HPG Walking Tour Part 2: Seneca Street


Hello Hornell!

This morning I embarked on my second walk about the business improvement district (BID) and tackled Seneca Street (and businesses with clearest visibility from Seneca Street).  Seneca Street makes up for approximately 16% of the total BID, and I was quite interested in how the businesses are laid out.  Seneca Street seems to be parceled into little clusters of businesses with residential and, unfortunately, empty buildings between the businesses.

At the northern boundary of the BID on Seneca, directly before the bridge leading to North Hornell, I started my walk south towards the city center.  On my right, a Hornell staple restaurant the Italian Villa leads the way as the boundary building.  On my left, the Park Automotive, Lamac’s Automax, and Fred Roberts Auto Store all lead the way as a boundary building as well.

Heading down the road on my left the Maple City Market plaza is home to Step It Up Fitness for Women, Virdee Medical Group, and is an outpost for Covered Wagon Tours.  Across from the plaza on my right is Stewarts Auto.  Travelling down the road further, a new addition, First Heritage Bank, is now up and operational on my left.  On the right, the Hornell Senior High School.

Directly across from the High School there are a cluster of businesses–Red Apple/Kwik Fill, Oil Express, Logo Print Company, and Yum Froyo.  Just up the street, on my righthand side, another frozen dairy retailer, The Scoop, sits on the corner near the school.  Across the street is Sal’s Trophies.  Rounding out the area near the school is Giovanni’s Pizzeria & Restaurant on my left, and Don Saam’s Insurance just a bit up on my right.  Continuing up the road on the same side is the New York State Armory housing the National Guard, and across from that is Planned Parenthood.

Then we get into a bit of residential and empty buildings.  But, just up ahead on my left is Brandy’s Cup of Joe (technically on Maple Street, but just as visible from Seneca Street) and across from them is a couple of our fraternal organizations–The American Legion & The Moose Club.  Directly across the street with one of the biggest visibilities on the entire road is Steuben Trust Company.

The 7 Eleven, just south of Steuben Trust on the same side, is a sort of a transitional point where the commercial buildings begin to get clustered in a tighter formation (starting to resemble a city downtown).  Staying on the left side of the street and continuing to head South towards the city center, Decorator’s Choice leads the way towards Main Street, followed by Garcia’s Barbershop, Hornell Family Dental, Billy Schu’s Food Bar, Shults & Shults, and ending at the City Hall.

On the opposite side of the street from 7 Eleven, The ARC of Steuben leads the way towards Main Street, followed by Stearn’s Poultry, Sandy’s Hair Zoo, Over the Bridge Pet Supplies, Arbor Housing Development, Mengel Metzger Barr & Co LLP, Labella Associates, and the House of Mr. Lou.

On a positive note, where there are businesses on this street, there is much life and traffic.  Even at 8am, there was a lot going on.  Almost all of the businesses were open, or close to opening, and there is a plethora of different types of services on this street alone.  There are four places to get meals (three that offer libations), two places to grab an ice cream cone, a coffee shop, two banks & an insurance company, five places to get you car worked on (or parts for your car–or just a new one), two gas stations, two barbers & a hair salon, a law office, a tax office, a financial planning office, a medical practice & dental practice, a family service organization, two housing organizations, an educational center, a home improvement business, a travel organization, a pet store, and even a trophy place!  That’s a lot going on, in my humble opinion, and it seems as though every need is met in some fashion.

On the negative side, there are a lot of vacant buildings on Seneca Street–all are still within the BID and required to pay the commercial levy.  Getting ground level, and experiencing the empty buildings up close is disheartening.  The potential for these buildings is astounding, and the potential for Hornell to grow is as good as ever.  However, the biggest problems we face are the empty storefronts, deteriorating facades, and a resistance to change.

Yesterday when I started my walking tour, my intention was to show you how big the business improvement district is and how diverse the businesses are.  Today, my intentions have evolved to showcase the potential for growth within the district itself.

Join me tomorrow as I walk the major plazas in the BID!  Each walk has offered me new perspective on the BID, and I’m interested to see how the plazas fit into our walking tour and what knowledge I’ll gain from the walk.





HPG Walking Tour Part 1: The Westward Outliers


Hello Hornell,

This week I’ll be strolling about the business improvement district (BID) to give you (and me) a better understanding of how vast it is, how jumbled up it is, and how diverse the businesses are.  Today I tackled the “Westward Outliers” as I like to call the section that runs from the corner of Route 36 and Main Street west along Main (Route 21) for approximately one full mile.

The Westward Outlier area is one of the longer stretches of the BID, but only encompasses about 9% of the total businesses that make up the BID.  Nonetheless, I started my morning out right by walking up and down the stretch to get a ground level perspective.

At the furthest westward point of the Westward Outliers, North Main Lumber/Builders Bargain Outlet acts as the boundary to the BID.  So, I used this renowned business as my starting point for the stroll.  It was really interesting to see how the dynamics and diversity of the businesses change as I walked closer to the city.

Before I go any further, I’d like to note that with the amount of businesses in the BID, and being only one person (if only I had a clone of myself!), our directory of businesses are slightly off, but I’m diligently trying to update all of the existing businesses within the BID.  Even if I went to one business each day, it would take me almost an entire work year to get to them all.  So, doing the walking tour of the city is already paying off, as I’ve noticed buildings and businesses that I would not have realized were there if I were merely driving by.

Anyway, as I continued to walk back towards the city, I noticed TJ’s Automotive and Super Vacuum on the corner of Main & McLean.  And nestled behind them is Stone Cottage Cakery.  So, already in just exploring four businesses in a portion of the BID we have met 4 separate needs–home construction and improvement, automotive repair, household cleaning, and culinary creations!

Continuing my walk back down Main Street, the next business is Early Head Start Child Development Center, a division of Pro Action.  After that is Bel Taglio Hair Design, followed by the Hornell Massage Group, Hunt Realty, and Great Expectations.  In less than 9% of the BID we’ve already seen businesses from construction & automotive, to realty, to child care & development, to health & beauty–all within a short walk, and even shorter drive.

After Hunt and Great Expectations, I start getting closer to the city center and stumble upon our first mini-plaza.  Michael John’s Corner Convenience Store starts the mini-plaza, followed by Hornell Spa & Nails, Super Wok, and Verizon Wireless rounds out the plaza.  Directly next to them, just a parking lot over, is the new addition Taco Bell located right on the corner of Main and Rt. 36.  Directly across the street, and ending the Westward Outliers, is the Hornell Chamber of Commerce building which houses the Chamber, the IDA, System One, and us (Hornell Partners for Growth).

What I hope you take away from my walking tours is how unique the BID is.  Throughout the week, I’ll be portioning the BID out and walking them towards the city center.  You’ll notice as I explain the areas that the BID looks like a spider with all these legs (streets) stretching around in no real concise matter.  The shape and size of the BID makes it extremely difficult for people (including myself from time to time) to visualize it.

Tomorrow, I’m going to walk down another large stretch of the BID that has a more concentrated amount of businesses on it–Seneca Street.  The portion of Seneca Street that is in the BID is just shy of a mile long and will have its own unique mix of businesses.

Thank you for joining me on the first leg of the HPG walking tour!





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Hello Hornell,

There are over 220 businesses within the Hornell Partners for Growth business improvement district.  That’s pretty impressive, if you ask me.  And there are many, many more great businesses that surround the BID.  Over half of the BID businesses are professional services such as insurance & financial, health & beauty, law & safety.  The other half is comprised of retail & grocery, food & drink, and entertainment.

The original Hornell Partners for Growth BID was set up for beautification of the downtown during the holiday season some 25 or 30 years ago.  On each street that the BID exists, the founders had to get a majority vote to allow it to come to fruition.  The BID is a mandatory tax on commercial property within the assessed areas–so those businesses that voted for it willingly did so knowing that once the BID was formed, there was no changing the BID (that means no adding or subtracting properties).  That BID tax (or “levy” if we want to be proper) has funded Hornell Partners for Growth from the start and continues to fund it.  Starting out with beautification, the BID has grown to incorporate more elements of business development (all on a small budget I might add).

One of the biggest things that HPG has done in later years has been to add quite a few community minded events.  There are “Thursdays in the Park” in conjunction with the “Hornell Farmers Market,” and bigger events like “The Monarch Festival,” “Wildflower Festival,” and “WhoNELLville,” and even the City’s Fourth of July celebration was tasked to HPG. All of these events were a pivotal step for the BID, and the idea to generate business to downtown was the ultimate goal.  However, the trickle down effects of these events have been hard to see recently.

I’ve completed a full summer of running (or attempting to run) these events to the best of my ability, and I’ll be the first to say that my ego has been checked–hard.  Many of the business owners I’ve talked to have expressed concerns that these events bring very little benefit to them.  And while I believe that the way to business IS THROUGH THE COMMUNITY, I also noticed that we have spent entirely too much effort on events that have been drastically underattended and sorely unsuccessful.  I’ve seen the vendors and food truckers casting stares of frustration at me because attendance is so low.  And the diehard Thursday in the Parkers are upset because there are not enough vendors or things for their children to do, save for a bouncy house–which has a story in its own. I’ve seen the total disregard for these events by BID businesses, with a whopping 1% or less BID involvement by average. And apart from our Facebook sharing, these businesses have started to wonder “what is HPG doing for me?”

So, we’ve (the Board of Directors & myself collectively) been spending much of our time trying to rescope HPG to better suite the needs of the businesses, while also keeping the community in mind.  We want people to be able to view HPG as a tool for growth and to attract people to our downtown.  But in order to do so, we have to look past the Facebook posts and bouncy houses–which are great elements of HPG’s services, but NOT ALL that we can offer.

So what’s our plan, you ask?  Well, obviously you’ve heard us say before that we are giving our logo a facelift and trying to draw from our industrial heritage–much like the Gaffer District.  It’s apparent when you look at the Gaffer District’s logo (a dude blowing some glass) that the district is formed around it’s heritage of… drum roll please… glassblowing!!!!!  So, yeah we are not trying to reinvent the wheel here.  We are trying to create a logo that makes sense for our district and showcases our heritage, which incase you haven’t heard their whistles blowing, our industrial heritage is the railroad.

But aside from the facelift, we also have to deliver the goods.  So, on a tangible level, we’ve got to make the events that we do sexy and appealing enough to attract three groups: 1. The actual BID businesses, 2. Our Hornell Community, and 3. Customers from OUTSIDE of Hornell.  All three of these groups are extremely important.  We need the BID businesses to flourish and want to be involved with HPG’s events… we need our community to support the businesses and the events (taking into account the financial limitations of our community)… and we need to DRAW people from outside the area, plain and simple.

So, the Thursdays in the Park are wrapping up this week and next, and we will not have another HPG event until the “WhoNELLville.”  So, that will give me sometime to really plan this event with BOTH the businesses and the community in mind.  And going forward, doesn’t it make more sense to put our efforts into a few good events AND DO THEM RIGHT instead of wasting out budget on a bunch of small events that we cannot properly advertise for or offer anything unique?

I believe that focusing on two, possibly three events that are well advertised REGIONALLY AND BEYOND will have more tangible results for businesses in the long run.  At the end of the day, I want to bring people into your business, and my business, and her business, and his too!

I guess the point I’m trying to really hammer here is that now that the chaotic mess of the summer is over, you can expect us to regroup and focus on developing a few GREAT events to draw people to Hornell.


Justin Recktenwald, Executive Director of HPG


Partners for Growth


Change is something that can be shocking and scary at times, but ultimately we are in a fast paced world that is constantly changing.  This is why the Hornell Partners for Growth, Hornell’s Business Improvement District (BID), is exploring more avenues–some old, some new–to give our district a voice.  We’re in a unique position to really transform our small city and develop it for the better.  And I personally think that being open and transparent about our plans is critical for growth.  So, I wanted to better introduce myself as the Executive Director of the Hornell Partners for Growth and give you some perspective from my viewpoint…

First and foremost, I appreciate the businesses and the Board of Directors that have put their trust in me as the Executive Director.  I feel that I was chosen for the role particularly because I live the ups and downs of business in Hornell.  I started my first business when I was 23 years old, and five years later I’ve got two locations and I turned my business from a hobby into a company that employs 7 people and has become part of the culture of Hornell and the Canisteo Valley.  But, it hasn’t always been a smooth ride.  I started my business on a shoestring budget (nearly non-existent budget I should add) with only help from my parents and a few small loans, all while working fulltime jobs in many different fields.  And I’ve rode a rollercoaster of ups and downs, feasts and famine.  And there are still times (often) that I’m white-knuckle driving through my business endeavors.  And I personally WORK my businesses–every aspect.

The point I’m trying to make, is that I truly understand the struggle of keeping a viable business prospering in the Hornell area.  And also I wanted to show you that I’m not much different from the majority of the Hornell and surrounding area residents.  I’ve worked many jobs–from retail, stocking shelves, bartending, and even animal care to dairy production, farming, driving heavy equipment, and even some laboratory work.  I’ve been thankful that I’ve been able to use my Ivy League education in many settings, but I’ve also learned a lot on those third shift nights working on production equipment–and that humbles me.

So, I’m asking you to struggle alongside me to keep the businesses that we have prospering, and encourage the growth of our city by exploring new avenues.  Some of these avenues I’ve talked about in other formats–place identity, placemaking & tactical urbanism, tourism, etc–and I’ll continue to explain them here on this new platform for HPG.

You can expect me to blog twice a week about businesses in our district and ideas for growth.  My goal is to build a transparent relationship between HPG (and myself) and the both the businesses within the BID and the people that support it.  This blog is for you to get into my mind and personal thoughts, and also to show you the direction we will be going with the organization.  Give me a few months before you judge HPG–there’s an ABUNDANCE OF GREAT IDEAS from some great minds on the Board and from within the community that are going to be put into action, sooner rather than later.

Be a partner in growth and help us build Hornell to its full potential!


Justin Recktenwald, Executive Director HPG