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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.

janis albamonti March 11, 2013 at 10:42 AM
I can't wait to see the comments on this one!
Michele Chiaraluce March 11, 2013 at 10:53 AM
OMG! What a shocker! Let's create a perfect storm and then get amazed that there have been casualties.
Deb Jaccarino March 11, 2013 at 12:13 PM
As one of the remaining store owners in downtown mystic, I hope your article inspires people to return to a favorite shopping destination. I, for one, am very grateful for all of the patrons that have continued to support us during this daunting time. Although it hasn't been an easy transition I believe the town can continue to grow. Our stores continue to carry all your favorite fun items. Don't let this bleek article dissuade you from your continued or returning support of this fabulous downtown. Thank you.
David Draco March 11, 2013 at 12:32 PM
7 Stores burnt out in 2000, Stonington Streetscape, Groton Streetscape, water mains in Stonington, Sidewalks in Stonington, 3 Years of Cianbro on the bridge. Looking forward to repaving on the Stonington side. You may hit Pettini with a late fee (which is partly the "Owner's" fault for bad plans or pay them so slowly that thier subcontractors have to sue them but that doesn't pay a merchant's rent or put food on their table. Why don't you display a time line going back to the day before the fire and look at all of the things that have been done to damage the atmosphere of downtown Mystic.
Ross Mandell March 11, 2013 at 03:42 PM
the town makes it impossible to succeed in mystic and then ignores the fact that people are leaving and empty storefronts abound. They in turn cause people to stay away which makes it even harder to earn a living.
Katherine Holt March 11, 2013 at 04:36 PM
Everyone should be aware of the honest hardships that downtown is currently going through, but this article makes it sound desolate and desperate. It doesn't sound very appealing to people who may be contemplating coming downtown. Even though it is very sad that we have lost some of our special neighbors, it does not mean an end to downtown Mystic. There are still fantastic stores who are open and positive about the future. With the help and support of our community, Mystic can bounce back. Also being a store owner, I love what Deb has said. Thank you so much for the people who do support us!
Ben Greenfield March 11, 2013 at 04:46 PM
Blah, blah!
janis albamonti March 11, 2013 at 05:19 PM
BenNickyGreenie,...don't pick on me ,..you meanie.
Genevieve Triplett March 12, 2013 at 12:59 AM
Bree, thank you for posting this on the Stonington and Groton Patch. Thank you to all of my neighbors, friends, and strangers that do make every effort to shop locally you keep mom and pops alive. My husband and I own the pet feed store in Mystic on the Stonington side. He has done business in this town for over 25years, myself seven. Like the recent letter to the editor in the Mystic River Press we are bewildered. I attended a meeting weekly from April 2012- the first week in June 2012 with Goton town officals, Pettini Construction and a few other merchants. We begged, we yelled, we asked to stop construction over the summer months so we could make our saving for the long winter months ahead. Knowing full well one lane traffic would tax our 2013 winter season. Our crys where answered with $50,000 in "free parking" ( look up those articles a whole other issue) the construction must go on was the response. The town of Groton allocated 3.6 million dollars of federal money to "stimulate" the economy. They hired a inapt contracting company, did not keep any schedule or keep up any communication, the economic developement commission does not even have a plan. Please Stonington come to the dark side and support your Mom and Pops, but if I was you, I would never ever buy property in Groton.
John Kiss March 12, 2013 at 04:09 AM
If there was ever a place for a conspiracy theory, its in the story of why Groton is trying to wipe out Mystic. Burned out/missing structures, and now not even a board fence. Sidewalks reconfigured to totally remove 12 of the already too few parking spaces - and make 4 more into a very difficult pulling and an even harder parallel parking exercise (note how many cars are parked across 2 spaces at the end of each row. I think that effectively removes another 4 spaces from constant use). I live here and am spending about 1/2 the time in Mystic that I did last year. (Dear Groton Powers That Be: Destroying Mystic still won't bring more people to Route 1, the longest "not particularly attractive" strip mall in eastern CT)
Ross Mandell March 12, 2013 at 05:01 AM
The government from the president, to the governor, to the town manager simply do not care about independent tiny businesses. If anything they hate them. The governor is very willing to use hundreds of millions of dollars on tax dollars to bribe a firm into some very short term hiring, but are very willing to destroy tiny businesses. We were told from Obama on down that these projects would be stimulating the economy. The fact is that they are ruining it and they will not admit it as they are beyond shame.
Kristen Lloyd March 13, 2013 at 01:06 PM
I actually like that the board fence is gone. It wasn't particularly attractive and now you can at least see the water.
Teg March 13, 2013 at 08:16 PM
Offset the ridiculous amount of CT taxes and fees and tax forms. It will not change until we get regime change. Rents is not the issue alone, rents is supply demand driven for the most part, but the landlords have taxes too. And stupid decisions like the whole downtown "upgrade" and parking issues don't help either
Ross Mandell March 13, 2013 at 08:38 PM
zoning and other meddling by local governments is also very destructive.
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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