With political tensions simmering one degree below boiling this summer, the very first special election for public office is taking place here in District 19 between Pat Ryan (D) and Marc Molinaro (R) on August 23. Ryan visited Cooperstown on Friday, meeting with officials from Bassett Hospital, touring the Hall of Fame, and tasting the spirits of Cooperstown Distillery.
“I had really good conversations with healthcare leaders, the town supervisor and mayor, and others. The big issues that stood out are affordable housing and the need for real investment in water and sewer infrastructure,” said Ryan, speaking in the shade of a tree on Railroad Ave.
U.S. Small Business Administration chief Isabella Casillas Guzman, right, chats at the Baseball Hall of Fame with, from left, Hall of Fame President Josh Rawitch, Vice President Eric Strohl, and Congressman Antonio Delgado during a March 4 tour of small businesses in Cooperstown.
SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman, a member of President Joe Biden’s cabinet, stopped first with the Congressman at Cooperstown Distillery, joined there by village Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh, Otsego County Treasurer Allen Ruffles, and regional SBA officials. Distillery owner Gene Marra hosted the tour.
“We believe in local small businesses,” Mr. Marra told the delegation. “We use local grains from our farm in Canajoharie and from Rochester, we get our barrels from Remsen. It’s a complete New York thing.”
He pointed to assistance from the Village and the SBA in his work to expand his Railroad Avenue business from 3,000 to 12,000 square feet; Rep. Delgado noted the expansion of the craft beverage marketplace as important to upstate New York’s economy.
“Agritourism is big business in this part of the country,” Mr. Marra agreed. As he displayed the Distillery’s exclusive baseball, football, and golf club-shaped bottles, he noted, “The Wall Street Journal is calling New York the ‘Kentucky of the North’ because we’re distilling so much world-class bourbon. There are 90 distilleries here now, of course, ours is the best of them!”
Rep. Delgado and Administrator Guzman next visited Cooperstown Bat, a manufacturer of game-ready baseball bats for players of all ages and the third-oldest bat company in the United States.
The head of President Joe Biden’s Small Business Administration, Isabella Casillas Guzman, spent the afternoon of Friday, March 4 in Cooperstown with Congressman Antonio Delgado hosting a tour of some of the Village’s best-known small businesses. Along with Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh and Otsego County Treasurer Allen Ruffles, the group discussed the president’s key infrastructure initiative, SBA outreach, pandemic relief and recovery, and other issues before convening a small business forum at Cooperstown Village Hall. Here, from left to right, Rep. Delgado, Mayor Tillapaugh, Baseball Hall of Fame President Josh Rawitch, and Administrator Casillas Guzman listen as Eric Strohl, Vice President of Exhibits and Collections at the Hall of Fame, shares details of the ‘women in baseball’ exhibit on permanent display at the Hall. Earlier in the afternoon, the group visited Cooperstown Distillery on Railroad Avenue and Cooperstown Bat Company on Main Street. We’ll have a full story on the afternoon coming up in the March 10 print and on-line editions of The Freeman’s Journal / Hometown Oneonta / allotsego.com.
COOPERSTOWN – The mood was jovial Saturday, June 12, as about 60 people, including elected officials state Sen. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh and State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, gathered outside the Cooperstown Distillery on Railroad Avenue for a ribbon cutting ceremony for the opening of the expansion to celebrate what is considered a big success for local businesses in particular and a revitalization of Railroad Avenue specifically.
Eugene Marra, the founder of Cooperstown Distillery, began with an emotional moment on losing his dad to the coronavirus. He said his dad was his “biggest fan and number one investor in this opportunity.”
However, the atmosphere was celebratory.
“It’s an auspicious occasion for sure,” Marra said. “As much as I want to claim it as my own, I want to share it all with you because you have made it possible,” Marra said.
Marra spoke at length about the trials and tribulations of opening the expanded brewery on Railroad Avenue. He talked about how COVID had delayed the opening a year and how the distillery was tasked with producing hand sanitizer during that time.
He also mentioned how he was initially told by real estate agents that opening a distillery in Cooperstown was not possible.
“I like to believe we are responsible for what has become a revitalization of Railroad Avenue,” Marra said, saying that industry on that street in years past, “appeared to be dead.”
Marra said that Cooperstown Distillery, which has been around for eight years, is the “story about how it takes a village … the village of Cooperstown.”
Marra said he was loaned about $100,000 and received state fund grants of about $80,000, citing that his success was thanks to “local money.”
“We all hear these phrases, buy local, shop local, stay local. We are all of that,” Marra said, calling the Cooperstown Distillery the “fabric of this community on a very local, grassroots level.”
“We wouldn’t want to be anywhere else than the village of Cooperstown,” Marra said.
Tillapaugh said the Cooperstown Distillery is a business “in which the village takes a great deal of pride.”
She noted how the village implemented zoning law changes in order to help grow businesses.
“I certainly know what this Railroad Avenue looked like for decades,” Tillapaugh said.
She noted it was once not considered industrially viable, but that developments on the street, including the distillery and the Railroad Inn, created “positive synergy.”
DiNapoli joked he didn’t accept the invitation “because of the complimentary drinks,” but was happy to come because of how difficult a year it had been.
DiNapoli said that while Cooperstown is known for its Baseball Hall of Fame and Fenimore art museum that “the distillery becomes yet another reason to visit.”
“This really was an incredible effort with all stakeholders playing their role. That’s usually not how it happens,” DiNapoli said. “This is the model that should be replicated.”
DiNapoli said he was going to go back to Albany and tell other lawmakers to “look to what happened in Cooperstown as an example of how it should work” in terms of state funding for local businesses.
After the ceremony, people took a tour of the distillery.
The Cooperstown Distillery is about to open a store in the heart of vibrant Saratoga Springs – 453 Broadway – Proprietor Gene Marra said this morning, with a “soft opening” perhaps as soon as the end of this week. “It’s a dream come true,” said Marra. Visitors from Otsego County will find a locale quite similar to the distillery’s Beverage Exchange at Main and Pioneer streets in downtown Cooperstown, he said. Along with the expansion of the Railroad Avenue distillery, “this is the most exciting thing to happen to us this year,” said Marra, adding, “It’s always been part of our business plan.” In particular, the vitality of Saratoga’s downtown and the affluence of the community attracted the Cooperstown-based company. As at the Beverage Exchange locally, updated state laws allow the new facility to sell drinks on site, and package goods as well. (Photo courtesy Cooperstown Distillery)
By LIBBY CUDMORE • The Freeman’s Journal & Hometown Oneonta
COOPERSTOWN – With five years of success behind it, the Cooperstown Distillery is looking ahead and planning to more than double the size of its plant on Railroad Avenue.
“We outgrew our space many years ago,” proprietor Gene Marra told the Village Board on Monday, March 25. “Our production has been limited by our physical space.”
The planned 7,500-square-foot expansion will more than double the building’s existing footprint on the back portion of their Railroad Avenue lot, adding a “rackhouse” for storing barrels of whiskey and bourbon, as well as second-floor production space.