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March 8, 2010

My Turn: Making Main Street Oneonta the best that it can be

THIS WEEK’S “My Turn” column is by Rachel Lutz Jessup. Jessup is the assistant branch manager at the NBT branch on Wall Street, and the president of Main Street Oneonta.

I have the good fortune of being involved with many organizations whose goals are the continuing improvement of Oneonta and the surrounding area.

This year, I am honored to be the chairwoman for one of these organizations _ Main Street Oneonta. It is an honor to lead an organization that has such deeply imbedded roots.

Main Street Oneonta started as the Downtown Retail Merchants Association, during the heyday of Bresee’s Department Store, when Thursday nights downtown often included dinner at the Healthbar and shopping until 8 p.m.

Downtown Retail Merchants Association became the Downtown Oneonta Improvement Task Force, under the supervision of Mark Drnek.

Main Street Oneonta came about shortly after that and was led by local merchants and community members, including Nancy Scanlon, Karen Woods, Michelle Eastman, Grace Smith, Julie Carney and Kathleen Frascatore, to name a few, and was supported by a small group of very dedicated volunteers.

We continue to serve you today as Main Street Oneonta.

We are so fortunate to live in this community. Even with the losses that we have suffered over the last year (the closing of the National Soccer Hall of Fame, the loss of the Oneonta Tigers and the challenges to the Foothills Performing Arts Center) our hills are still bustling with a multitude of activities.

Our downtown offers a wide variety of stores. You could spend a day going shopping for musical instruments, health food, clothing and shoes, outdoor apparel and gear, hardware, handmade gifts, unusual gifts, slightly used clothing, art supplies, pet supplies, jewelry and books while you’re getting your car serviced, going to the gym, doing laundry, learning how to dance, taking taekwando, getting coffee or something to eat, visiting your lawyer or accountant, getting your eyes checked, going tanning, getting a haircut, going to the spa, getting a tattoo, admiring the talents of our local artists and performers or diving into local history.

Who says there isn’t anything to do around here?

To top that off, the volunteers of Main Street Oneonta try to make all of this more fun. We are best known for our events downtown that include the Cruise-In’s, Sidewalk Sale Festival, Downtown 101 and Halloween trickor- treating.

Our holiday events include the gingerbread contest, Santa parade and the tree-lighting ceremony.

However, as an organization, we strive for continual improvement. Some of our goals for this year include teaming with the city and the county to move forward with the result of the branding study, the installation of an informational kiosk for downtown and better signage for merchants whose locations are not directly on Main Street.

We’re hoping to bring back to life an “artwalk” in conjunction with entertainment in Muller Plaza _ something we’re calling “First Friday.”

And, in hopes of bringing our organization up to the next level, we have brought Maggie Barnes, former director of community affairs for A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital, on board with the help of our friends at Otsego County. What a great addition to our current leadership and membership.

One of my favorite quotes is by George Bernard Shaw, which reads, “I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.”

I believe this is a philosophy that is instilled in many of the people who live and work in Oneonta, but especially in all of the people who are part of Main Street Oneonta. That’s the key to what makes Oneonta such a great place to be. Thank you to everyone who helps us be successful as an organization. We would not be who we are without our dedicated volunteers and leaders.

We would not be able to do what we do without donations from the community, local businesses, municipalities and councils.

You don’t have to operate an establishment in downtown Oneonta to get involved. Donations are always appreciated (we are a not-for-profit), and we’re always looking for volunteers.

Share your great ideas at our meetings, currently held the last Friday of each month at 8:30 a.m. at the NBT Bank on Wall Street. For more information, visit

TO WRITE for “My Turn,” contact Daily Star Publisher Tanya Shalor at tshalor@thedailystar. com or 432-1000, ext. 214. More “My Turn” columns can be found at www.thedailystar. com/myturn.