For a bakery owner who operates everything solo like Karen Luziani, the promotional backing of the Finger Lakes Sweet Treat Trail is extremely helpful.
Luziani, who in 2014 poured 40 years of savings into her own business, Karen's Country Confections, said she joined the promotional trail shortly after opening because she thought it would be a good marketing opportunity. The sweet treats trail, which encourages people to go to local business selling goods such as pastries, jams and jellies, is one of multiple promotional food and beverage trails in the Finger Lakes area.
The oldest trail with local ties is the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, which started in 1983 and includes wineries from both sides of the lake in Cayuga, Seneca and Tompkins counties.
Farm-to-table restaurants, craft breweries, specialty agricultural producers, bakeries, wineries ... Cayuga County has all of them, and in num…
Meg Vanek, executive director of the Cayuga County Office of Tourism, said the trails help raise the profile of every business in the group, giving each "a little more visibility than if they were to do it separately."
Vanek said having various spots organized into a trail makes it easier for patrons to navigate their way to the different locations. While the tourism office promotes the local trails, she said the organization is only directly involved with the organization of the sweet treat trail, which began in 2012.
The office wanted to highlight agricultural business in the area, but thought focusing every single one of those kinds of businesses would be too broad, so they opted to focus on businesses with sweet goods "because everybody likes sweets," Vanek said. She said the office also wanted to spotlight places with open hours that people could visit as opposed to appointment-only locations.
"That turned out to be something unique because there isn't another sweet treat trail in the Finger Lakes," Vanek said.
Luziani said she believes the trail brought in 100 additional people to her shop last year, and while it's been helpful, it hasn't brought in quite as many people as she would like. She said the summer months are critical for her.
"The trail gives some additional business, but not as much as having my seasonal people move back into their camps and boats during the summer months," Luziani said.
That said, Luziani acknowledged that it is difficult "to get people to start coming to your business," so having brochures seen at promotional areas thanks to the tourism office is invaluable.
"It helps the small businesses stay in business," Luziani said.
Linda Eldred, co-owner of Strawberry Fields Hydroponic Farm in Sennett, said she guesses about "45 percent" of her business comes from the trail. She said the trail is a family-friendly alternative to features like wine trails.
"It's another avenue where we can provide another product in our community," Eldred said.
The Finger Lakes Cheese Trail is a different animal from the the sweet treat and wine trail as it has been re-branding into the Finger Lakes Cheese Alliance.
Mark Costa, design and communications coordinator, said while the trail, which began in 2010, focused mostly on locations people would directly visit and buy goods from, the organization also wanted to expand to businesses that people can't go to directly.
The alliance now has different classifications of members that it helps promote, including "destination farms" that are open to the public, "production farms" that are closed or by appointment only, and associated members that include shops, lodging businesses, wineries and other businesses that may sell or promote the region's locally made cheeses.
Costa said the alliance's biggest event is the Finger Lakes Cheese Festival, which this year takes place July 28 at Sunset View Creamery in Odessa.