Corporate chains change Utica area’s business and shopping options, students say


Photo by Hope Russo

Hope Russo, Staff Writer

Over recent years, the city of Utica has undergone major developmental and business changes in effort to offer more shopping and dining options to locals.

Both local and commercially-owned businesses are grabbing the attention of consumers, enticing them to not only come in and enjoy a unique experience, but also buy their products. 

The Mohawk Valley and Greater Utica area is known for family-owned businesses and restaurants that often draw customers from outside of the area. Senior Alex Vitagliano refers to the Utica as being a “proud” city and “generally independent” because of the large amount of family-owned businesses and restaurants.  

Photo by Hope Russo

“Many of Utica’s shops are locally owned and in choosing them you are improving our local economy, while knowing the people behind the product can bring a more personalized touch,” Vitagliano said. “For example, places like Utica Coffee and Tailor & Cook.” 

  Graduate student Julianna Zegarelli also believes that going local is more beneficial and the right way to go.   

“I am really happy we have a lot of local businesses in terms of restaurants because the food is 100 times better,” Zegarelli said. “This is such a small place that you usually know someone in the family that owns the restaurant.”

Zegarelli loves being part of a community like Utica. 

However, Utica has not been completely resistant to franchises and corporate owned businesses. Last fall, chain restaurants and food vendors, such as Blaze Pizza, Jersey Mike’s and Nothing Bundt Cakes, opened in Consumer Square in New Hartford. Often times these nationally-owned businesses take away from small businesses and restaurants that make the area unique. 

Retail giants have also become staples in the Mohawk Valley. Businesses including Walmart, Target and Best Buy have caused many small stores to close, leaving the Utica area with fewer small shops to support. 

“Larger grocery chains like Walmart and BJs provide a wider variety of products with lower costs,” Vitagliano said. “Having these large corporate owned businesses brings a larger economy scale.” 

When looking at these bigger chains, the difference between their economic scales and revenue might be noticeable to some.  

Zegarelli believes Utica has been greatly affected by these large commercial stores and chain restaurants. Many students believe that the competitive prices have driven out various small and locally owned businesses within Utica.  

“Our local businesses suffer when they have the same if not better products to offer consumers,” junior Tori Emery said.

Emery likes to support local businesses and believes that their customer base is important and could even make or break them. 

 “Their business could be their main source of income for their little girl’s dance classes, or equipment for their little boy to play flag football,” Emery said.   

For some students, shopping locally is important, as some might argue that they appreciate the higher quality of product some local businesses have that are not on the mass market. 

“I’d much rather buy fruit from the farmers market than Hannaford or Walmart because it’s local and it’s far less processed,” Zegarelli said.  

“Shopping locally is rewarding because you’re helping to keep these small businesses running,” Emery said. “It makes Utica unique.”  

Photo by Hope Russo