It was once voted “The Coolest Small Town in America” by Budget Travel magazine. Step inside any of the locally owned businesses in Owego and it’s easy to see why.

For Carol Livermore-Ostrander, owner of Carol’s Coffee & Art Bar, it’s all about the people.

"We've been very blessed to have such local support and I really feel that people try their best to support local as much as they can," said Livermore-Ostrander.

Downtown Owego, in the Southern Tier, is home to dozens of locally owned businesses, all within a 1-mile radius. It’s a village that’s bucking a national trend, and for these mom-and-pop shops, working together is key.

"We all need each other. We all need each other to make Owego great to get this small town. The empty storefronts are no good. We need people. We need storefronts. We need. It's hard work," said Livermore-Ostrander.

New York had 2.3 million small businesses in 2022, making up more than 99% of the workforce. Last year, more than 60,000 small businesses opened in New York, but almost 63,000 closed. This followed a year where 4.1 million people across the state worked at a small business, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

For Liz Creason, co-owner of Scrappy’s Workshop, Owego was the perfect place to start her business last year.

"It has a really wonderful community behind it, and it's definitely a small town of people that care," Creason said.

With a population of a little less than 19,000, Owego has become a destination for shopping local. Shoppers come from the Finger Lakes, greater Binghamton and beyond.

It’s what keeps Tammi Seeley, owner of Up the Creek Ladies Consignment Boutique, going.

"I don't have a backup plan right now. So this has been my business for the last 8 1/2 years, almost nine years,” Seeley said. “So the community is important because they're the ones who are going to be shopping here. Their word of mouth is the best advertising that there is. You can't put a price on that.”

Walking the streets, Tioga County Chamber of Commerce President Sabrina Henriques says it’s easy for her to get excited about the future.

"You can just feel it as you're walking down. You can feel the sense of community. You can feel the sense of pride,” Henriques said. “Every single business that we visited today, every single one is unique. You can see their personality, who they are.”