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The Guest House In East Syracuse

A few months ago my wife and I stopped at a place called The Guest House. She wanted to see the layout for how to present her dichroic jewelry for some kind of show where many people were going to be sharing their wares. I stayed in the car while she went inside, but within a few minutes she’d opened the front door and waved me inside and introduced me to Sharron Pearson, the owner.

The Guest House

To say I was astonished with what I was seeing would be an understatement. Both of us thought it would look like a lot of empty space. Instead, it looked likes the inside of a very nicely decorated house. Later on I found out there’s an upstairs that’s decorated and laid out nicely for larger groups and parties. Read the rest of this entry »

Are We About To Be Saturated With Casinos?

I’m not gonna lie; I’m a big fan of Turning Stone Casino. I’ve been a fan since it first opened in the early 90’s when, compared to the casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, it seemed barely like a casino I’d ever seen. Yet it was flashy and I enjoyed myself, especially once I stopped playing the slots and started playing poker in the early 2000’s, before the “hold-em” poker phase. I’m especially fond of their Season’s Harvest Buffet, where I once got to meet Ray Halbritter; cool indeed!

Turning Stone in October

I’ve been thinking about them a lot lately as it feels like the central New York area is suddenly being saturated with new casinos. Maybe nothing like the other two cities I mentioned, but in February the casino at Exit 41, Del Lago Resort & Casino in Tyre (their official address is Waterloo, but it’s actually in Tyre), will open, and it’s about 10 minutes closer to where I live in Liverpool than Turning Stone. There’s also the Yellow Brick Road Casino in Chittenango, which is owned by Turning Stone so I guess that doesn’t necessarily count as much… although it does.

You might think that’s it, that’s enough. Nope! There’s also Rivers Casino and Resort in Schenectady and a possible casino (I haven’t heard if that one’s been finalized yet) in the Binghamton area. I’m not including the Batavia Downs Casino, the new slots at Vernon Downs, the casino in Buffalo and the one in Niagara Falls and one that’s been proposed to be in downtown Rochester (goodness!).

I’m not necessarily against casinos; actually, I’m not against them at all. What I am kind of against is over-saturating an area with too much of the same thing. For instance, I think Liverpool NY has way too many Dunkin’ Donuts (I live less than 10 minutes from 7 of them). This area was almost consumed by almost a dozen MRI centers in the early 90’s. And don’t get me started on all the drug stores, some within a couple of blocks of each other.

Why does Turning Stone work so well?

First, it was centrally located. Sure, it wasn’t Syracuse, but people from Rochester to Westchester County pretty much had the same distance in driving to get there.

Second, it brought in a lot of traffic from outside the state. Because it’s on the Oneida Nation property, people under age 18 were allowed to play, whereas the existing casinos in other states limited poker players under the age of 21.

Third, their growth has been astounding over the past 20 or so years. I can’t think of a time when they weren’t constructing something new, to the extent that they have 3 world class golf courses (I don’t golf) and bring in some of the top entertainment talents from around the world.

Then again, it’s easy when you don’t have any competition. What happens now that they’ll have lots of competition and probably lose at least 50% of their potential consumers? The surrounding counties aren’t going to send enough people to stay at their hotels, golf is seasonal, and I don’t believe some of these other locations won’t try to cash in on their convention business. I know already that the new casino opening in February already has a quality line up of performers booked including Flo Rida, Larry the Cable Guy, Bill Engvall and Bad Company; not bad for a startup.

My worry is that the outside casinos will cannibalize the casinos within central New York, and that the outside casinos won’t be able to sustain themselves, especially since some of them don’t offer table games at the present time. Maybe they’ll follow the model of the racetrack casinos, which bolster slots with a few high quality restaurants and, at least at a couple of them, still offer horse racing. Then again, a couple of the new casinos will still have to tout the 21 or older mantra (such as Del Lago) since they’re not on a reservation, so that might help some.

I’m wondering what the opinion of others might be about the issue I’ve brought up above. If you’re totally against gambling, your response might be a bit skewed, but I welcome those comments as well.  

Professional Consultant’s Association Of Central New York

Before I get too far, since it’s my blog, I’d like to mention that I made a top leadership blogs list for Mitch’s Blog; I’m feeling kind of good about that. 🙂

Professional Consutlants of CNY

I can’t believe I’ve had this blog this long and haven’t ever talked about this consultant’s organization I belong to. It’s called The Professional Consultant’s Association Of Central New York. It’s geared towards mainly individual businesses for whom services accounts for at least 51% of their business. In other words, if you make jewelry or pizza you’re not really considered a consultant, even if you’re self employed. You’re considered a consultant if the biggest part of how you make a living is in working with others by offering services of all types, which can be consulting (like me), accounting, training, financial services, etc. The organization even accepts companies that have multiple employees as members and will be charged a corporate rate, where they can send as many members as they wish.

I’ve been a member since 2002. At the present time I’m on the board of directors and I manage both the website and the blog (I write most of the posts but I also post articles other members send me). I found the group when I was still pretty new to consulting and tried calling a bunch of consultants to ask them for general advice. Only one of them talked to me and he invited me to this group… and the rest is history.

It’s not a tip club; heck, there’s too many of those around already. Instead, it’s an educational and networking organization where topics are selected with the intention of imparting both knowledge and wisdom that independent contractors could use. Occasionally we’ll have guest speakers that involve those who have achieved great success, those who can offer advice on things like social media, finances and general legal advice, as well as those who are involved in events and organizations within the community which many of our members might want to know about.

One of the special things our organization does that very few others do is what we call our roundtable events. That’s where we’ll take a topic that we believe will be of interest to our group, then have one of the members moderate it, which often includes an introduction to the topic, and then everyone gets to share their thoughts on it. I’ve gotten some of the best information and education from these sessions because, as you might expect, the average age on the consultants in the room is around 50 or so.

A couple of the roundtable discussions we’ve had this season include: Public Professionalism & Social Media (I led that one) and Networking 101. Two of the programs we’ve had were: Cyber/Internet Security for Small Business and Syracuse CoWorks/One Million Cups.

We also have member spotlights, where each of our members gets to do a 3-5 minute presentation about their business or their skills, then entertains questions and suggestions for the next 5 minutes. Members find that valuable on both ends because one gets to learn how to refine how they define themselves while the membership gets to know each other better. Once again, there are no other organizations that do such a thing.

Finally, the main thing that explains what are group is about is our code of ethics, which is the organization’s most visited page. Members must be in high standing and be approved to join, and if they breach the ethics policy they’re kindly asked to remove themselves.

Why I’m Boycotting Nestle’s Products

The first time I remember visiting Oswego, I came upon an area in Fulton where there was this marvelous chocolate smell in the air… something I’d never encountered before in my life. I was to learn that there was a Nestle’s chocolate factory, and almost every time I ended up passing through there I’d come across that scent, which was wonderful. I understood why Isaac Asimov almost fainted every time he went through Fulton on his way to SUNY Oswego.

I never had a negative thought about Nestle’s at the time, even though there was a boycott (this is a pdf) that I wasn’t privy to going on at the time (1977), since we didn’t have the internet back then and, well, as a college kid the only parts of the newspaper I read was the sports and comics pages. Mess with baby’s will you; curse you Nestle’s!

In essence, Nestle’s was trying to convince mother’s in less developed nations that their baby formula was better than breast feeding for their babies… and pretty aggressively at that. The biggest issue was that in those countries the water is fairly polluted, and since formula must be mixed with water, there’s no way such a claim could come close to being true. That and a host of other things that could and were happening in those countries led the initial boycott to its beginning, and here we are 40 years later and that boycott is still going on.

I wish I could say it was that issue that led me to boycott Nestle’s, but it’s not, mainly because I just learned about it in 2016. The issue that led me to start boycotting Nestle’s was the Jerk CEO’s proclamation that water shouldn’t be free because we don’t know how to treat it right and that it’s not a “human right and because we treat it as one, we are using it in an irresponsible manner…”

This year he pretty much doubled down on that one, stating last summer that corporations should own every drop of water on the planet — and you’re not getting any unless you pay up. This was in response to a lawsuit filed against Nestle’s for bottling water and selling it back to residents in California even though they were in a drought at the time. It didn’t help that a ruled in their favor against the Forest Service, saying that a permit which expired in 1987 is still valid because Nestle’s tried to renew it but never heard back from them, and until the Forest Service can find a legitimate reason to deny the permit that it’s still valid, regardless of the date… at an expense of $524 a year being paid by Nestle’s for the water. No kidding! :-O

Thus, I started boycotting Nestle’s in 2013… at least I thought I had. I wasn’t buying Nestle’s chocolate anymore, including their Crunch bar, which I’d always enjoyed. What I hadn’t been paying attention to until early 2016 was that their chocolate was being used for other things I’ve always enjoyed like Butterfingers and Baby Ruth bars. They also own and produce many other products I know about, most of which I used to consume in some way such as Cheerios (unfortunately I can’t get Mom to stop eating them, so there’s that lol), Sweet Leaf Tea, Smarties, Hot Pockets, Lean Cuisine, Dibs (oh no, not Dibs!), and Häagen-Dazs; sigh… There’s tons of stuff they produce that will amaze you, so here’s a list of Nestle’s products that are out on the market; you’ll be as amazed as I was… and this isn’t even all of them, as they’re behind over 8,000 products on the market.

Lake OntarioLake Ontario

Just so you know, this is in essence the only thing I’ve ever really boycotted in my life. There are other heinous companies that do bad things that I would have boycotted if I’d used their products to begin with. It’s kind of hard to boycott something you’ve never consumed. But Nestle’s, being one of the largest producers of foods in the world, makes it both easy and hard to boycott at the same time, mainly because they have so many items that it’s hard to know how you might be supporting them without meaning to.

Why take a stand on this? Because we live in an area that has some of the purest and largest fresh water reserves in the world, and Nestle’s wants a piece of it. They’re already getting 20% of the water from Lake Michigan, even while the people in Flint can’t consume or even bathe in their own water. It won’t be long before they’re coming after our own great lake, Lake Ontario, trying to bottle & sell part of our own water back to us.

Since it seems that the courts and the politicians aren’t going to do anything to protect the citizens, the only savvy thing to do is to try to make business hard to conduct while in America until they change their habits. Truthfully, I know this isn’t going to make a difference in their operations, even if every person in central New York joined in this boycott. However, what it might do if more of us joined in is get our local stores to stop carrying their products and get our local politicians to “finally” listen to the rest of us telling them how we’d rather be treated… and not as a commodity.

If I’m willing to give up Butterfingers and all that other stuff, what are you willing to give up to protect your, our, water rights?  

It’s Hard To Deal With Restaurant And Business Closings

Last Friday night I got a text message from my friend Scott. He told me that Muddy Waters, a Cajun restaurant in Baldwinsville, which I’d written positively about regarding their shrimp and grits, was closing for good when they shut down on Saturday night. The reason he told me this is because one of the Christmas gifts we got from his family was a gift certificate for a nice dollar amount off a meal.

Uno's closed Destinyformer Uno’s at Destiny

My wife and I went there for lunch and enjoyed another wonderful meal. We were talking to one of the owners, who said they’d be opening at another location that they weren’t sure of yet but were planning on opening an Italian restaurant in that location… not that we really need another Italian restaurant in our area. lol Little did we know that later that evening, when we were doing a mall walk at Destiny, that we’d discover the Uno’s had closed its doors the previous week… wha?!?!? They were still open when I was there on the 27th, eating something in the food court…

The last few years haven’t been kind to me when it comes to restaurant closings. I lost the Friendly’s that was literally across the street from where I live, as it became Moe’s. I lost both Ruby Tuesday’s, one at Great Northern & the other at Destiny. I lost Cold Stone Creamery when stupid Tim Horton’s closed on Route 31. I lost a take-out Chinese restaurant in a plaza on Route 57 near Taco Bell when some morons decided to rob it and then set it on fire trying to cover it up; so glad those idiots were caught. And, even though I’m not a major fan of Dunkin’ Donuts, the kiosk at Great Northern is now gone and they’re closing the one in Shoppingtown Mall.

I understand that the economy drives these things but we don’t have to like them. We don’t have to like the fact that Macy’s is closing at Shoppingtown Mall after being there for decades under the Kaufmann’s name. We don’t have to like that two other businesses have shuttered in Destiny (and I don’t even remember what was there) and that the Sears Outlet there is closing as well (I wish I’d known that because I needed a new dishwasher). They’d also lost both IHOP and Optigolf in 2016 (neither one will be missed; yeah, that’s cruel… lol). Oh yeah, Toby Keith’s… We’re still wondering which branches of Key Bank and First Niagara will be closing. Finally, Hess gas stations left the area, to be replaced by Speedway; at least they were replaced, right?

I don’t think it matters whether or not any of these businesses were local or not. I think it’s sad that we get used to something being in one place and then suddenly it’s not there, whether we were a customer of theirs or not. I’m happy when someone else moves into those locations, but I’ve complained in my wish list for central New York about all the dying strip malls and commercial properties around town that are a plight in our area.

I don’t have any solutions to offer like I tried with Great Northern Mall. This is basically a rant of despair over lost and forgotten friends… at least some of them.

Have you lost a store or restaurant in the last few years locally that you miss?  

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