Making a living is what makes life worth living

The Enterprise — Jesse Sommer

Jesse's nephew proudly sports a Kiwanis T-ball team jersey adorned with his uncle's company branding.

Either I’m tilting at windmills — routinely polluting the Enterprise with doomsday admonitions to repent before the future swallows us whole — or there really is something to the economic efficacy of smalltown USA.

But we don’t need to choose right now, because it’s my column and, rather than defend my perspective, I’ll just demand that readers presume its merit. So with the abiding thesis that a sense of place is the most stable and fertile ground on which to construct a business, I write to tell y’all about two new websites — and — which extend the Town of New Scotland from the physical to the digital.

The New Scotland Historical Association

On June 13, 2023, the New Scotland Historical Association launched its new organizational website at  Designed by an “elder Millennial” — those vanguards of the generational cohort who came into being even before the release of Nintendo’s “Mario Bros.” — this website was immediately stale upon launch. It boasts no generative artificial intelligence integrations, it has no mobile application companion, it can’t cook your dinner or fold your laundry.

And yet it still fulfills its core mission of making New Scotland more accessible to residents. New Scots reading this column online should click its embedded links to tour the dramatic Xennial upgrade of NSHA’s predecessor website.

It offers a brief history of both the town and organization.  

It exhaustively lists every historical marker in the jurisdiction.  

It provides information about the New Scotland Museum and its featured exhibit. (Psst! If this is the first time you’re learning that New Scotland has a museum, you need to get our more — or, I suppose, you need to spend more time on your phone’s web browser, since many of the museum’s collections may be digitized and presented online in the years to come.)

The site offers both web-and-mail-ordering options for a slew of “New Scottish” literary titles, to include “A Sketch of the Beginnings of a Nineteenth Century Railroad Town” — Dennis Sullivan’s heartstring-tugging treatise on Voorheesville — as well as an “Images of America” series installment entitled “New Scotland Township.”

There’s “Times of Our Lives: New Scotland Memories” — a compendium of memories and materials published by NSHA in 2011 — and a history of the Indian Ladder Region by Tim Albright and Laura Ten Eyck (New Scottish institutions in their own right).

There’s also corporate sponsor information, membership applications, a list of ways to volunteer with NSHA, and a donation page where site visitors can lend financial support to this not-for-profit’s mission of “preserving, protecting, and promoting history in the Town of New Scotland through the stewardship of material culture directly related to the Town.”

You can additionally peruse nearly two decade’s worth of issues of The Sentinel, NSHA’s quarterly newsletter. (Check out my winter 2018 contribution entitled “The ‘New Scot’ Defined: What It Means to Be New Scottish at This Moment in Time and Space,” edited as it was by my seventh-grade English teacher.)  

As an NSHA trustee and New Scottish entrepreneur, I’m militantly committed to securing New Scotland’s rural and agrarian traditions — both for their own sake and because those bucolic, pastoral landscapes that bound the drive from the city of Albany up into the Helderbergs directly impact my business. Any threat to that environment or the community therein directly jeopardizes my brand.

That’s why I’m also proud to be a charter member of another estimable organization, to wit:

“Our New Scotland”

“Our New Scotland” is the trade name for New Scotland’s business community. Accessible online at, this organization promotes the interests of small businesses located within New Scotland and just outside its borders. (The consensus was that the group’s Hilltown members warrant distinction as honorary New Scots.)

Conceived in 2022 but officially launched just this year, Our New Scotland remains a work in progress. It’s currently experimenting with annual membership fee structures and various service benefits under the guidance of organization founder Craig A. Shufelt (a local entrepreneur himself).

Most recently, Craig has introduced a “speaker series” wherein group members give mini presentations on business-related topics ranging from best practices to social-media marketing techniques. The objective is to help local businesses network among themselves and raise public awareness of their offerings.

Craig is the proprietor of Shufelt Group, a public relations and marketing firm based right here in New Scotland. In assembling this article, I called him up to ask how’d he articulate the premise of Our New Scotland.

“For 30 years, I’ve heard the same refrain when I talk about businesses in town,” Craig said.  “It’s always ‘I had no idea such-and-such even existed!’ Mind you, I’m usually talking about a local enterprise that’s been up-and-running for over a decade. This community is packed to the gills with successful small businesses; they’re what give New Scotland its richness and identity. But you have to seek them out.

“People know Gracie’s Kitchen and Northern Barrell. OK. How many have never once set foot inside? How many people trek out to Central Avenue for a car wash when Advanced Car Wash is half a mile from their front doors?”

Craig notes that many of New Scotland’s businesses are hidden; they either lack a storefront or have one off the beaten path. “People know where to grab a pizza, get some ice cream, or fill their tank. But do they know of New Scotland’s photographers and engineers, beauticians and woodworkers, landscape architects, contractors, dog walkers, dentists, and yoga instructors [and intrepid, debonair, distillers-cum-Enterprise-columnists]? We need to change that.”

Craig is excited by the many vibrant businesses in town, and believes the forthcoming Blackbird Tavern and Romo’s Pizza will further position New Scotland to be a celebrated commercial destination throughout Albany County.

“But these are still just the visible tip of the iceberg,” Craig says. “There’s well over 150 businesses registered to a town with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants. That’s one business for every 66 residents. We can’t expect the community to fully flex its potential if our native entrepreneurs are losing patrons and foot traffic to the malls or Amazon.”

Community Day

This is why “Our New Scotland” is hard at work preparing to execute the town’s first ever Community Day in Voorheesville’s Jim Nichols Park on Sunday, Aug. 20, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“This’ll be a chance for people to familiarize themselves with the goods and services right beneath their noses,” Craig says. “We’ll have food, a live band, and more than a dozen local vendors sampling their wares and informing their neighbors what they offer. We’re doing everything we can to make sure people come out to support the businesses that contribute so much to New Scotland’s culture, tax revenue, and livability.”

There’s much to be said about people’s charitable impulse. In reality, though, helping a neighbor often begins at the point of sale. And, with that in mind, I want to share a personal anecdote.

I’m a small business owner. Though I launched my enterprise in 2016, the nature of whiskey distilling is such that it wasn’t until last year — after I’d left military service and had aged my spirits for more than half-a-decade in charred oak barrels — that I began selling my “Helderberg Whiskies.”  

New Scotland Spirits has grown by leaps and bounds in those 16 months thanks to the generous support of my fellow New Scots.  

Yet this summer’s crucial sales season has proven vastly different from last year’s; attendance at every one of the farmers’ markets where we’re operating vendor booths is down. Way down.  

This is not unexpected; the economic downturn has left money as tight for families as it is for fledgling startups. Yet the cruel irony of economic recessions is that the only way out of one is to spend. Unlike with the pandemic, this time we won’t be able to depend on the government’s money-printers. We’re literally going to have to shop our way out of this.  

Where consumers shop determines how the economy will be salvaged. Giving your money to big-box stores with corporate headquarters in Delaware ain’t the way. Anxiety shopping online is akin to overnight shipping wads of cash to China’s President Xi.

Farmers’ markets and other such vendor popups are where the community comes to keep the money inside itself. It’s where “neighbors” become a “neighborhood.”  

When you buy a local merchant’s products, you’re equipping him to pay the employees who live down the street from you. You’re enabling her to manufacture more product with partners right here in the Capital District. You’re empowering me to support local not-for-profits that enrich the fabric of our hometown.  (Seeing my whiskey company’s name on the backs of the local Kiwanis T-ball jerseys remains my crowning comedic achievement.)

Like all my fellow Our New Scotland members, entrepreneurs seek neither your charity nor your pity.  But we do seek your business. Our wares might be a few dollars more than the name-brand alternatives, but those extra dollars end up right back in the community.  

That’s the point of Our New Scotland. It’s about keeping the money in town — buying from the local business owners who employ our friends and family so we all can spend your dollars locally in turn. Your friendly neighborhood craftsmen, farmers, artists, chefs, barbers, and service providers have woven the web of this local economy in ways that uplift us all.  

So now let’s bring this full-circle: Our New Scotland exists to give the New Scotland Historical Association a community to chronicle. It’s how we make a living that makes life worth living.

The next time your cupboard is bare, or your grass needs mowing, or your wedding needs a DJ, remember this mantra: 

Shop New Scotland.  

Taste New Scotland.  

Drink New Scotland.  (Spirits.)   

And did I mention that cash is king?