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Massena Chamber of Commerce opening locks store this summer

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

They’ll officially open the store on May 23, and remain open until the locks closes over the Labor Day weekend in September.

Associate Director Penny Pullmain said their biggest question at this point is summer help. They need to talk with town officials, who hire for various departments for the summer, to find out who they 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 those students head back to their universities for the fall semester.

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

The addition of the high schoolers will also mean that nobody works more than 40 hours a week.

She said some of their hires come through word of mouth.

“A lot of it has been word of mouth, kids that have worked there before or their siblings may have worked there,” Ms. Pullmain said.

She said they’ve started doing their inventory at the chamber office and want to determine what types of items they should stock up on at the store.

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

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

“We’re reaching out now,” Ms. Kelly-Ori said.

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

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 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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