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Cooperstown Distillery celebrates expansion with ribbon cutting while touting local businesses
Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh, left, and Eugene Marra cut the ceremonial ribbon in front of Cooperstown Distillery. (Kevin Limiti/Allotsego)

Cooperstown Distillery celebrates expansion
with ribbon cutting,
while touting local businesses

By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to www.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.

Eugene Marra, founder of Cooperstown Distillery, speaks in front of the Distillery ahead of the ribbon cutting ceremony.

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.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli speaks in front of Cooperstown Distillery. (Kevin Limiti/Allotsego.com).

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.

 

 

Pandemic Takes Down Fly Creek Cider Mill

Pandemic Takes Down Fly Creek Cider Mill

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Cleaning up the sparser offerings at Fly Creek Cider Mill Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 26, are, from left, Caralee Elson, Mount Vision, co-founder Barbara Michaels, Lin Molloy, Springfield, and President Bill Michaels.
Elson and Molloy are long-tenured employees at the attraction, which will close at least temporarily on Sunday, Jan. 31. Business dropped during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The numbers told Bill Michaels it was time.

“I learned a lot going through the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program,” said the Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard president. “One of them was knowing your numbers. I spent a lot of time looking at them throughout the pandemic.”

In 2020, “our customer visitation was down all year. Then, after the holidays, it just stopped, to the point it was not sustainable.” said Michaels, whose family announced Wednesday, Jan. 20, they would close the regional tourist attraction, perhaps forever.

ZAGATA: Knowledge Workers? Great, But Traditional Industries Needed, Too

Column by Mike Zagata for November 23, 2018

Knowledge Workers? Great, But
Traditional Industries Needed, Too

Mike Zagata

As I began to read an article in last week’s edition, I felt a surge of excitement.
The author, an elected official, had just stated that her constituents elected her twice because they understand that protecting our environment and growing our economy are not mutually exclusive policies.
That is close to a statement in my recent book, “A Journey Toward Environmental Stewardship.”
My excitement, however, soon switched from positive to anger. Aside from the statement that methane leaks erase all the environmental benefit from switching fuel to natural gas (I found it intriguing the author admits there are benefits), the author goes on the say this is a scientific fact – according to what scientifically refereed journal?
Let’s take a harder look at that claim. If methane leaks erased all the environmental benefit from burning natural gas, then the amount leaked would have to equal the amount burned. That would cut the company’s profit in half. Do you really think a company, any company, would knowingly allow that to happen?
For policy matters of this magnitude, we can’t afford to rely upon the opinion of an advocate who opposes natural gas.
As I read further, I began to feel sympathy for the author and even more so for the people whom she had just called “redundant.” According to her and her reference to a Boston consulting group, the future of our economy is tied to “knowledge-based industry.”
According to her, heavy industry and manufacturing were indeed historically vital to our economy, but we no longer need them. Low-skilled jobs are becoming redundant – in other words, if you don’t have a college degree you’re no longer needed. Wow – and she got elected twice.
Let’s take a look at the facts. When Oneonta’s economy was strong, it benefited from the presence of heavy industry and manufacturing. Companies trained their employees so they would become “knowledge based” and able to perform their jobs.
Many of the companies had apprentice programs to train workers to become more skilled and they were able to advance and make a higher wage – they were “knowledge based” without the buzzword. That’s what built Oneonta.
The notion that we have to move entirely away from that model is nuts. We stand to benefit far more from an approach that nurtures what we had while embracing new types of companies – those that don’t actually build anything. (We sent those companies with their middle-class jobs to Mexico and other countries with poorly thought-out trade policies).
Off the top of my head, I was able to create the following list of companies that can be described as heavy industry/manufacturing: Lutz Feed, Focus Ventures, Brewery Ommegang, The Plains LLC, Northern Eagle, Custom Electronics, Corning, Astrocom, Ioxus, Amphenol, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, Brooks Bottling, Wightman Lumber, MAMCO, Covidian, Munson Building Supply, Cobleskill Stone, Oneonta Block Co., DOMO, Otsego Auto Crushers, Seward Sand & Gravel, Clark Companies, RJ Millworks, Eastman Associates, Butts Concrete, Unalam, Leatherstocking, P&R Truss, Medical Coaches and Otsego Ready Mix.
The list is not claimed to be complete and I apologize if your company isn’t listed. However, those companies employ about 2,500 people who don’t consider themselves to be redundant, feel very much “needed” and contribute to our economy. They also vote. Hopefully, Otsego Now will be successful in getting other companies looking for “knowledge-based”
employees to come here. We need them all.

Mike Zagata, a DEC commissioner in the Pataki Administration and former environmental executive with Fortune 500 companies, lives in Davenport.

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