At the corner of Military Turnpike and Tom Miller Road in the Town of Plattsburgh sits a shopping plaza that offers customers a variety of goods and services. Strictly Business spoke with each of the five locally-owned businesses in the plaza to learn about how they are navigating today’s unusual business climate.
Mainely Lobster and Seafood began in 1989 selling fresh Maine seafood out of the back of owners Rick and Bonnie Reynolds’ truck. The original restaurant opened in 1990 and the Military Turnpike Plaza location has been home to the popular restaurant since 1995.
Laurie LaPointe bought the business in 2018. LaPointe makes two trips each week to Maine to purchase lobsters and fresh fish for the restaurant. Menu offerings include a variety of fish dishes (including their famous fish and chips), seafood “chowdah”, sandwiches, and pastas.
When the pandemic hit in March, LaPointe was worried but customers have continued to support the business. “They have been great,” she said. The restaurant remained open for takeout even though the dining room was closed for several months. The dining room has since reopened and LaPointe has added dividers between tables and is able to serve customers at 50% capacity. “We try to make people feel safe,” she said. Mainely Lobster employs 15 people who have adapted well to the new safety precautions they need to take each day at work. “People have been so supportive. I couldn’t ask for better customers.”
THE LOOKING GLASS HAIR SALON
Abby Cobb had been a stylist at the Military Turnpike Plaza salon working for different owners for six years when she bought the business. She reopened it as The Looking Glass Hair Salon on March 1, 2020 and two weeks later she had to close her doors due to the pandemic. Four stylists rent chairs at The Looking Glass where they offer haircuts, coloring, and a variety of other services for women, men and children.
Because the stylists are all self-employed, the shutdown caused stress and uncertainty but offered an opportunity as well. Cobb remodeled the space to reflect her vision for the new business. “It was a blessing in disguise,” she said of the closure. The salon now has soft gray walls with mauve trim and rose gold vanities at each workstation. The space is modern, warm and welcoming.
The Looking Glass re-opened on June 8 and was met with a flurry of customers eager for services. Cobb said that the salon has been “insanely busy” since the re-opening and they are just starting to return to a more normal volume of business.
ERNIE’S DISCOUNT TOOLS & LIQUIDATION
Ernest “Ernie” Coulombe opened Ernie’s Discount Tools & Liquidation in a small store in West Chazy more than 30 years ago. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Coulombe had a number of different jobs before taking the leap and opening his own business. Since 1999 the hardware and variety store has been located in the Military Turnpike Plaza offering discounted tools and household items, and boasts the region’s “largest inventory of tarps.” Coulombe also carries closeout items at discount prices such as motorcycle helmets, automotive tools, garden tools, hoses, camping accessories, and paint brushes.
Ernie’s was considered an essential business and remained open throughout the pandemic so he was not severely impacted. He now operates his business wearing a mask and has adapted to the necessary safety precautions to keep his staff and customers safe.
Coulombe has built a loyal customer base some of his early customers’ children and grandchildren are now customers. He also does business with area municipalities and other local businesses. He cites his honesty and excellent customer service as keys to his business longevity.
Andy Steuart has owned and operated Zachary’s Original in the Military Turnpike Plaza since 2011, utilizing favorite recipes from the popular 1970s downtown Plattsburgh restaurant of the same name.
Zachary’s specialties include pizzas, chicken wings, and calzones, but menu offerings also include salads, pasta dishes, and sandwiches. The salad dressings and wing sauces are homemade and “phenomenal,” according to Steuart.
The pandemic has resulted in a 10% growth in Steuart’s business, which he said has been sustained for the past six months. Zachary’s offers takeout and delivery, and the dining room is now re-opened with dividers between tables and only half as much seating as was available before the pandemic.
Steuart praised his great relationship with the other business owners in the Plaza and joked that he occasionally borrows mayonnaise from Laurie LaPointe at Mainely Lobster. He said his 15 employees have “adjusted with no problem” to wearing masks and more rigorous sanitizing and cleaning protocols.
PAWFECTION PET GROOMING
Cynthia Patinka has operated her pet grooming business in the Military Turnpike Plaza for seven years. Pawfection Pet Grooming offers dog, cat, and small animal grooming and sells a range of CBD-infused products for pets with anxiety, skin issues, joint pain, digestive issues, and other ailments.
Patinka has two full-time and one part-time employee who work along with her. The pandemic forced the business to close from March 21 until they re-opened for medically necessary grooming on April 27. Full-service grooming resumed on June 1. “After we re-opened, we worked six days a week for a while to catch up on grooming the dogs we’d had to cancel,” Patinka said. “The shutdown made us busier than ever.”
Pawfection is currently operating with a curbside pick-up and drop-off policy where staff transport animals to and from the shop to owners’ vehicles. Owners must remove all leashes, collars and clothing from their pets and staff uses their own slip leads to bring the animals into the shop. “We wear masks at all times when interacting with customers and we sanitize everything, including credit cards and, of course, we wash our hands all the time,” Patinka said.