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Massena Chamber makes plans to reopen Eisenhower Lock gift shop

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MASSENA - They didn’t have a presence in 2013, but the Greater Massena Chamber of Commerce plans to return to the Eisenhower Lock and open their gift shop this summer.

Chamber board President Miriam S. Catapano said she had already spoken with Seaway Associate Administrator Salvatore “Sal” Pisani about reopening their locks gift shop in 2014.

“I met with Sal. We will be doing it,” Ms. Catapano said. “It’s really good news. We’re very excited about it.”

In years past, the chamber has used summer hires to staff a store that sells local memorabilia and snacks, as well as provides information on the local area. Ms. Catapano said they’re looking forward to doing that again.

“It’s an opportunity to be out there with information for people who come to the area,” she said.

The chamber had opted not to open their gift shop in the summer of 2013 because the locks did not open on schedule.

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

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

That delay brought calls to the chamber office by visitors, wondering why the lock store was not open.

In the end, chamber board members opted not to open the store for a couple of reasons.

Among them was a lack of funding for employees to manage the shop. At the time they, like some local municipalities including the town of Massena, were 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 employees who staff the gift shop.

Board members also decided that 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. They, along with other chambers from throughout the area, set up a booth set up to sell some of their items. The chamber also sells items throughout their year from their offices at 16 Church St.

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