Assemblywoman tours Massena businesses she says are 're-energizing' the community
Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne, left, jokes with Brittany Murtagh, center, and Nance Arquiett of 2 Mama Birds prior to the opening of the Nest shop on Main Street in downtown Massena.
MASSENA -- Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne visited entrepreneurs in Massena who she says are "working to re-energize a community that has faced a number of challenges in recent years."The assemblywoman spent her Saturday in Massena and was on hand for the grand opening of a new boutique on Main Street visited a store at the St. Lawrence Centre mall that sells North Country products and stopped at an orchard store that has become a hot spot each fall in Massena.
Jenne took part in a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Nest by 2 Mama Birds, a boutique at 51 Main St. The shop sells the 2 Mama Birds own line of jewelry as well as knitwear, leather work, hand poured candles and other jewelry lines from artisans from the North Country and other upstate communities.
Brittany Murtagh and Nance Arquiett, the founders of 2 Mama Birds, say they believe in community and are hoping the Nest will be a positive place to bring community members together through art, workshops and social gatherings.
Massena Mayor Timmy Currier and Deputy Mayor Matt LeBire then guided Assemblywoman Jenne to the former Schine Theater, where volunteers were doing a fall spruce up at the building that was permanently shut down in 1995.
The Massena Arts and Theater Association, Inc., is working to restore the historic Strand Theater, located at 63-67 Main St., to its previous mission as well as a venue that offers small theatrical productions, musical performances, lectures, and other cultural events.
R. Shawn Gray, a member of the Massena Arts and Theater Association board, told Assemblywoman Jenne he believes the restoration of the theater could serve as a catalyst for the creation of new cafes and shops in the downtown area.
The theater was originally constructed in 1918 and opened as a Strand Theater. Schine Enterprises leased the theater in 1926 and later purchased the building. The theater underwent a major renovation and reopened on Aug. 20, 1931.
The newly refurbished theater had a Spanish/Gothic motif with red walls and ceiling decorated with gold and silver leaf. The theater was redecorated with monochrome plaster walls in the early 1960s.
Gray noted volunteers have done considerable work on the building's interior, continue efforts to get the marquee back up on the building's exterior and are seeking a state grant to move the project forward.
Assemblywoman Jenne also learned two other vacant spaces in the downtown corridor are expected to have new tenants in the near future, and there is also reportedly interest in other vacant buildings on Main Street.
Jenne started her day at the North Country Showcase store at the St. Lawrence Centre mall. The North Country Showcase was created to market quality products made in a seven-county region of the North Country.
The investor-owned company was formed earlier this year by approximately 20 individuals, who pooled their resources in an effort to positively impact the region's economy. The number of shareholders has already nearly doubled
North Country Showcase initially opened in July in a 3,300-square-foot space in the mall with 33 vendors. The store moved into a new 11,000-square-foot space on Oct. 16 and now features the work of 77 vendors.
The assemblywoman had a chance to wander through the store and see shelves, tables and walls filled with wooden toys, quilts, maple syrup, honey, home processed jams and jellies, Amish baskets, bowls, pottery, locally roasted coffee, artwork and other items.
Jenne said she remembers taking part in a meeting approximately a year ago when the organizers behind the North Country Showcase first started talking about steps to take to impact the local economy.
Jenne said the North Country Showcase and the Nest offer quality products that support the buy local movement.
“It's a reminder of the importance of supporting our own in our effort to rebuild the vitality of our area. The purchase of local food, products and gifts means that money is funneled back into the North Country and that also benefits our friends and neighbors,” she said.
She finished her day at Kaneb Orchards' cider mill store. Kaneb Orchards sells fruits, cider and baked goods, including the popular cider donuts. The store is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays each fall, with this year's season ending on Sunday.
"The Kanebs have turned their cider mill store into a destination each fall. It's not a good trip in the fall to Massena if I don't stop and grab some cider and donuts. They have demonstrated the benefits of vision, hard work and quality products," she said.
Assemblywoman Jenne and Elizabeth Kaneb also discussed the impact of recent legislation on hard cider sales in the state.
She said she also met with Massena town councilmen Steve O'Shaughnessy and Sam Carbone during her day in the community.
"I saw a lot of excitement when I was on the street downtown. There is enthusiasm that a global search being funded by the New York Power Authority could have positive results for our region, and other small-business people are also looking at new opportunities," according to Jenne.
"It is my hope the work of those entrepreneurs that have brought Kaneb Orchards, the North Country Showcase and the Nest to Massena can blaze the path to keep Massena moving forward. We know there is much work to do to maintain and grow employment in the community, but the positive strides I saw this past weekend are an important step forward for Massena," she added.