Mayor Mark Blask (left) presents John Scarano with a Proclamation from The City of Little Falls.
by Dave Warner
Lifelong Little Falls resident John Scarano retired last month having been the Herkimer County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director since January of 2006. Under his leadership, the Chamber has grown in membership, developed and adopted new programs and focused promotion of Herkimer County and area businesses for a variety of economic development opportunities.
So, now that he’s just sitting around, what’s next? According to Scarano “Basically, I’ve been involved in Little Falls all my life. With the little league, basketball and soccer as well as coaching Babe Ruth baseball. I’ve tried to give back to the youth.”
Scarano has also served under three different mayors on the Little Falls Urban Renewal Board.
He had worked for two different businesses in Herkimer before taking the job as Executive Director at the Chamber. “Instead of being in finance and part of a business closing, I decided to be one that would help businesses in this area,” said Scarano.
“For the last thirteen years, I’ve tried to help small business. As a Chamber of Commerce, we are always there to help them out.”
According to Scarano, he’s well past retirement age and he has been working since he was five years old. “I worked in my grandfathers bakery in Little Falls, the best bread in the world. Scarano’s Bakery was on the south side, which is now considered Canal Place.”
While working there, he made 600 loaves of bread a day by hand. “I can still smell the smells of the bakery. In my opinion, it was the start of convenience stores. My grandfather had a bakery, a grocery store there and a little gas pump out front. People stopped, got gas, got a quart of milk and a loaf of bread before there were any of these quick stops.”
Scarano grew up on Burwell Street and watched the new wing of the hospital being built. “I walked by there every day going to Benton Hall School. I remember almost every girder that went up,” he said.
“Ironically, I met my wife there as a candy striper,” said Scarano.
He also watched the bowling alley being built and Veteran’s Park. “I think that’s why I always had a penchant for helping youth there. Growing up, we would be on that field from sunup to sundown. The twelve o’clock whistle would go off and we’d know to go home for lunch,” Scarano said.
About four months ago, the 70 year old chamber director was listening to some music and and lifting weights, trying to stay in shape. “I had a Key West CD on and there was a song that struck me. It’s called ‘Time to go home.’ The clock on my wall is ticking towards fall, time to go home, time to go home. I sat there and listened to it and it struck me. It was time,” said Scarano.
He’s busy thinking about what he wants to get into next. The Little Falls Hospital is near and dear to his heart, as Scarano’s wife was a nurse there. “I could volunteer there, or at the Herkimer ARC. All options are on the table at this point,” said Scarano.
Scarano is even considering substitute teaching at BOCES. “I’m retired, but not faded away. Before I spent a lot of energy on my home town and now, that’s my goal moving forward. There’s many avenues that I could go to if I like. If I did substitute teaching, it would be in Little Falls,” he said.
“When I introduce myself, I go hi, I’m John Scarano from Little Falls New York, the only city in Herkimer County. That’s how I introduce myself,” Scarano said.
Scarano continued by stating “a lot of people don’t know that Little Falls is the only city in the county, so it gets a conversation going about the community.”
He’s proud of his community and the community has recognized him for it. The Little League field has his name on the scoreboard that was dedicated to him a few years ago because of his contributions to the league. “I’m really proud of that,” he said.
Scarano thinks the town is coming back. “I have an old saying that what goes around, comes around. While I was Director at the Chamber, other towns would come to me and say ‘what can we do’ and I’d tell them to look at Little Falls. Look what they’ve done. I think Little Falls is the model right now. We still have a ways to go of course, but it’s a model for going forward,” he said.
Third Thursdays, Canal Days, Garlic Festival, Cheese Festival…according to Scarano “Little Falls is getting it right. I really believe that. To me, it’s a diamond in the rough.”
Scarano says “the community has a lot to be proud of. We may never be 13,000 people like we were 100 years ago, but I don’t see us declining anymore. I think we’ll be growing a little bit at a time.”
“There are people moving this community along and hopefully, I can be a part of it,” said Scarano.