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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Downtown's Retail Needs

An article in today's Post-Dispatch ("Retailers say downtown area will catch on") includes this puzzling spin:

Although more retail shops are opening their doors, merchants are concerned that most of the businesses currently under construction are not the type of unique specialty stores that would boost downtown's image as an eclectic, artsy shopping area.

That's strange because the biggest complaint I hear from downtown workers and residents alike is that there are not enough regular plain old businesses to meet daily needs. There is no office supply store downtown. No pharmacy. No donut shop. No general new book store.

Not sure what merchants want, but other people using downtown want it to function as a place where necessities can be procured without driving to Hampton Avenue or further west. Most people buy an imported vase once a year, if that. Everyone needs paper clips, a toothbrush or a quick meal more frequently.

I'm glad that downtown is a retail destination, but I'm disappointed that its retail options don't meet the needs of many of its daily users. While workaday shops don't make for the most exciting ribbon cuttings, they make a sustainable neighborhood.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

While the specialty retailers have probably not noticed, near the corner of 7th and Olive, two business provide pretty basic necessities.

Kinkos carries lots of office supplies. Need a pen? Calendar? Paper? Art supplies? They have lots of that stuff.

Plus there's a newish storefront variety store sandwiched between Quizno's and Curry in a Hurry in the old Famous garage selling everything from toothbrushes, aspirin, cigs, to odds and ends grocery items.

It's probably 2500 square feet in size, nothing fancy, reasonable in price, and the selection is surprisingly good. Much better than the little store inside Met Square.

Jeff said...

Actually, the new trendy stores displaced many of the unique businesses that made downtown "downtown" back in the old days. Amatin's, Goodman's Weinberg's, Knickerbocker to name a few. I also fondly remember Jimmie's 24 hour diner across from the American, where patrons could get a hooker as easily as they could a scrambled egg and bacon. I think the biggest problem regarding downtown retail is not the lack of amenities but the shitty hours. Most of the "basic necessity" businesses close promptly at the end of the business day, and are closed all weekend long.

Anonymous said...

Hours are the biggest problem Downtown. Promptly at 5 PM is usually closing time for most. Retailers need to stay open past these hours for more than a few months to get the customer base to realize that the hours exist. Many have tried but then fold too quickly before it "catches on". The true need is for more individuals to own and operate thier business and live on premise, because the overhead involved in paying a full staff these extended hours is too hefty and they end up closing because of lack of business. What ever happened to people owning and operating thier own shops. If more people would do this we could have many thriving businesses Downtown. It will just take someone to make a move and live and operate thier business.