TOWN OF LOWVILLE, N.Y. (WWNY) - In the north country, small businesses are often the backbone of a community. But there’s concern many of these businesses could disappear.
Thousands of business owners across northern New York are at or approaching retirement age and often times they don’t have someone to hand their business off to.
But, there’s an effort to keep these businesses open, while bringing new business owners into the fold.
After taking over the business in January, Jon Beller and his wife, Taren, are excited to get to work.
If you don’t recognize them, maybe you know their business. They’re the new owners of Tug Hill Vineyards in the town of Lowville, taking over after its previous owners retired.
“We looked at a lot of properties, a lot of different options. After a while, thought, you know what, that’s a beautiful place, it’s unique, and it’s a perfect event center,” said John.
This week, the Bellers are the poster child for the “Small Communities, Big Opportunities” virtual conference.
It aims to pair people like them, buyers, with business owners who are ready to hand over the reins, but with no one to hand them over to.
“There’s about 10,000 businesses in the north country that are owned by baby boomers that will be looking to sell their business in the next 3 to 5 years potentially, that don’t have a succession plan,” said Lewis County Economic Development Specialist Jenna Kraeger.
Many north country communities are reliant on the handful of local shops in town and it’s a huge loss if one of them closes.
“It’s one thing if you lose a restaurant in a downtown city. It’s another thing if you lose a pizza shop in your downtown in the north country where that’s only one of two restaurants,” said Dani Delaini, coordinator, Center for Businesses In Transition at the Adirondack North Country Association.
So pairing a retiring north country business owner with a buyer is vital, but it can be daunting.
According to CBIT, the Center for Businesses in Transition, nationally, only about 1 in 5 business owners who plan to sell so they can retire are able to do so.
“It seemed fairly monumental and unpredictable. What do you do? You go out there on the open market and put your business for sale,” said Scott Phillips, who has owned Adirondack Logworks in Schroon Lake for 21 years.
He was negotiating with a buyer last year, but a deal never got done. He’s one of many business owners hoping to find someone like Jon Beller at this week’s conference.
“It is huge for me. It’s gonna bring together contacts that we wouldn’t dream of making otherwise,” said Phillips.
Delaini is hosting the conference for CBIT. As of Monday nearly 120 people had signed up.
Beyond pairing buyers and sellers, she hopes they can cut through the red tape for potential business owners.
“If it’s something that excites someone and this is what they want to do, we will figure out how to support them in making it happen,” she said.
The conference began Wednesday and runs through Saturday. If you’re interested, you can still sign up here.
Delaini says this week won’t be an end to the problem, so CBIT is always looking for new buyers to work with.