Main Street businesses form new Merchants Association to organize village events

A new group has effectively replaced Geneseo Uptown Merchants Association, an organization that serviced the community for nearly 15 years. The Geneseo Merchants Association will take on the role of town event organizer.

GMA will oversee events previously organized by GUMA including the Teddy Bear Parade, which kicks off the festivities of the Geneseo Summer Festival each year. The organization will also oversee annual events held during the winter holiday season.

GMA held a formal meeting on March 28 with 10 local businesses and three organizations to nominate a board of directors.

Another closed meeting was held on April 11 to continue collecting nominations and further discuss future events. Deb Altreith of the Big Tree Inn was nominated for the post of president, but has stepped down for personal reasons. Bob Davis of Geneseo Computers will be vice president and acting president until next year's elections. Angel Berry of Image Empire Salon was elected treasurer, Spring Marrow of Frugal Fashionista will serve as secretary and Mark Pritchard of Swain Sports II will serve as committee chair.

Grayce McLaughlin, owner of Touch of Grayce on Main Street, was present at the meeting.

"We discussed the summer festival, and just trying to collectively bring the town businesses together and hear people's ideas about what they think is important for Main Street," she said.

According to McLaughlin, the organization is still in its infancy and no major changes or decisions have yet been made regarding town events.

"We're in the forming stage, I believe," she said. "It's really not a huge change [from GUMA] … it's going to be a lot of the same people."

"Some of the people who have been working [on GMA] for months … they've been doing this for many years," she added, "and I think they just decided to change their direction a little bit."

Pritchard also said he feels that Main Street could use new organization and a fresh direction.

"In 15 years, the face of Main Street has changed," Pritchard said. "There's a lot of different types of shops, a lot of different venues, so it's kind of changed the atmosphere. That's why we're trying to put a new group together and come up with some fresh ideas, some new perspectives."

According to Pritchard, while GMA will continue to hold events traditionally organized by GUMA, there are also plans for new events including potential sidewalk sales during Geneseo's Parents Weekend.

"Geneseo thrives because of the tight-knit community and the college," Pritchard said, noting that he hopes to bring college students into the organization and allow them to help develop and plan events in town.

"Personally, I feel that I really want to dig into some of the resources that the college has," he said. "Let's all work together and use the resources that are available to us."