Well, it's that time of year again. The end of summer and early fall usually brings some changes on Water Street in the Borough and this year is no different. After the peak business season, business owners either assess the damage or reap the rewards. Either hunker down and get ready for another long, quiet shoulder and off-season or move on. Fortunately, in general, this was a good summer for businesses in the borough, but there have and will be some changes.
has left his spot and is moving to the . The space is ready to rent to a new business. Theresa's Sweet Shoppe went back into main deli location and Yali' is moving in. I understand Paquette is leaving soon after a short stay just for the summer with the flip flops and dog collars. So, that will leave three vacancies on Water St. (we still have the old Sotheby's bldg next to vacant- for sale only, no lease). Let's hope they don't stay empty too long!
A bigger change that has caused much movement is the sale of 145 Water Street, home of Grand & Water Antiques, , and . The new owner will be occupying and using the entire building and all tenants (including apartment renters upstairs) have to move out by the end of the month. Kathy and Bill Cole of Boathouse Antiques have decided it just makes sense to retire and will be sorely missed, but check out their sale! Blu Boutique has not found a new home yet. And Debbie Norman of Grand & Water Antiques is moving right next door. Literally, spitting distance. And, if Debbie is moving right next door, that means that somebody else is leaving. Kim Charles, owner of Cate Charles Gallery, has decided to move her gallery out of the borough and is looking forward to a new space in a big city! We wish Kim the best of everything and we will certainly miss her and the artwork!
I understand the new owner of 145 Water Street will be opening a high-end antiques store. Let's just hope the rumors aren't true that it will be 'By Appt Only.' Turning one, if not THE, best retail space in the borough, with its wonderful windows, high ceilings, and great square footage, into an 'Open By Chance' store would, in my opinion, hurt the businesses around it that are open regularly and are the livelihood of their owners. We'll have to wait and see.
A little drama going on at the with an outside local vendor who has been expelled from the market because his food wasn't made of local, organic products. So, he parked his food truck right next to the market and sold from there. After being told by Town officials no go on the street selling, he applied to be able to sell from his food truck legitimately on Town property (even though it is in the borough, town dock is town property). He was denied. The precedent would have opened the door to other vendors and the farmer's market might have ended up as a weekend street fair rather than a showcase of local, fresh, farm goods.
I do find it interesting though that there has been no hullabaloo about the tremendous growth of the farmer's market. While it seems every other business and nonprofit is being scrutinized for any growth that may negatively impact the residents there doesn't seem to be much attention with the growing attraction of the farmer's market. "High St./Farmer's Market Parking Issue" is on agenda for tonight's Warden & Burgesses meeting, but the Planning & Zoning Commission has not taken up the issue as of yet. Let me be clear, I am big fan and supporter of the Farmer's Market. It is a tremendous addition to the borough and it helps bring people here, offers quality products, and there is a great sense of community for all who go. I'm all for it!
But, buses, including school buses, were nearly banned because our nonprofits further down Water St., heaven forbid, want to continue to allow visitors and grow as well. Earlier this year, banners promoting local events were essentially banned on Water St (note- banners, one at a time, with permission from the Warden & Burgesses and a $300 fee can be hung by the firemen on the viaduct side of the firehouse.....with the seemingly sole exception of the Farmer's Market banner that hangs at Town Dock some Saturdays). The growth of the Farmer's Market has not been subjected to the same level of scrutiny and concern which confuses me....why is growth good for some organizations/businesses, but not others?
New England Science & Sailing (NESS) has been called in to both Planning & Zoning Commission and the Warden & Burgesses to report on their future plans and potential growth. NESS has no requirement to go to these meetings, but it does, and there are no approvals necessary (although the residents who lawyered up claim there are some).
Things can run a little amuck at PZC when ZEO Dave Atkinson is not present to provide some needed facts and clarification, as was the case this past week. A potential dock expansion and NESS's growth are of great interest to some commissioners, residents, and NESS neighbors. While the NESS plans are still in discussion and contingent upon funding, it appears it will be a bumpy road. I hope they can all listen to each other and their needs/wants and make compromises along the way. It's so sad to see micro-community meetings all lawyered up.
NESS is almost solely responsible for refilling the borough with kids and breathing young life into an otherwise aging and elderly population. People love it. While the dock issue merits discussion, if the "traffic" and "congestion" (or even buses) on Water St. is your biggest complaint, head to a city for an afternoon or talk to the businesses and residents in Mystic about their recent traffic and congestion. The borough has minor inconveniences, not traffic or congestion.
Finally, another controversial topic has been the definition of 'restaurant' and the PZC Chairwoman's attempt to "clarify" the definition in the regulations. This began when PZC members got wind that the owner of the and the property that is currently rented by , might want to change the use of the restaurant property to something different and possibly semi-private.
The Chairwoman would like to add the words "open to the public" (or words to that effect) to the definition of restaurant. Essentially, the change of defnition would pre-emptively prevent the property owner from being able to alter the use of his own property to something that is not open to the public, even though nobody has any clear idea of what he wants to do yet. No application has been filed, but it seems the Chairwoman is making an aggressive attempt to prevent such a change in anticipation of an application based on a belief of what is best for the community. While I firmly believe that PZC has good intentions, it would be overstepping its authority. We'll have to see if this item goes to public hearing and what the community has to say.
Residents have become a little more active, even proactive, about businesses in the borough when it comes to growth and impact. Certainly understandable, they live here (at least, most of them, for some of the time). Balance is difficult. Businesses and nonprofits need to work harder to make the same buck in this economy and it is a village that is becoming more and more seasonal. Resident support (not necessarily fincancial) is vital to our small, yet vibrant, businesses community. And, the business community, I believe, is vital to the residents. We can't fear change, and we can't always control change, but we can work together to be able to embrace and accept change.
This very lengthy blog is the personal opinion of Wendy Bury and does not represent the views of any organization.