Full disclosure: When I moved to Northern Westchester about a decade ago, I fell in love with Pleasantville. Although I live in a neighboring town, I found myself spending a great deal of time in this charming village. It all started with a much beloved independent business, the toy store, Try & Buy. As a newcomer to the ‘burbs with kids of nursery school age, it seemed that every Friday I was scouring the aisles for presents for the upcoming weekend which would be chock full of birthday parties.
But my love affair with this village didn’t stop at the now defunct toy store. With my stroller, I found that it was a remarkably walkable town which was key for someone accustomed to tallying up miles in the streets of Manhattan. Here, I could grab a cup of coffee, walk into the bookstore and bribe my kids to behave with sweets from the candy store.
Now that the deluge of birthday parties has ended and my kids are no longer toddlers, I still find myself drawn to Pleasantville. With the Jacob Burns Film Center and plentiful restaurants, I am here at least weekly. Turns out, I am not alone in my love affair with Pleasantville as the latest housing market data shows demand outstripping supply and the median sales price for single family homes steadily increasing from $665,000 (pre-pandemic in 2019) to record sales highs last year with a median of $739,000. It seems that the magic of Pleasantville is attracting buyers from the city and lower Westchester looking for more space, a place to raise a family with a great school district plus a pedestrian-friendly layout to access shops and restaurants easily. Buyers frequently cite the convenience and walkability of the village as key factors influencing their home purchasing decisions.
Linking the community and commerce has been at the forefront of Bill Flooks mind since he joined the Pleasantville Chamber of Commerce in 2004. Fast forward a few years and he is now the President of the Chamber for more than a dozen years. As the owner of local business, Beecher Flooks Funeral Home on Bedford Road, he is distinctly aware of the many challenges that small independent businesses face to ensure that Pleasantville remains a vibrant village for both businesses and residents alike.
Flooks describes his Chamber position as “fun.” He enjoys meeting the business owners and residents and “helping the community get to where it wants to be.” Currently with almost 150 members in the Chamber, Flooks and his team help the businesses gain exposure so that people in town know about the many local services and retail spots available to them right outside their front doors. The Chamber also organizes fun-filled events that attract Westchester residents to visit the village and hopefully patronize its many businesses.
Chamber’s Website Relaunch
Chamber members run the gamut from accountants, lawyers and non-profits to several restaurants as the 10570 is quickly becoming a foodie destination in Northern Westchester (more on that later) and beyond. The Chamber recently relaunched their website at pleasantvillechamber.com with a user-friendly member directory plus parking information including rules and regulations including meter payment through the Pango app. Flooks and the Chamber members wanted the revamped website to be as user and mobile-friendly as possible for shoppers and businesses.
Businesses can also now apply or renew their Chamber membership online. So far, the relaunched website with a new look and enhanced navigation seems to be a hit and the Chamber is already ahead of membership renewals in Q1 2022 versus previous years.
Keeping Chamber members and residents informed of construction in the village is a top priority for Flooks. With the ongoing construction on Manville Road and by Memorial Plaza, Flooks wants local businesses to know when key segments of projects are completed and how that will impact parking for customers. The website includes information about various infrastructure projects and e-newsletters are sent to Chamber members detailing the various construction phases.
Chamber Events Enhance Pleasantville’s Appeal
“Linking community and commerce” has been the Chamber’s tagline for more than a decade and Flooks lists a number of key events and initiatives that help accomplish this goal. From ribbon cutting ceremonies for new businesses in town captured on film by Pleasantville Community TV to the Chamber’s well attended Business Person of the Year event, the Chamber is always looking for ways to help members achieve exposure and grow their business.
One such event was the 1st Annual Oktoberfest Street Fair held this fall when COVID was on a downward trajectory featuring live music and ping pong plus a variety of foods from local Chamber members on Wheeler Avenue which was closed off to vehicular traffic. Commenting on the inaugural event, Flooks noted that “people were looking to get out [then] and do social stuff. We will definitely do it again, expanded hopefully, with some children-friendly events. It showed we are back and willing to help the businesses and the community.” Echoing Flook’s enthusiasm for the event, Chamber Administrator Evelyn Tierney said, “It didn’t hurt that people were able to enjoy an alcoholic beverage and eat in the open air and move around to see and talk to friends. Businesses on Washington Ave had spillover from Wheeler Ave – so it was good for their businesses too.” The event was well-promoted with flyers on Facebook and Instagram plus the 10570 Facebook group shared Chamber posts about it with their 5,000 subscribers. The Chamber is also hoping to help support the Pleasantville Music Festival which is currently scheduled for July 9, 2022. “The festival is a great event that brings thousands to the village and historically we’ve always had good weather,” Flooks commented.
Pleasantville isn’t just beloved by local residents. People from neighboring communities and Southern Westchester are also drawn to the village. County Executive George Latimer notes that “Pleasantville’s critical location in the Saw Mill River Valley draws people from all around it. The Jacob Burns Film Center is a key asset offering entertainment that you can’t find elsewhere.” Latimer, a Rye resident, often frequents it as well as the bustling restaurant scene. “Pleasantville has terrific restaurants and the farmers market adds to the town’s appeal. The farmers market was one of the first in the county to go year round and people are willing to travel to it because it is so unique and well organized. It brings a distinct energy level to the village. There is a certain vibe of Americana that you feel in Pleasantville. People say hello to each other on the street. Plus the school system is great and you have a non-partisan local government truly looking after the best interests of the village.”
While many beloved local independent businesses have been mainstays in the community for years like Glass Onion Originals, Black Cow and the Village Bookstore, there are several national chains such as convenience and coffee shops that are also part of the village. The majority of these chains are not Chamber members but Flooks doesn’t view that as a serious problem to contend with. “We go back to them and ask them to join but many of them have to go through corporate and they just view us as another town to do business in. Maybe you grab a coffee [from a chain] and then pick up a sandwich from Sundance Deli or Frank & Joe’s. The great thing about America is you have choices,” he adds.
It is clear that the Chamber members do not just view Pleasantville as a place to do business in. They support many local charitable initiatives from PTA events to the Tina Shaina Gambino Memorial Foundation 5K, an event which raises money for organ donation named in honor of a local Pleasantville High School senior who passed away suddenly in 2004. Several Chamber members donate thousands of dollars a year to hyperlocal causes or by providing services or food pro-bono.
10570: A Foodie Destination
On the topic of food, Pleasantville is one of the top foodie destinations in the county. With specialty shops such as Second Mouse Cheese Shop and Flour & Sun Bakery plus the all new Root2Rise, a 100% plant-based café, recently relocated suburbanites and foodies with a sophisticated palate have plentiful options. Restaurants such as Southern Table have even received Michelin recognition. “In the evening parking eases up in the village, so if you can’t get into one restaurant, you might discover another that’s also really good,” explains Flooks. “Once you park your car, the restaurants are all within easy walking distance of each other.”
Many of these restaurants on Wheeler Avenue set up outdoor seating during warmer weather and have had to pivot to expanded take-out options and curbside delivery during the pandemic.
Pleasantville truly is a walking village and the people who are moving here to a house or apartment may only need one car or none at all as many now work from home. “People can walk to whatever they need here to buy, eat, drink or see a movie. The way the village is set up with business and residential so close to each other is a homerun,” exclaims Flooks.
“I think with the recent housing explosion a lot of the businesses are happy. You are going to have more shoppers, more eaters, more drinkers and more visitors coming to the village.” The future of the village seems poised for success and continuous growth. “This will only make Pleasantville more vibrant and [ultimately] more profitable for business,” sums up Flooks.
Note: This article is based on excerpts from an interview with Bill Flooks that aired on Pleasantville Community TV. To access the full interview, visit www.pctv76.org.
Photos Courtesy of the Pleasantville Chamber of Commerce