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Ithaca Stems the Tide of the National Recession

Downtown Ithaca is systematically beating back the national recession that has ravaged many other commercial centers across the country. The evidence is the addition and expansion of ten new businesses in the Downtown Business Improvement District over the better part of the last half-year. The soon to open new value clothing store called the Thrift Boutique, located at 111b The Commons, marks the tenth new business to call Downtown Ithaca home in the past six to eight months. From a brand new brewpub, to a sushi restaurant, to a pharmacy and a fabric re-use store, Downtown Ithaca is regaining its economic footing while adding a variety of restaurants and retail establishments to an already diverse commercial district.While other cities throughout the country continue to languish, the growth in Downtown Ithaca has been slow and steady resulting in an occupancy rate that now stands at 91%. Only 12 months ago the rate had dropped to 86%. This resurgence has been noticed nationally. According to the Kiplinger letter, “ . . . smaller cities are seeing improvement before some bigger cousins . . . From Huntsville to Peoria, Billings and Chattanooga to Ithaca, NY metro areas with populations below a million are enjoying the swifter pickup in economic activity.” Downtown Ithaca Alliance Executive Director Gary Ferguson agrees, stating that “Downtown Ithaca has fundamental strengths and assets that will serve it well going forward. This new growth is further evidence of the potential and possibility that exist downtown.” Among the new inhabitants of Downtown Ithaca are several chain retail operations, expansions of current businesses, and start-up operations from new entrepreneurs. Last December long time staff members from the Lost Dog Café moved into the basement location at 114 N. Cayuga St. and established the Bandwagon Brewpub. Featuring a fine selection of craft brewed beers and a creative food menu, Bandwagon Brewpub has already begun the process of expansion in order to accommodate the growing demand for their popular line of beers. Moving into the former Juna’s space on the Commons is the new coffee house and restaurant called Waffle Frolic, the brainchild of two recent Ithaca College graduates who opted to remain in Ithaca and start their new business. Waffle Frolic features a variety of waffles and baked goods along with a cozy atmosphere complete with sofas and bookshelves.A few steps down from the Waffle Frolic located on the same side of the Commons is the newly opened clothing and accessory store the Bodhi Tree. The Bodhi Tree promises to be a “Zen Store and more” and will fit nicely alongside the eclectic and unique retail outlets already available on the Commons. Located just off the Commons in the DeWitt Mall is the newly opened fabric re-use store SewGreen. Started by long time recycling and re-use advocate Wendy Skinner, the SewGreen retail store is helping to lead Ithaca’s hands-on consumer sustainability movement. For the sustainability minded parent, Downtown Ithaca now hosts the nation’s largest natural parenting store in the newly re-located and expanded Jillian’s Drawers. Located on the Commons in the Center Ithaca building, Jillian’s Drawers opens her doors to a brand new 5,000 + square foot store that boasts one of the largest selections of natural parenting accessories available anywhere in the country, from books to baby slings.Two upstate retail chain stores, Exscape and Headdies, also chose to open additional retail outlets on the Commons because of the promising economic times that lay ahead in Ithaca.Filling a longtime need in Downtown was the addition of Palmer’s pharmacy, located in the Cayuga Green building next door to Gimme Coffee and Urban Outfitters. Palmer pharmacy is a local chain started in Trumansburg, New York. Having opened in Ithaca around the start of the New Year many Ithacans and tourists alike are finding the added convenience of a local pharmacy to be a welcome addition to Downtown. An instant hit at Palmer’s has been the old fashioned ice cream parlor featuring Cayuga Creamery ice cream.Rounding out the business growth in Downtown over the course of the last half-year are two new restaurants on the 100 block of West State St. At the corner of West State Street and Geneva lies Ithaca’s newest Asian themed restaurant; Capital State Sushi. Owned and operated by the current owners of the Capital Corner restaurant located on the same block, it is further evidence of investment on the basis of an ever-brightening economic forecast. A few doors down from Capital State Sushi is Ithaca’s latest all-American dining establishment, the Prize Diner. Featuring a variety of homemade staples like meatloaf and chicken noodle soup, owners Helen and Chris of Owego, NY moved their home-style operation to Ithaca, NY because of the opportunities for growth and expansion in a promising economy. While Ithaca has certainly not been immune to the global economic recession, all signs currently point up as new and newly expanded businesses stake a claim in Downtown Ithaca’s economic future.

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