Working to keep business in town

Gwen Chamberlain

Some community leaders are working to develop a formal way to welcome new businesses to the area.

The Penn Yan Business Association (PYBA), organized by some area retailers about three years ago, is working with Finger Lakes Economic Development (formerly Yates County Industrial Development Agency — IDA) to gather information that will help new businesses adapt to a new community and its rules.

But one business owner says the effort is too late to make up for the struggles they faced.

Alyssa Wixson says the business she, her husband and a partner opened on Main Street in Penn Yan just weeks ago closed after they were unable to come to terms with local officials about regulations for a sign they displayed in front of their store, SCT Computers.

Mike Linehan of the Yates County Chamber of Commerce and PYBA says Steve Griffin of the FLDEC were trying to keep the business in town, but the owners decided to close the store.

“Business was great. If we’d stayed open, when the college kids came back we would have gone above and beyond our projections,” said Wixson in a telephone interview just days after they packed up their goods and moved out of the storefront owned by a Canandaigua-based landlord.

“We left Penn Yan because of the way the village officials represented the whole village,” she said.

Bruce Lyon, Penn Yan Village Code Enforcement Officer responded, “I would assume people running a business would look into what it takes to run a business. Most of the companies that produce signs around here have a note on their proposals to check with the building department.”

Wixson says they were not aware of the special rules about signs in the historic district of the village when they opened the sales and service business earlier this summer.

Wixson said they were not aware they needed to get a special permit and have the sign approved by the village’s historic district commission.

“If we had known, we would have done it immediately,” said Wixson, who said once they were made aware of the need for a permit through an appearance ticket issued through the Penn Yan Police Department,  she went to the village code enforcement office to take care of the issue, but Lyon was out on vacation.

So they removed the sign from the front of the building and posted it in the window, but the historic district regulations lay out specific sizes for postings in windows.

Wixson said she doesn’t understand why someone from the village didn’t come to the store and discuss the issue with them before putting the legal wheels in motion.

In the end, they appeared in Penn Yan Village Court, where they were ordered to pay a $50 fine.

Lyon said it’s not his responsibility to go to businesses and explain the regulations.

“To me, when somebody comes in to rent someplace, if there are special things that go on at that property, the owner should let people know that. I very seldom hear from anybody before they sign a lease,” said Lyon, who said the Wixsons never contacted him directly about the issue.

“It was always through somebody else,” he said.

Lyon said he’s working with officials from the FLDEC and PYBA to establish ways to help new businesses get the information they need to comply with local regulations.

Wixson says she was surprised that no one welcomed them to Penn Yan when they opened the store. “You should have the people come and talk to you. Don’t make it so they have to go searching. Make it (information) available.”

Lyon says, “I’m sorry that we lost the business, but it seems strange that they would just pack up and leave town.”

Anyone who would like to continue doing business with SCT can visit their store on Franklin Street in Watkins Glen or call 607-535-2495.