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Empty Storefronts Becoming Common on Main Street

Businesses continue to move out of downtown Mystic.

Walk through downtown Mystic and it’s hard to go more than a few steps without coming across at least one empty storefront.

There’s the spot the Cooper Shoppe left when it moved to the Olde Mistick Village. The Prescient Studios gallery next to Bartleby’s has been empty now for months. Whyevernot and Webster Road are both gone from the other side of the street and there’s a going-out-of-business sale going on at Catherine M.

Linen Press by Bank Square Books still hasn’t reopened after sustaining significant damage during Hurricane Sandy.

It almost seems as though the vacant storefronts are becoming the norm on West Main Street in downtown Mystic.

“The Town of Groton has for some years had a real problem with empty space, but this is the first time it is so evident in downtown Mystic,” Groton Economic Development Commission Member Lian Obrey said.

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact reason for all the empty storefronts. Some, like in the case of the Cooper Shoppe, are the result of relocations or as in the case of . It hasn’t been an easy few years for downtown merchants.

The recession caused people to cut back and then the construction from the Mystic Streetscape project and drawbridge repair caused many locals to avoid downtown altogether. Add in frequent power outages from storms and it’s almost surprising there are not more vacant storefronts.

While there are more empty storefronts than most people can remember, according to Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce President Tricia Walsh, there are still more businesses open and operating than prior to the Main Block fire in 2000.

Walsh is hopeful that many of the currently empty stores will have new places in time for summer.

“My absolute hope will be that they will be filled by the summer season,” Walsh said. "This is likely considering several have already had people looking at the spaces and we have received inquiries at our office as well.”

More important then filling spots, though, may be finding the right mix of stores. When Patch asked what readers would like to see go in 44 W Main Street there were plenty of ideas, including a chocolate shop, sandwich shop or even a mainstream mid-price clothing store.

Donna Williston of Finer Line Gallery, however, said she would rather the stores sat empty until the right business comes along.

“It’s important to get the right mix,” Williston said. “A nice quality store with reasonable prices that is community minded.”

It also is important for the businesses to have the town’s support — both residents and government. The Groton Economic Development Commission, according to Obrey, is working on reviewing economic initiatives to deal with the empty storefronts in Mystic and throughout Groton there is no concrete plan, yet. The Economic Development Commission will be looking at a request for a change of use for one of the empty storefronts to become a restaurant with a meeting space on the second floor.

With the summer season just a few months away another concern is how the empty storefronts if not filled will affect the rest of downtown Mystic.

Nicole Denkus and Dan Lapolla of Wide World of Bagels, on the Stonington side of Mystic, said they don’t think the empty storefronts will affect them.

“I feel bad for that side of the bride, there’s parking and traffic issues,” Denkus said. “There are still enough stores that people will walk throughthough.”

Hopefully there will be even more stores soon.

Kevin Scanlon March 14, 2013 at 04:23 PM
My two cents: -Burned down section will be developed when it's economically feasible to do so. I've seen the site plans. -Long-term, the investment in streetscape improvements and bridge repair is going to INCREASE, property values, foot traffic, pedestrian safety/accessibility and the overall image of downtown Mystic. -Short-term the construction is hurting local shops so it's up to the local community (all of us) to make a concerted effort to support the local shops during this time. Go buy a trinket, a black dog shirt, an $8 ice cream cone, a good old fashioned book or play a game of scrabble over a late. -Vacancies will eventually work themselves out (through more affordable rents or with more in-demand and viable businesses) -Parking has been and will remain a big challenge for this town which was established before our vehicle-centric mentality grew to what it is today (free or low cost shuttle service in peak months perhaps from aquarium/ old mystic village?? or was that what we tried with the trolleys?? anyhow there's got to be some opportunity there.) -I have to say the restaurant scene seems to be doing fine despite the headwinds... That is all.
Vicki Indrizzo-Valente March 24, 2013 at 04:59 PM
Taking the strategy of "activities" instead of "shopping/eating" in Mystic might lure family's for a FUN day, let's say the open space next to the Mystic Drawbridge could be a "rent a fishing real and buy bait to fish" with a bait and tackle shop with open space turned into a dock area for fishing. Sounds like a great place to bring the family and then eat or shop afterwards. Or how about a little carousel to entertain the kiddies or a band shell to attract local musicians during the hot summer nights with an outside coffee house while sitting under the stars? I think we need to think more of "to do" than "what to buy"? People will tend to splurge on entertainment before retail purchases. If Mystic becomes a FUN Place to come for the day or spend a weekend with the kids, the rest will prosper.
Glen Theodore May 13, 2013 at 08:33 AM
As a former Mystic store owner I can tell you first hand the main problem in the $4000,00 + a month rent makes it impossible for anyone to make a profit. The landlords get their money and you lose everything and go bankrupt. It's as simple as that.
janis albamonti May 30, 2013 at 07:31 AM
Just curious , have any of the many vacant storefronts been rented?
janis albamonti July 15, 2013 at 08:01 AM
Just curious...are these Shops still Vacant?

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