DUNKIRK - It's not often someone can walk in off the street and begin a job right away. It happened Wednesday - sort of - as Congressman Tom Reed spent part of the afternoon learning the ropes at the Box Monkey on Vineyard Drive in the town of Dunkirk. The stop was part of Reed's Working and Listening Tour where he works and listens to concerns from employers, employees and customers.
Reed, R-Corning, was greeted by Box Monkey owner Roger Britz, who explained his independent store was built with help from both family members and customers. The unique name, he said, came to him following a busy Christmas Eve night of deliveries with some inspiration from the sock monkeys one customer makes and displays in the store.
Reed began his work day greeting a college student who had a package to pick up and a job application to drop off.
Congressman Tom Reed listens to customer Mary Grace Siracuse on Wednesday as Box Monkey store manager Bethany Shaw listens. Reed was at the store a part of his Working and Listening Tour of small business in the 23rd Congressional District.
Photo by Gib Snyder
"I'm also applying for the job today. I'm not going to be here a long time. I'm Congressman Tom Reed and it's nice to meet you," Reed told Peter Lambert of Albany.
Reed then greeted his first "customer," who was shipping a few packages. Reed asked what her plans were.
"It is my intention to liquidate my inventory and then I want to start manufacturing," replied Mary Grace Siracuse. "I want to manufacture from the original patterns, 1930s, 1940s. We want to make things in the USA. That's my next venture."
Reed said he was "all in on that."
"We have an opportunity to do this. I like to hear that," he added.
Store Manager Bethany Shaw was showing Reed the ropes of the job and explained that Siracuse was a regular customer and explained the paper trail the Box Monkey creates for its customers.
"I've already hired people from Chautauqua Works which is basically Department of Labor. I had two workers over the summer," Siracuse stated. "They've got a year-long program so I'm going to contact them about that. If I can hire anybody, anybody out of work, I would like to hire them and manufacture in the United States and ship it out of here."
Siracuse said she has been in business for 18 years and explained the name of her company, Otra Vez Vintage is Spanish for "another time."
"If you want a product that's made in the United States you have to go back in time. Product is not made in the United States anymore. ... There are very few companies that manufacture in the United States so there's a lot of us that are buying things and selling them on E-Bay."
Reed offered whatever help his office could give. He then went to learn more about the operation of the store, including the packaging the store uses.
"We literally make our own boxes here inhouse. Basically we can cut cardboard stock into any size or shape box we need to fit our product," Britz explained. "We save our customers money. ... Plus we recycle pretty much everything here in the store, so there's really no scrap. ... We're kind of like a green company too."
Britz added the company handles recyclables from customers.
Reed was fingerprinted as well, another service Box Monkey offers to customers who need their prints for job purposes or other reasons.
The Working and Listening Tour series will continue through the Nov. 4 election and give Reed the opportunity to highlight the importance of small business in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes.