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.