(The following is an edited and expanded version of something I wrote last year for another venue.)
Next month we’ll mark one year of life in downtown Springfield living in the Union Biscuit Lofts on Market Ave. So my wife and I have had plenty of opportunity to walk the streets and observe the goings-on. We’ve had plenty of opportunity to live our lives and deal with all the pleasures and frustrations of living downtown.
On balance: This is the best move we have ever made. I now wish we had done it a long time ago — even with raising a child. Part of what this blog will do in the months ahead is examine our experiences in the context of an apparent return to American cities.
Now, let’s get on with the point of this post. There is a lot of retail space under development downtown, yet there’s much space still sitting (embarrassingly) vacant. As empty-nest baby boomers, there are a few things we’d like to see fill some of those spaces based on what we’re not finding within walking distance (because one of the big reasons to live in a downtown is the whole walking thing). With all the loft development downtown (e.g. Heers and The U), it seems to me that the area is ripe for the economic pickings.
So here are a few preliminary suggestions (i.e. nowhere near an exhaustive list) in case you may be looking for a business idea:
- Drugstore. There’s nothing downtown. That’s a gaping hole in the retail environment looking for someone to fill it. Empty-nesters buy drugs. So do college students. And toilet paper. And everything else carried by your average CVS and not carried by the Bistro Market.
- Dry cleaners. The closest, according to my Yellow Pages iPhone app, is a mile away. I’ll walk or ride a bicycle one mile — no sweat. I’d rather walk around the block.
- Laundry (with drop-off laundry service). The closest, according to my Yellow Pages iPhone app, is a mile away. Because, yeah, we empty-nesters can pay for it and will pay for it.
- Business/school (i.e. college) supplies — the small stuff you need everyday.
- Bookstore/news stand, because, well, boomers read stuff on paper (despite this). And, apparently, there are few (or no) news boxes downtown (more on that soon)
- Trader Joe’s (or similar). If you’ve ever shopped at one there’s no need to explain
In case you’re considering opening another cupcake shop, please, for the love of all that’s good and decent, please, let me talk you out of it. And coffee? We’re covered. Totally covered. Well covered. You can’t do better than the Mudhouse, Coffee Ethic, or Kingdom, so don’t even try. Bars, restaurants, and other entertainment venues? Covered (although it would be good to get the old GastroPub and Rebecca Grille spaces filled). Wedding shops? Covered. Event spaces? Totally, completely, thoroughly covered. Bicycle shops? Ditto.
Com’on, there are more and more people living downtown everyday. There are only so many weddings we can have and cupcakes we can eat. Let’s start thinking basic goods and services.