Main Street has an eclectic mix of businesses and other attractions but that mix hasn’t shielded it from the recession.
The Executive Director of the Main Street Business Improvement Association, Gary Gordon, told the Mirror that in the last 15 months Main Street has lost over 30 businesses. Some were lost because of the recession but others went out of business because their landlords increased their rents. Some of the vacancies have turned over quickly so right now there are only eight or nine storefronts that are empty on the one-mile business district. Other storefronts were rented quickly and other businesses were able to stay because “some of the landlords came around” and lowered their rents.
Main Street’s clothing boutiques have been hit harder than the street’s restaurants. Gordon also mentioned that “looks can be deceiving” when trying to evaluate if a business is doing well especially in the street’s restaurant sector. Some restaurants look like they’re full of diners, but before people were buying two drinks, now they are buying one or they are ordering just an appetizer rather than an entrée. On the retail side, stores may look crowded but customers may just be browsing or spending less than they did before.
Gordon also stressed that this recession “is scary because we don’t know when things will turn around. Many of the street’s businesses are living from month to month.” Some of the street’s boutiques delayed ordering their Spring line because of the uncertainty. During his 11 years as Executive Director the only time he has “seen it this bad was after the 9/11” terrorist attacks.
City permitting and zoning can also be an impediment to new businesses opening on Main Street according Gordon. In some cases, a business may have to pay six to eight months of rent while the business goes through the City’s permitting process. This can be particularly difficult in a recession because a business may not be able to make enough money once it opens to make up this outlay in rent.
The street is also not that inviting to big box retail because its storefronts and frontages are too small for many chains.
Many of the district’s businesses are scrambling to use digital advertising to reduce costs on print advertising. Digital advertising can include having a website, being on Facebook or Twitter and having e-mail announcements.
The Mirror also spoke with Joe Pipersky who owns Joe’s Grill and Holy Guacamole. His grill has been open since 1987 and Holy Guacamole has been on Main Street since 1993 so he has the backing of the community. His business had been even with last year but in the last six weeks his business has been down. He attributes some of the loss to fewer foreign summer tourists since the recession is worldwide. If things continue to be slow for him, he may have to begin laying off employees.