the conference and seeing the similarities between Hornell and Gloversville, I thought to myself: if nothing else, Tactical Urbanism needs to be a large part of what I do as the new director.  That way, we won’t lose the sense of community and we also will gain, at the very least, attention–good or bad, only time can tell.

Over the summer, HPG was concentrated on the events that were already in motion: Wildflower Festival, Fourth of July Celebration, Chalk-A-Mile, Monarch Festival, Thursdays in the Park, and Farmers Market.  So, my train derailed a bit as I focused on seeing these events through.  Now that those are over with for the summer (with the exception of the Farmers Market), we can get back to the ideas I gained at this conference.  From walking the city this last week, I have seen so much potential for tactical urbanism.

After the walking tour is complete, I’m going to blog about some tactical urbanism efforts.  I challenge you to find these efforts before I write about them.  I don’t plan to be subtle about it either, so I anticipate people talking about it before we get it penned to paper.

Join me the rest of this week for the continued Walking Tour, and thank you for taking this detour with me!


HPG Walking Tour Part 4: Along the Tracks

Hello Hornell,

Today I took a stroll along the tracks and took a look at the businesses that make up the southside of the BID. Starting on the corner of Loder Street we have the Depot Center Plaza that is home to Stop & Shop, Smoking Joes, Roses Tan, Redemption Center, and Roses Gym.  Across the way is The Erie Depot Center with Universal Health Network, Cansiteo Family Practice, and the Erie Depot Museum all housed there.  Up and across the street is Tom’s Liquors & Marino’s Restaurant.

Continuing up Loder, the Whistlestop Plaza is home to Maple City Physical Therapy & the Medically Oriented Gym, as well as the Whistlestop Laundry, Salvation Army, and a Byrne Dairy warehouse.  Across the street is the Knights of Columbus.

Then I continue my walk up Loder, and cross under the tracks over to Canisteo Street where Best Western Maple City Inn starts us off.  The VFW follows suite, and down the road we have H & R Block, Dancing on Edge Studios, the 7 Eleven, and the Southside.  A newer business, Rustic Luxe acts as the boundary business of the BID.

On this walk, it was evident that the businesses that exist, exist in little clusters of two or three.  There are some vacancies in between these businesses, but what is really interesting is the layout.  The railroad and Route 36 really separate this portion of the BID from the rest, and make it an odd navigation. This walk just further solidified that the lay out of the BID is very confusing.  The portioning of streets, such as Canisteo Street and Loder Street, makes if difficult for people to visualize clear boundaries.

In a direct comparison to the Gafer District BiD in Corning, Hornell Partners for Growth BID is entirely a different animal.  The Gafer District is set up in a rectangular grid, with two main streets being featured (the popular Market Street being the highlight), and a couple of small streets that intersect it.  I am lead to believe that the HPG BID is centered around Main Street and Seneca Street as the “downtown,” but instead of simplifying the district to showcase an actual downtown, it seems that a lot of parts of Hornell were incorporated, and a lot of important parts were left out.

To add more confusion to the mix, HPG was at one point allowing a membership–something that has since been ceased due to BID law and regulation–and this, truthfully, has been the major driving force of why I’m outlining the BID on these walking tours.  Once everyone fully understands the layout (and believe me it took me a hot second to understand), I think we can better establish ourselves as a district.

Tomorrow I’m going to finish up all of the tertiary streets.  Saturday I’ll tackle Broadway and Main Street to finish up the tour.

Thank you all for touring with me!


HPG Walking Tour Part 3: The Plazas

Hello Hornell,

This morning’s walking tour focused on two plazas and I also threw in the entirety of Park Drive.  I think that it is interesting to note that the two plazas and Park Drive combined make up for approximately 18% of the total BID.

Starting at the north end of the Hornell Plaza on Route 36, Maple City Discount Liquor & Wines starts off the row of businesses.  Following suite is The Cutting Crew, Rent-A-Center and Kay Jewelers.  Wegmans is next in line, being of the bigger businesses to fall within our BID.  After Wegmans is Maurice’s, GNC, Pizza Hut Express, Zoom Tan, The Shoe Department, GameStop, PAK Nails, Olympia Sports, The Dollar Tree, and Verizon.  Another large BID business, Walmart rounds out that portion of the plaza.  On the opposite side of the parking lot, Dunkin Donuts and Applebee’s are stand alone buildings.  McDonald’s starts a group of businesses on the south end of the plaza.  Behind McDonald’s there is Wilkin’s Laser Car Wash, Auto Zone, Subway, Hornell Hookah & Smoke Shop, and the Armed Forces Career Center.

After walking by all of these buildings, I returned to my jeep and drove down to the Hornell Railroad Plaza off of Park Drive.  In this plaza we have Rite Aid starting us off, followed by Family Dollar, Aaron’s, Save-A-Lot, and Tractor Supply.  From here, I parked and walked up Park Drive.  Weyand’s Chiropractic starts us off as the first business outside of the plaza.  Following Weyand’s is Finger Lakes Granite, Advantage Cleaning Services, IDMA, K & A Hair Studio, Park Drive Power Equipment, Park Drive Car Wash, Robert Sweeny Agency, and County Cabs.  Next in line is Railhead Brewing, followed by Lewis Garage Doors, and ending with Triple C’s Tasty Freeze as the last business within the boundaries of the BID on Park Drive.

As you might expect, the plazas are filled with businesses and there were not many (maybe one) open storefronts on this stretch of the tour.  Plazas are convenient and are usually centered around a shopping experience–such as Wegman’s, Walmart, or Save-A-Lot.  It’s essential to have large business like this because there is always a trickle down effect to small businesses within the vicinity of larger businesses.  Embracing a symbiotic relationship between large and small business is really critical for economic stability and longevity of small businesses.

However, the proximity of these plazas to downtown can pose a problem.  They are a bit out of the way of the downtown scene.  And when thinking in terms of a business improvement district, directing people out of your downtown is counterproductive.  So, changing the flow of traffic so that the needs of the plazas are met and the needs of the downtown are met is going to be critical over the next few years.  I personally think that visibility and signage is going to make a profound impact.

In a perfect world you’d want your customer to make a trip to the supermarket and, on the way to or from, experience the mom and pop shops of downtown.  I think that by having some signage such as “Entering Hornell’s Business District” or something of the like would have huge benefits–and is something that we have discussed at great lengths.  And then we could establish that symbiotic relationship I mentioned previously.

So, re-capping the last three days I have learned three major lessons:

  1. The BID is large and difficult to navigate, but truly offers a unique set of businesses along with essential needs of customers
  2. There is great potential to grow, and there are many available storefronts for businesses to move into.  The difficulty is going to be enforcement on current landlords to keep up their buildings and push to fill them
  3. Aside from the businesses within the plazas, there is very little symbiotic relationship between small and large business.  However, pointing people in the right direction (through placemaking & signage) could be hugely beneficial.  Flow of traffic is key.

Tomorrow I’m going to take a gander at the rest of the businesses in the southern part of the BID and along the railroad.  Join me and let’s see what insights I will gain from tomorrow’s tours.