GERMANTOWN — As home to some 2,020 souls, this town is one of the smaller municipalities in Columbia County, well below Kinderhook, Claverack, Ghent or Hudson in population.
Nevertheless, Germantown offers no fewer than three businesses districts — Route 9G, Palatine Park Road and Main Street — that allow regional residents to shop their zip code. They can buy gas and do their banking, of course — nothing unusual there — but they can also buy groceries and gifts, flowers and libations.
They can take care of their insurance needs and have their car repaired. Overflow guests find lodging. Books and a wide variety of programming for adults and children are available at the Germantown Library. The citizenry can send their children to school in town, play with their dogs in a dog run named Palatine Bark and even, when the time comes, plan their funeral there.
Next spring they’ll have even more to choose from. Otto Leuschel, proprietor of Otto’s Market, has just bought the empty mixed-use building across Main Street from the market. The apartments on the upper floors will remain while the retail space becomes Germantown Variety, “a return to the variety store I grew up with in the middle of the century,” says Mr. Leuschel, a native of Washington State.
The store will sell health and body care products, hardware, notions, books, cards, magazines, laundry products, automotive, “a sort of big box chain store in a small space,” says Mr. Leuschel. The retail space is in good shape, he reports; he’ll finish it out to look more historic, fill it with inventory and hire “probably” three people.
In the meantime, the town has an Economic Development Committee and a website, 12526.biz, which touts the town’s businesses and lists every one of them, by category. Corinne Curry, the driving force behind ARTspace, which brought art and people into town, chairs the GEDC. She credits Supervisor Roy Brown for spearheading the idea; he in turn credits Ms. Curry for keeping them all on task.
Norman Mintz, a GEDC member, is one of the Main Street movement’s earliest pioneers and now senior director of Main Streets and Downtowns at Project for Public Spaces in New York City. He is also a part-time resident of Germantown and another of its boosters. “In my long career of seeing thousands of villages and hamlets, Germantown has a truly special quality,” he says. “Although it’s very small, there is a sense of comfort to the scale and relationship of the buildings, the quiet of the street, and, of course, the inclusion of Otto’s, which does all the right things to make the hamlet center the welcoming place it is.”
This is also a town that loves a party. Last year it celebrated its 300th anniversary; this weekend it’s a two-day holiday festival. Saturday evening 12526.biz throws an After Hours party at Central House, 220 Main Street (7-9 p.m.), as part of the festival. An award will be given to a Business of the Year. Choosing just one must have been difficult. Among the potential candidates:
*Otto’s Market, which sells groceries, deli, sandwiches and snacks seven days a week, and offers a place to meet and eat and watch the scene on the street.
*Central House, a teardown when the Lueck family bought it in 2006. It reopened this past summer, after hundreds of thousands of dollars of repair and renovation, with six tidy, historic rooms that are booked every weekend.
*Floral Innovations & Gift Shoppe. Donna Phelan purchased the shop in October, from the previous owners, who retired. Along with coolers full of fresh flowers she offers a variety of gifts, including many items handmade locally.
*Gtel and Taconic have anchored the town for years. Fingar Insurance and Lawlor’s Package Store are among the town’s oldest businesses.
Whichever the recipient, it won’t be the last. In the Germantown business community, there’s always next year.