“I remember when I moved here nine years ago,” recalled Patricia Holman, a Glen Cove resident, a local business owner and the executive director of the Glen Cove Business Improvement District. “The first chance I had, I walked downtown.”
Now it’s her job to make Glen Cove’s downtown the best it can be. “Downtown is already here,” Holman said. “We just need to bring the people here so the businesses can flourish.”
Last June, BID Executive Director Francine Koehler announced her retirement after 19 years. She and the BID board initiated a formal candidate search for a replacement. Holman, then a board member, rose to the top of the list, Koehler said.
“We felt that Patricia knew at a gut level” what the job entailed, she said. “From having participated on the board, and from having a business downtown, Patricia had the skill set that really kind of fit the position.”
“She’s been maintaining the profile of what’s been done,” said Brian Mercadante, co-owner of Accent on the Home and a former BID board member. “And she’s working on new ideas as well.”
Holman said that when she walks the streets downtown, she sees things as they are and, more important, as they could be. “I love history and I love design,” she said, “so the idea of taking something that was old and making it something fresh and new . . . satisfied my love of both.”
Her business also melds history and design. So Vintage, on School Street, sells antique furniture and lighting, and has survived a phenomenon that Koehler said was common to many downtown areas: the decline of retail. “I think that’s the challenge now,” she said. “It was a challenge for me.”
So Vintage, which Holman founded with a partner in 2013, relies on Glen Cove’s downtown foot traffic as well as Etsy, an online platform for buying and selling niche crafts. Her experience, Koehler said, will help Holman undertake one of the key missions of the BID: “Helping your businesses adapt and take advantage of a new culture.”
Holman is taking that role seriously. Earlier this year, when she walked into a BID member’s store, GLY Religious Store on School Street, she noticed that in the back, it sold communion dresses. “I would sometimes go in there around the holidays because they had all these Christmas things,” she said, adding that she never knew about the communion dresses.
She told the owners that they should post information about their goods on social media, to “get the word out.” But the owners, like many others who own small businesses, were not adept at social media marketing.
“So I stole one of my girlfriends’ daughters,” Holman recounted, “I took her there, and I spent hours doing a photo shoot for [the store], and I posted it for them on their Facebook [page].”
Every so often, she gets involved to that extent. “I’m OK with being their teacher and explaining to them” how to make the most of this “new culture,” she said, but added, “I can’t just market [everyone’s] store. [The owner] has to be willing to do it themselves.”
Holman has a strategy for attracting people to Glen Cove’s businesses. She said that there are two types of people she wants to reach: locals who might stay at home instead of going downtown, and people from outside Glen Cove who might want to explore the city.
For the locals, she said, “They just have to be reminded what’s there,” through marketing and special events to lure them to the area.
For out-of-towners, Holman is trying something new. She has added advertisements highlighting local businesses to the previews at the AMC Glen Cove 6 movie theater. People from across the North Shore patronize the theater because it’s the nearest option. By telling people about local restaurants and retail stores before a movie, she said, she hopes they will extend their downtown stay afterward.
One of Holman’s other roles is liaison between businesses and city government. For example, she said, some businesses recently complained that delivery trucks didn’t have room to park in the downtown parking garage because cars were parked in a no-parking zone where the lines had faded away. The businesses spoke to Holman, who spoke to city officials, who now plan to send a crew to repaint the lines. Koehler said that the BID director has to be tactful. “The BID is an apolitical organization,” she said, “but on the other hand, it’s critical to have a collegial, close relationship with the municipality, which has ever-changing administrations.”
Holman said that she is most looking forward to the Village Square project, where a combination of commercial and residential properties are being built. “I think with the Village Square and [the Garvies Point project], the population being able to use the downtown area will just help grow it,” she said. “And that’s what we’re really looking forward to.”