I’ve been following the struggles of local business in the Essex County village of AuSable Forks. I asked Trudy Rosenblum who edits the Jay Community News to tell us about what’s been happening in her community. Here is what she sent:
AuSable Forks in the Township of Jay New York is feeling the first pangs of real hardship as the economic crisis arrives locally. Without warning Aubochon Hardware, conveniently located in the middle of the main street in Au Sable Forks, suddenly closed its doors. Now there are persistent rumors that the Grand Union in Au Sable Forks will also close along with several of the small businesses on the main street. People are very upset. They wonder what will become of this little town.
Au Sable Forks was once thriving with large sawmills, a foundry and an Iron Works company. There were plenty of jobs and numerous stores, hotels, restaurants and entertainment for the local population. Like any town, Au Sable Forks has seen its hard times, but the little town always managed to pull through, somehow adapting and changing, although it has never managed to recreate the beauty and attractiveness it had in the early 20th century.
Now the town is smaller and much poorer. There is a large population of elderly. Jobs are few and usually a long commute away. There is no industry, and no large employer. Visually it is no longer the charming quaint little village of the past that could attract tourists. Busloads of sightseers will not be stopping in the Forks even though we have the natural beauty that tourists want to see.
So Au Sable Forks has been of late a town hanging on. Up till the latest crisis at least its population could obtain locally the necessities for living, but with the closing of the big stores even that will be taken from the residents. It is especially difficult for a rural village in a cold climate to carry on in a poor economy. People already financially strapped must find a way to pay higher prices for everything because everything must be imported from cities farther away.
Home heating costs have gone through the roof. If you don’t have a car, there isn’t public transportation (although just this month a shuttle bus has been announced that will go to Lake Placid daily) so one has to rely on the good will of friends or they have to do without. Take away their ability to walk to the local store for food and other supplies and you have a recipe for disaster. The closest large grocery store is in Keeseville, Lake Placid or Plattsburgh, all a significant drive away, if you have transportation.
The impacts that the store closings may have could be pretty awful. As times get tougher and resources dwindle and become more expensive to obtain both in time and money, one would expect to see a rise in depression and a lowering of one’s frustration tolerance. Along with the lowering of frustration tolerance and the negative effects from the use of escape substances one could expect a rise in abusive behavior. At risk will be children, animals, women and the elderly. There is an old saying that like attracts like. Negativity will attract negativity causing a downward spiral.
There are many people in the Township of Jay working hard to prevent this downward spiral. The churches are very active providing food banks, inexpensive clothing, short-term shelter and even money. The politicians are hard at work trying to prevent the stores from closing and offering new programs to revitalize the appearance of the town. The residents are trying very hard to patronize local businesses and hire local workers. And to lighten the mood Au Sable Forks now has a renovated movie theater and in Jay there is a new performing arts theater in full operation presenting plays, concerts, story telling, dance classes, movement instruction and painting and sculpture classes.
It is hoped that with all these people working so hard the dire predictions of gloom and doom can be aborted and the positive cooperative spirit can attract more of the same. What is really needed, however, is a long-term fix. People need local good jobs. There needs to be some sort of industry; relying on tourism just isn’t cutting it.
We need our political processes, on the local, county and state levels to succeed in attracting an industry to the area; something that will create new jobs and revitalize the local economy. In the current economic climate, however, this may be only a dream. The alternative is bleak. One only has to drive down through New Russia, for example, and see the foundations of the buildings that once housed a thriving little population. The forest has closed over and reclaimed that area. Is this to be the fate of Au Sable Forks?