MARIETTA - Two downtown Marietta storefronts will soon be vacant but some see that as less of an, indicator of trouble and more a part of the normal cycle of business.
Debbie Elder, who owns Crafter's Paradise on Front Street with her mother, said they will be closing up once their inventory is liquidated, possibly by the end of February.
"It was a hard decision," said Elder, 57. "We've been in business over 20 years between the mall and here."
Photo by Evan Bevins
Crafter’s Paradise co-owner Debbie Elder said the store will be closing its doors after three years on Front Street in Marietta due to health issues.
The store, which sells decorative items, beads and more, opened in Marietta three years ago after moving from the Grand Central Mall. Elder said issues with her back have made it all but impossible for her and her mother to continue operating the store.
"I kept thinking I could do it, and I can't," she said.
And while sales haven't been bad, they haven't been brisk enough to allow them to hire someone else to run the store full-time, Elder said.
Two blocks away, Wallpaper Outlet at 212 Putnam St., is also closing its doors soon after more than 28 years in Marietta. Questions about the timeline and what led to the closure were directed to an owner who did not return a call seeking comment.
Charlotte Keim, president of the Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce, said she doesn't consider these latest closures a bad sign for downtown.
"There's always turnover in the businesses," she said. "It doesn't concern me because there's an ebb and flow."
Keim said a lot of people still like to locate in the downtown area and she's spoken with one business that is specifically seeking a site there.
A business headed to Front Street is Jenna's Salon, which will soon move from its Third Street location to 248 Front St. Building owner Keith Malone said that will mean all the spaces have been filled in the row of four buildings he purchased after they were ravaged by fires in 2003 and 2005.
"With Jenna's going in, we'll be 100 percent full," said Malone, owner of Malone Renovations.
Malone said he's seen good interest in his downtown properties and thinks business downtown is moving in an overall positive direction. He noted business at Sugden Book Store, which he and his wife own, was up over Christmas and for the first part of 2012 compared to 2011.
Other recent tenants downtown have included Daydreams Cafe opening at 124 Putnam St. and the Marietta Community Foundation occupying office space on the first floor of 100 Putnam St.
Silverheels Inc. has a few vacant spaces downtown, said Audrey Augenstein, rental manager for the company.
The former site of Sorelle of Marietta, 216 Front St., has been open for a couple months since that store closed after the owners stopped carrying its flagship product and consolidated operations back under one roof at Twisted Sisters.
"But for a commercial property, that's not unusual," Augenstein said.
There are two office areas at 100 Front St. that have been empty for a lot longer though and the economy might have something to do with that, she said.
"Office space, a lot of times we rent that to people just starting something," Augenstein said. "And right now a lot of people are just too afraid to start something."
Councilman Mike McCauley, D-2nd Ward, said he's concerned by the number of vacancies he sees downtown.
"I'd like to take the optimistic view that this is part of the cycle of business," he said. "But if you take a walk down through the business district, it seems there are more and more vacant storefronts."
McCauley said the city continues to make efforts to get more "feet on the street" downtown but noted one of the biggest goals, the restoration of the Armory, continues to meet with roadblocks.
McCauley said operating a locally owned businesses in the era of big box stores is a challenge but he encourages people to support them. He said he did all his recent Christmas shopping at businesses in the city's central business district.
"These are our friends and neighbors and we need to support them," he said.