Officials say efforts are underway after loss of major businesses

BATH - What is the future of the Bath business district?

The closures of the popular Chat-A-Whyle Restaurant, Kmart and the Bath Building Company will have a major impact on village taxes and have been the talk of the community.

Village Mayor Bill von Hagn said quite a bit has been done in the last several years to invigorate the downtown area.

“This summer (the village) received a $320,020 New York Main Street Grant, and upgrades were made to a handful of village businesses,” von Hagn said. “The work made a positive impact on the business district.”

Work was completed at four downtown businesses sites, Longwell Lumber and Building Co., Betty Kay Bake Shop, Catholic Charities of Steuben and 31 Liberty St., which formerly housed Pizza Deelite.

Von Hagn said other recent improvements to try to help spur growth in the business district include a $20,000 technical assistance grant and major improvements to the Municipal Parking Lot and Liberty Park.

“There has been a focus on the downtown area. You can’t just let it deteriorate,” von Hagn said. “It you don’t put time in the downtown area, you don’t have anything. So there has been a concerted effort in this area.”

Von Hagn said in the next couple of months LED lighting will be installed in the downtown area and parking meters on Liberty, Buell, William and Steuben streets, and the west side of Pulteney Park, will be removed and those areas will be converted to two-hour parking zones.

“I was shocked, just like the rest of the community, [by the closure of Chat-A-Whyle],” von Hagn said in early October. “It’s a huge hit, just like the closure of Kmart and Bath Building Co.”

Von Hagn said village officials will continue to work on the downtown area and make it a nice place to visit.

The Chat-A-Whyle Restaurant had been in business since the mid-1930s. The Bath Building Company, on West Washington Street, and Big Kmart, on West Morris Street, both closed their doors late in 2019.

“It’s the times that we are in. I wish everybody success in all of their businesses,” von Hagn said in early October. “It goes to the basic concept -- if people don’t go downtown, if we don’t support the businesses, if we aren’t engaged in our community, these things happen.”

Von Hagn said currently nearly 50 percent of properties in village are tax exempt, so the loss of retailers is a significant hit to the tax base.