Stacey Payette outside of her store Sheldon Hill on Wednesday

Ithaca, N.Y. — Stacey Payette was with her mother last Friday morning when she got a call from an unknown number.


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Why I Shop Downtown

The news was not good: After the slowest three months in Payette’s six years of owning the jewelry store Sheldon Hill, a worker on the Commons construction team accidentally drove into, and shattered, her shop window.

The window had to be boarded up with ugly wood panels. A friend suggested that Payette post a sign on the outside of her shop saying, “The construction workers did it!”

But Payette had another idea.

“I thought, ‘It wasn’t like the workers had a vendetta against me; they just had an accident,’” she says in an interview on Wednesday. “So I thought I’ll just do the opposite: I’ll say everything it wasn’t.”

Stacey Payette outside of her store Sheldon Hill on Wednesday. (Jeff Stein/Ithaca Voice)

Now, pedestrians walking on the north side of the main Commons strip are greeted by a surprise: A series of joking messages about what didn’t cause the damage to Payette’s store.

“IT WAS NOT A DEER,” one sign says. “IT WAS NOT A ROCK.” Adds a third: “IT WAS NOT RAND PAUL!!”

Since posting the jokes, Payette says, people walking on the Commons will stop to read them — and laugh.

“I think it’s important to focus on the humor,” Payette says. “I want people to say: ‘That’s the Lemonade Maker.’”

“That’s how I want to be remembered: ‘Stacey, she makes that lemonade better than anyone else.’”

That’s not to say Payette was exactly thrilled. Pedestrian traffic from January to March was abysmal, she says, and the destruction of her window certainly isn’t helping.

See related: Over 60 percent of downtown Ithaca retailers saw sales, foot traffic drop in 2014

The accident, she says, was “extremely frustrating.” Several people have said they were confused if she had closed up or been robbed after seeing the boarded up windows.

“Will I experience a decrease in business as a result of this? Yes, probably,” she says.

Moreover, Payette says, putting her creativity into dealing with the broken window is shortening the amount of time she has to innovate with other facets of her business — pricing, how to make sales work on eBay, how to talk to customers.

“It’s just a case of really bad luck,” she says.

Payette added that the landlords, who are also the owners of Petrune, are working out reimbursements for the new window pane with the Commons construction teams.

Payette says she taught economics at an Ithaca school for a number of years, and routinely imparted the importance of the entrepreneur as risk-taker.

“I’ve been a real supporter of progress, and you’ll never see me in any publications saying anything against the project. I believe it’s my job to figure out how to make a dollar,” she says.

Complications from the Commons construction project, she says, are just another obstacle to be overcome.

“I’m not mad at anybody. Nobody put a gun to my head and said, ‘You will be a business owner,’” she says.

“There is no guarantee that when you go into business, outside forces won’t upset you.”

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.