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Massena Chamber of Commerce opening locks gift store in May

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MASSENA — After a one-year hiatus, the Greater Massena Chamber of Commerce is getting ready to reopen its Eisenhower Lock gift shop.

The store officially will open on May 23, and stay open until the locks close over Labor Day weekend in September.

Associate Director Penny Pullmain said the biggest question now is summer help. The chamber needs to talk with town officials, who hire for various departments for the summer, to find out who it will be able to use at the store, which operates seven days a week.

“They always hire college kids,” she said. “We’re looking at hiring our own other people as well.”

The chamber hires would be high school students who can work with college students during the summer and then take over once the college students head back to school.

“We’ll need the high school kids at the end of the season,” Ms. Pullmain said.

The addition of the high school students also will mean that no one works more than 40 hours per week.

She said some of the hires will be found through word of mouth.

She said the chamber has started doing inventory at the chamber office and wants to determine what types of items should be stocked at the store.

Chamber Director Kathy Kelly-Ori, meanwhile, is preparing a media plan to let people outside the Massena area know about the store.

“We’re going far-reaching now,” she said, noting she had talked with representatives from newspapers in Syracuse and Albany and is trying to link up with travel writers for publications around the state.

The chamber had opted not to open its gift ship in the summer of 2013 because the locks did not open on schedule. The shop sells local memorabilia and snacks, and also provides information on the local area.

Eisenhower Lock typically opens for the season during Memorial Day weekend at the end of May, and the season runs until Labor Day. But, because of ongoing facility maintenance to repair damage caused by the winter weather, it did not open until the end of June last summer. Before its opening, visitors had asked to view ships from the Eisenhower Lock North Side Observation Area, which remains open year round.

The repairs included replacement of the main building’s roof and repairs to the ground floor of the center that sustained water damage. The 50-year-old structure sustained the damage because of a failure of the roof that also is the main level of the observation deck.

That delay prompted visitors to call the chamber office wondering why the lock store was not open.

But chamber board members opted not to open the store for several reasons.

Among them was a lack of funding for employees to manage the shop. At the time, the chamber was waiting for the arrival of casino gaming funds from the state. That money, which the chamber receives from the town, is used to pay the gift shop employees.

Board members also decided it wasn’t financially feasible to open that late in the season.

Instead, they devoted their resources to the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society’s Evan Williams Bourbon Showdown that was held from Aug. 8 to 11 in Whittaker Park, Waddington. The chamber, along with other chambers, set up a booth to sell some of its items. The chamber also sells items throughout the year from its offices at 16 Church St.

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