Ravena: A Main Street Rebirth

Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media Several murals are a new addition to Main Street in Ravena. This building, owned by Joy Iafallo, sits next to the Ravena firehouse.

By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

RAVENA — Times are exciting in the village of Ravena these days.

New businesses are opening their doors on Main Street, making for a rebirth of possibilities. From a newly opened nanobrewery to a bridal shop, comic book and collectibles store, and artistic murals adorning local buildings, the area is experiencing a renaissance.

“We have had quite a few new businesses coming in,” said Mayor Bill Misuraca, a business owner himself. “We have Alli’s Bridal, which was the old Davis’ Drug Store site, and we also approved a comic book and collectibles gaming store that shares that building with them. Both are on Central Avenue near Main Street. We’ve got a tattoo studio/art gallery that is across the street from the post office in the old Fisk building. That building has been vacant for years. We have Hi-Tech Advisers, who moved in next door to my place, the Halfway House, and they do cellphone service, internet installation, satellite TV. The big one everyone has been talking about is Rail to River Brewing, which opened the day after Thanksgiving.”

Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media Main Street in the village of Ravena is experiencing a renaissance with new businesses moving in and older buildings being renovated.

Other businesses are contemplating opening just off Main Street as well, he said.

“We also have interest in AES on Orchard Avenue next to the municipal parking lot. We have been approached for information about a medical marijuana dispensary, so that is another one that could be coming soon if all goes well with the state, now that [marijuana] is legalized,” Misuraca said.

Another Main Street building recently purchased could be transformed into a medicinal and herbal supplement store, the mayor said.

When Joyce Musso, who owns Hi-Tech Advisers with her husband, started considering where to open the family’s storefront, they didn’t need to look farther than Ravena.

“We sat down and listed all the pros and cons, and the pros outweighed the cons. We decided that we needed to look at Main Street in Ravena,” Musso said at a business panel in the village Dec. 3. “It was like a warm hug — it was ‘Come, come, we want you,’ and it really felt like we were coming home.”

The village is business friendly, other entrepreneurs agreed.

Steve Douglas, owner of Rail to River Brewing, said a turning point for bringing his business model to life came when the village’s zoning board gave it their stamp of approval.

Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media Steven and Tracy Douglas, owners of Rail to River Brewing, behind the bar on their nanobrewery’s opening night Nov. 26. The community turned out in force to welcome the new business to the community.

“That was when we knew this would work,” Douglas said. “Everybody has been just fantastic, everybody has been enthusiastic. The community has been incredible.”

Rail to River Brewing’s grand opening the day after Thanksgiving 2021 was a full house, with customers packing the nanobrewery to the rafters, with a line of customers snaking out the door.

Musso said a small-town business can compete against major national competitors by offering something those bigger businesses can’t — the personal touch.

“We give that personalized service and we are always there,” Musso said. “If I am awake, I answer the phone. We even had a customer who got their phones the day before Thanksgiving and called me and I told them to come on Thanksgiving. He couldn’t believe it. So he came on Thanksgiving and he got his phones activated.”

A small Main Street business offers amenities bigger chains can’t.

“We are always there — you can always get a hold of us,” Musso said. “It’s not ‘press 1’ for this, ‘press 2’ for that. People are so tired of calling places and you can’t talk to a human.”

As the community continues to grow, there are challenges that need to be met, the mayor said.

Contributed photo Hi-Tech Advisers, one of the newest businesses in the village.

“The biggest thing that we are trying to do is upgrade our infrastructure and our delivery of water and containment of wastewater because that is the bedrock — if you want to open a business, you have to have your utilities so the upgrades to our water plant and distribution are a big thing. That’s the very first phase,” Misuraca said. 

Several areas in the community are in a flood plain, so flooding is an issue in some places. The village recently built a bioretention pond off Main Street behind the municipal parking lot, and another bioretention pond is going in at Faith Plaza. Both projects utilize state grant money and are aimed at using green resources to prevent flooding.

“I think the first one was in the neighborhood of just under a half million dollars,” Misuraca said. “We do as much of the work in-house as possible, which keeps the costs very low because instead of having to contribute a percentage of money for a matching grant, we use our skilled workers to do the job, which is called ‘in-kind.’ It saves us a lot of money out of pocket.”

Another challenge is a handful of vacant and deteriorating properties on Main Street, the mayor said.

“We have a couple of properties — not a lot — that are neglected and we are working with the state and the county to get those either cleaned up or taken down so we can have more sites to encourage businesses to come here,” Misuraca said.

The village is taking steps to encourage vacant building owners to either renovate or sell their properties, but there are limits to what the village can do, he said.

Contributed photo Steven Douglas, of Rail to River Brewing on Main Street, working behind the scenes at his new nanobrewery.

“We have been working closely with the state — when properties are held privately and people own them, if they still pay their taxes and they are not dangerous, there is not a whole lot we can do to force them to rent them or make them more eye appealing,” Misuraca said. “But when they lose them, that is when we can step in and either have them taken down to make more parking, like we did when we created a parking lot where the old Backroom Tavern was on Russell Place. You need parking for a business, so by creating that parking lot and the one next to the post office, we are setting the stage for businesses to come because they have adequate parking for their customers.”

Joy Iafallo, chairwoman of the RCS Community Business Association and a local realtor, has purchased several buildings on Main Street in the village and predicts the area will continue its revival.

“Main Street is an up-and-coming area and it’s definitely making its turn in the cycle,” Iafallo said. “It’s going to be a great place to invest. There is a lot happening in Ravena.”

A new trend in the village among a couple of business owners has been having murals painted on the sides of buildings, brightening up Main Street. One of Iafallo’s buildings, next to the Ravena firehouse, has a colorful mural of a poppy adorning its side. Another mural is a unique painting of trains and railroad tracks on the exterior of Trackside Pizza on Railroad Avenue, just off Main Street.

Iafallo said she hopes to bring more murals to Main Street.

“I want to do more of them,” she said. “People seem to love them, so I am going to keep going.”

One challenge that Main Street in the village does not have that other nearby communities are struggling with is the lack of adequate broadband service. Internet access is plentiful on Main Street, Misuraca said.

“We have State Tel, DSL and fiber optic, and having a business on Main Street — for me, anyway — we have no issues with Wi-fi and internet service in our business district,” the mayor said. “That is more of an issue for outlying areas, where State Tel doesn’t service.”

When businesses grow, residential growth is sure to follow, Judi Gabler of Gabler Realty said at the December business panel.

“Business, good business, helps attract more residential value and it will bring people in to live here,” Gabler said. “We are business friendly and we need to get that word out there.”

NYVT Media
Author: NYVT Media

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