GREENBURGH — How many storefronts are vacant along the Town of Greenburgh’s many commercial strips after the pandemic?
A group of Westchester high school students decided to find out. Their answer: about 5% of 426 storefronts are vacant.
Through the past few weeks, Scarsdale High School senior David Diao and three other students Ricky Pintado from Irvington High School and Henry Peet and Austin Kirby from Dobbs Ferry High School, went door to door, storefront to storefront, and surveyed more than 100 business owners to compile a comprehensive list of Greenburgh business and promote them on social media.
It’s part of a spring internship program organized by the Town of Greenburgh. The goal is to help local businesses thrive after the pandemic took a tolls on many.
Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner said the internship allows students to interact with local government and businesses, businesses to benefit from marketing, and the town to build a database of storefronts.
“They really did a lot of valuable things,” Feiner said. “This is the type of work that normally a consultant would charge tens of thousands of dollars for.”
New insights on Greenburgh businesses
Officials hope the database will not only aid the town’s economic development planning, but will provide insights for business owners who are interested in moving to Greenburgh.
The students compiled information on 426 storefronts across Greenburgh, which Diao described as “the most exhaustive database” the town has ever had, covering almost 90% of local businesses. They found 23 vacant storefronts.
The most popular types of business are: service (169), followed by retail (140), restaurants (94), industry (8), indoor recreation (7), bakeries (2) and hospitality (2).
Feiner said the town has seen fewer vacancies in recent months, with new businesses such as restaurants, bakeries and golf simulators coming in, indicators that local businesses have started bouncing back.
Businesses in Greenburgh are grouped in quarters, divided by four arteries — Central Avenue, Route 119, Saw Mill River Road and East Hartsdale Avenue.
The town has been working on ways to revitalize business areas. To prevent vacancies from piling up, Greenburgh explored changing its zoning, hired an economic development coordinator, and enlisted residents from Generation Z to help veteran business owners find new ways to brand their shops and restaurants.
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Students also focused on marketing, social media
Garrett Duquesne, Greenburgh planning commissioner, said the database would not only facilitate communication between the town and businesses, but will tell characteristics of each business quarters. It could also be a foundation for forming a chamber of commerce, he added.
The students are also assisting local businesses to promote themselves on the town website and social media.
“There’re so many unique local stories in the local businesses. They are the livelihood of our community,” Diao said. “After COVID, sometimes people are more inclined to shop online, but there’s so much enrichment to be found in local community and we want to bring the stories to them.”
Eduardo Accostupa, jeweler and owner of Eduardo Accostupa Jewelry, who has run his business for 26 years in Greenburgh, said he hopes to improve publicity for his store. While he mostly relies on word of mouth, he hopes to keep up with technology and social media.
For many small business owners, spending money on social media promotion is not a priority, Accostupa said. A promotional video that Diao’s group helped produce aligns with the store’s needs, he said.
“This project is important with a two-way benefit,” Accostupa said. “The students get to know local businesses while businesses get more exposure.”
Feiner looks to expand the project as future interns will help business owners use social media. The town is preparing a summer internship program with 40 students already signed up.
“I feel like today’s business will have a better chance of surviving if they use e-commerce,” he said. “What they did is a start of an effort to get more and more students involved in helping us have a vibrant business community.”