NEWS

St. Johnsville earns distinction from ‘Business Week’

Dana C. Silano

At the geographical center of the state is a tiny village with everything available that you need in walking distance.

Grocery, convenience, dollar specials, gasoline, pharmacy, movie rentals and other conveniences are at the ease of one’s fingertips in St. Johnsville. This little village, with a population of about 1,685 during the 2000 census, was rated on a list of 50 small communities across the country by Business Week magazine, and at number 46 on the list, to make it at all was an honor in itself, according to several village residents.

“The fact that you can walk out your door and talk to your neighbor is an asset in itself,” said Village Clerk and Treasurer Karen Crouse. “It’s nice to know that if you need help, or in sickness and hard times, your neighbors will be there for you.”

Crouse was elated to see that St. Johnsville had made the list in the popular magazine.

“I think that the government looks at cities and larger communities, and should consider giving grants to the smaller, safer communities that are family oriented,” she said, “and help get businesses to come in. We don’t want huge businesses, but small stores are always welcome.”

Crouse said that the community’s close-knit atmosphere and its determination to always improve show in such efforts as the Strategic Planning Committee, which is devoted to getting grants and revitalizing Main Street. “Also,” she continued, “our police and fire departments and the H.C. Smith Benefit Club are second to none. The resources are there when you look for them.”

Crouse brought six children up in the very village she assists in governing with Mayor James Kierzinski.

“All of them went to school and furthered their education,” she pointed out, “and they’ve all done very well for themselves. I think things are looking up for the village, between the new school system and the planning committee, we are going to be a village to start looking at.”

St. Johnsville Chamber of Commerce Vice President Dawn Lamphere is also the director of the Margaret Reaney Memorial Library on Kingsbury Avenue, and said she was e-mailed the article several times.

“Actually, a St. Johnsville native that lives in Florida now e-mailed it to me initially, and I was so very pleased to see it,” she said. “The big issue for me are families and children, so to see our community recognized for being ‘family-oriented’ was a pleasure.”

Lamphere said that to be included in the statistics was a real honor.

“I think with a small community, the issues are safety and the fact that you can go out and people know who you are,” she said. “When you’re looking for a place to raise your kids, you need to look at a place that has values and closeness between families and the community. Maybe this community isn’t rich materially, but is has a good value system: People look out for one another and care about what’s happening here, and that in itself is priceless.”

Christine Battisti, superintendent of schools in the St. Johnsville Central School District, said that she was extremely pleased at the news of making the top 50 communities to raise children in. “It’s a really nice honor,” she said. “I grew up in this community and I love it.”

Businesses, too, see the interest that village residents and tourists alike are attracted to.

Mohawk Valley Foods has been established officially for several months, and has flourished a great deal in its short time.

Owners Ed Smith and his mother, Arlene Geibe, said the family-operated business was a choice made based in the village’s quaint and comfortable atmosphere. Hailing from Pennsylvania, Smith often drove through the area for his previous driving job, and fell in love with the scenery and the village in particular, according to Geibe.

“The village has a good school, and it’s such a nice place,” she said. “There’s lots of land for the children to play on, and the ratio of teachers to students is a big factor. The kids get more attention from the teacher here, I think.

“I think in a village like this, people know each other and I think it contributes to less crime in the area than other communities.”

Geibe said that she was impressed with how active the chamber of commerce was in such a small village, and chose the building on Bridge Street because of its proximity to Main Street. “We really liked the idea of attracting foot traffic,” she said.

Tim Smith of Country Treasures agreed with Geibe. “I’ve been in this area for 23 years, and my store is going on its fourth year,” he said. “I think, in the village, I have grown and prospered more each year.”

He said he agreed absolutely with the idea of St. Johnsville being rated on a basis of business and the community’s closeness as well.

“It’s a great small community,” he said. ‘I don’t feel the hustle and bustle I feel in the big cities. I like the small-town atmosphere where you know your neighbors.”

Smith said he constantly encourages businesses to come to the village, and the same goes for tourists or potential residents. “Even if it’s a visit in your camper at the marina,” he said. “It’s worth it.”

With such historical landmarks as the Crouse Locks, being set amidst the Erie Canal and the Mohawk River, and the museum at the 1909 Margaret Reaney Memorial Library, this little village in the Adirondacks is, to many, a gold mine of information on local heritage and history. Within miles of the village, one can visit Beardslee Castle, Fort Klock, Indian Castle, Nellis Tavern, the INn by the Mill and other historic sites.

While touring the area, one can hit up local accommodations right in the village and just outside of it. There’s central hotel and the Marina Campsites, as well as nearby inns and motels. For more information about St. Johnsville, check out the village website at www.StJohnsville.com.