Smith Market Wins $25,000 Impact Opportunity Challenge

Smith Market was selected as the winner of The Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties’ $25,000 Impact Opportunity Challenge. The market was one of five finalists to pitch their idea for an innovative business concept for downtown Utica to a panel of judges on Wednesday, August 10.

The market will be located at 412 Main Street, Utica, in the previous D.B. Smith & Co. building. Smith Market will offer a selection of organic and locally grown produce, flowers, chemical-free groceries, natural body care and eco-friendly household products. It intends to meet the growing demand for a natural food store and year-round local market in the downtown community.

“Our focus is to be local with our products and with our efforts,” said co-owner Luciann Gould. “This is an idea that has evolved in me for years. I grow gardens and frequent [local] markets. I talk to farmers and learn everything there is to know about the food – how it is produced, how the animals are raised and what the animals are fed. For years, I have often wondered why we didn’t have [a health food store] in Utica and now we will!”

Gould and co-owner Christopher Tillotson plan to invest the award money in new equipment, shelving and furniture for the market.

“Entrepreneurs like Luciann [Gould] and Christopher [Tillotson] are an inspiration because they’ve found a way to integrate their personal passions into their careers,” said Alicia Dicks, president/CEO of The Community Foundation. “The Impact Opportunity Challenge was a new and creative way for The Community Foundation to promote economic development in our region and allowed us to work with dozens of local entrepreneurs with big ideas for our community. We’re confident that many of the Challenge participants will be a part of downtown Utica’s continuing transformation, adding to the vibrancy and success of our urban core.”

The Impact Opportunity Challenge, made possible by The Community Foundation’s Corporate Partners, was open to start-ups and early-stage businesses with an innovative business concept for one of four Utica neighborhoods: Downtown, Bagg’s Square, Brewery District or Bleecker/East District. Fifty-eight applications were submitted and 33 were accepted into the Challenge. To help applicants throughout the Challenge, The Community Foundation partnered with Mohawk Valley Community College’s thINCubator to coach and mentor applicants. thINCubator offers accelerated programming that gives aspiring entrepreneurs the resources needed to make their vision a reality – from ideation to development to deployment.

The event was the culmination of a five-month process that began with The Community Foundation’s Speaker Series event featuring Don Marinelli in March. Marinelli discussed lessons learned from Pittsburgh, which redeveloped and revitalized itself following the loss of its industrial base. He encouraged Mohawk Valley community leaders and residents to envision the region’s potential and take steps to create positive change.

The Impact Opportunity Challenge is made possible through the generous support of The Community Foundation’s Corporate Partners: Adjusters International; Bank of America; Bank of Utica; Birnie Bus Service, Inc.; Carbone Auto Group; Casa Imports; Charles A. Gaetano Construction Corp.; Clifford Fuel Co., Inc.; Coughlin Giambrone, LLC; Excellus BlueCross BlueShield; Fastrac Markets; First Source Federal Credit Union; M. Griffith Investment Services, Inc.; Mohawk Valley EDGE; NBT Bank; Pacemaker Steel & Piping Company, Inc.; “Save of the Day” Foundation; Strategic Financial Services, LLC; The Fountainhead Group, Inc.; The Observer-Dispatch; Upstate Venture Connect; WIBX 950; and WKTV NewsChannel 2.