TARRYTOWN, N.Y. -- Jenifer Ross’ career profile spins around like an unsteady compass needle. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the over-achieving Tarrytown woman does in her work, but the common thread throughout is bringing people, and the community, together.
“I don’t fit into any one box,’’ Ross said. “I’ve worn a lot of hats here. I’ve come to love this area, and often say ‘Tarrytown is a community that chooses you’. You show up and find your tribe. It’s a supportive, loving and diverse place, and everybody plays a very distinct role.”
Ross moved to Tarrytown 19 years ago. A few years later, she opened her own business, Red Wing Gallery, a high-end specialty shop mainly selling Red Wing American Art Pottery, among other items. She might be best known as the creator of Tarrytown Third Friday, which she started in 2003 and brings together local businesses, art and the community. It was the first combined arts-cultural-commerce event in Westchester County. In 2011, she created the town’s unofficial Facebook page, 10591, which now has more than 7,300 members.
Ross opened W@tercooler, the first-to-market co-working space in Westchester County, in 2011 and ran the business until it closed in April of this year. Ross now works for Ginsburg Development Companies as Director of Community Experience. It’s a perfect match, and allows her to bring people together for workshops, programming and on-site services for tenants at GDC’s luxury rental buildings in Ossining, Yonkers, Hastings-on-Hudson and other nearby developments.
“As I closed my business I registered a few domain names so as to not lose that entrepreneurial part of me, including one called Suburban Catalyst,’’ Ross said. “I’ve always been about making things happen in the suburbs. I enjoy doing that. I grew up on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, and there wasn’t a way to affect change easily. Small towns are so supportive and accessible. One person really can make a difference and make things happen.”
For sure, Ross makes things happen. She says the “handwriting was on the wall” when she was a young girl, and came back from summer camp with awards for “most spirited camper” and “most likely to volunteer.” “I’m a person of my word,’’ she said. “I like to get things done.”
Third Friday is her most enduring contribution to Tarrytown. As the owner of the gallery, Ross saw little cohesion between businesses, the community and the arts. “Tarrytown didn’t have a lot going on at the time,’’ she said. “It needed a way for people to gather and appreciate their town -- and shop the stores, and eat local. I went door to door to all of the downtown merchants to pitch the idea, placed some ads, got some music, made some press happen and we promoted it. It was instantly successful and grew from there. It makes me so happy that it is still taking place 13 years later.
When she closed the gallery, Ross took a position as the Assistant Village Administrator, and Third Friday became one of her responsibilities. Merchant participation dived for a few years when one particular manager turned it into his own business and lost the core community mission, but is now once again thriving. She has far less responsibility with it now, but still promotes it and enjoys seeing it thrive. “I love the fact that it’s being run by the right people again,’’ Ross said. “There are about 40 merchants back in it and they do a great job pulling it off each month.”
In an era of faceless, impersonal and digital communication, Ross found a human connection with W@atercooler. People from all over the area and diverse industries worked at the space, and co-working spaces are now common in many communities. Ross was among the first to see that independent workers needed a place with some interaction and that they needed community.
“I cherished being there every day,’’ Ross said. “I’ve been able to use the digital platform in a very human way. It brought the community together in a safe and interactive space. A lot of friendships have formed because of it and it led to a lot of great synergies and interactions.”
On the heels of closing W@tercooler, Ross accepted a full-time opportunity with local Ginsburg Development Companies. She retains the domain name and intellectual property. She also sits on boards for the Greater Sleepy Hollow Chamber of Commerce, Historical Society Serving Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, and a Parking Committee in Tarrytown. Read more about Ross on her website.
She focuses most of her attention on her position at GDC these days, which she jests is like “Club Med meets The Love Boat, but in Westchester.” She helps residents in the buildings get to know each other and build relationships, as well as encourage them to shop local through a Preferred Vendor Program and get to know and involved in local resources . Like her work in Tarrytown, Ross is again bringing people together and fostering relationships. It’s a perfect compilation of her experiences in a complex, varied and successful career path.
“Everything I’ve done so far has led me to this,’’ Ross said. “I can pull from my background in building, design and real estate, plus it’s social and creative, allowing me to still feel that entrepreneurial high. I can create the programs that bring people together. It’s all in my wheelhouse, and it’s a great place to be.”
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