For most of our village, the spring has been one of successes and positive advances. Our highly ranked school received even more deserved accolades on the national level, and the community has been generous beyond measure in supporting the refurbishment of the auditorium and middle school science labs.
Continuing the positives, village government was able to maintain the high level of services despite the burgeoning state mandates with a minimal tax increase. Thanks to all the volunteers and our Department of Public Works staff, the village landscape has been revitalized and cared for in a way not seen in the past.
Unfortunately, this season of success did not translate to our business district. A vast majority of our merchants experienced a dreadful spring. Truth be told, they said they did not see local residents patronizing their stores. Merchants did see many folks coming in seeking donations for all the fundraisers that occur in the spring season but not many came in to shop. Merchants are seeing a trend of the long-standing village residents still thinking “village first” when needing a gift or a service, but that sense of loyalty or hometown-first ethos has not translated as well to subsequent generations. If this pattern continues, it bodes poorly for the perpetuation of a vibrant business district and with it the stable home values of our village.
Susan Piper, president of our chamber of commerce, shared an apt analogy with me of a three-legged stool when explaining why folks decide to move to Bronxville. One leg keeping the stool upright is the excellent quality of the public education; the second, the small town atmosphere with a commute of less than 30 minutes to midtown Manhattan; and finally, the quaint, attractive and vibrant small town shopping district. In order to keep the stool upright, all three legs need to be sturdy. Two just will not do it. Our business district needs our attention and our help. Just as we volunteer at the school and village government to help maintain optimal functioning, we need to expand our mindset and think of volunteering for our business district as well as patronizing the stores.
This column serves as the inauguration of a program whereby village hall will be the clearing house to direct residents to volunteer opportunities to aid our merchants. Call village hall and offer your services:
• Merchants could use current and retired attorneys to read leases and share advice on renegotiating terms.
• Those with a design background could assist on window displays.
• Computer talent is needed to help merchants get their products up on a website.
• Those with a landscape flair could help plant window boxes and street pots.
• Marketing professionals could help suggest and organize promotions and activities to attract more customers to the village.
• Residents in the merchandising business could make the entrée to connect new and different merchants to our village.
• Those with advertising skills could help launch a “think local, shop local” campaign.
Our merchants, who work extremely long hours, do not have the time, money or expertise to accomplish some of these needed business adaptations in order to stay viable long term. This is a wonderful opportunity to share a talent with your neighbors in the business district with benefits that reverberate tenfold. If you shop in our village and lend your talents to bolster our stores, not only does money from your purchases, in the form of sales tax revenue, head directly back to the Bronxville school and village government, but a modern vibrant business district will have a direct positive impact on maintaining real estate values.
Our merchants have a long history of being the most generous to all good causes in our village, and now they could use your help.
Think about lending your talents to this new volunteer venue by calling me at village hall at 337-6500 or sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. You could not be helping a more deserving group of village supporters. If you do not have the time or inclination to volunteer, do your part by reprogramming your mindset and saying first, “Can I find that in the village?” The bottom line: Walking by our beautiful stores without walking in will not help to maintain the ambiance and uniqueness of our beautiful village. Please think local, shop local and now volunteer local.
In that same spirit of volunteerism, the incredibly dedicated cadre of members of the Bronxville Beautification Council will be hosting the Fifth Annual Garden Tour on Saturday, June 9, from noon until 4 p.m.The tour begins at village hall. Same-day tickets can be purchased on site or prior to the event from participating Bronxville merchants. Proceeds from the $20 admission cost go directly to enhancing the village streetscape through beautification projects such as the hanging baskets in the business district or the newly landscaped downtown Railroad Plaza. There will be six featured properties, the locations of which will not be revealed until the day of the tour. They range from small English cottage-style gardens to grand ornamental grounds with manicured lawns, statues and reflecting pools. The tour ends with a wine and cheese reception hosted by the Bronxville Beautification Council at a lovely village home. The tour will take place rain or shine, so please mark your calendars and support our village beautification efforts.