Daily Gazette: New merchants join Schenectady’s
Upper Union Street business district even amid pandemic

SCHENECTADY — The Upper Union Street shopping district has been adding new merchants in a period of great challenge for storefront retailers.

A grand opening Thursday marked the arrival of the newest, a home furnishings store with an embedded coffee bar, but since May, a fish fry, hairdresser and smoothie/shake shop also have opened their doors.

A sushi restaurant has moved within the district and opened in new quarters last month, while a Korean-Cajun restaurant is nearing completion.

There is always some churn and some closures in the compact shopping strip, but it remains one of the busier storefront retail districts in the region, and one of the more diverse, with everything from hemp extracts (Upstate CBD) to overstuffed sandwiches (Gershon’s Deli), from engagement rings (Sondra’s Fine Jewelry) to wedding gowns (Ferri Formals and Bridals).

“You go up the street and there are some vacancies but they really don’t last long,” said Chris DiCocco, a local accountant and board chair of the Upper Union Street Business Improvement District.

Vacant storefronts continue to draw interest from potential merchants, he said, and the district continues to draw interest from shoppers.

“It’s a distinctive part of the community and we’re proud of it,” DiCocco said, adding that the familiar small businesses can be a welcome presence amid a crisis that keeps people apart.

Some of the departures are keenly felt — the Phillips Hardware store was a significant asset for the shopping district, he said — but in some cases, the merchants who replace them bring something entirely new to Upper Union Street.

New since the pandemic hit: Off The Hook Fish Fry (May), Fur Hairdressing (June), Sunny Nutrition (August) and b.Inspired/Storied Coffee (November). Mr. Wasabi relocated to the former hardware store in November and Union Bonchon Chicken & Cajun Seafood is still finishing renovations of its new space.