What IS happening out there?
Montague Street is a rapidly shifting shopping thoroughfare — in the last few weeks, at least eight “For Rent” signs have gone up in windows along the five-block stretch from Clinton Street to the Promenade, and we now have word that, nationally, Ann Taylor Loft is closing over 100 outposts. Even for the stores staying put on Montague, there are myriad signs noting sales and other incentives to entice customers to come in and shop.
Clearly, the nationwide economic crisis is affecting our Main Street — but, at the ground level, how is the economy affecting these shop owners’ bottom lines? What’s going to happen to Montague Street?
There’s been some talk of what’s going on, so Brooklyn Heights Blog went out and spoke with Montague Street stakeholders about these concerns and where how think the future will play out. We now present, Montague Street Crisis: Mall or Mauled? First up is our interview with Chelsea Mauldin, executive director of the Montague Street Business Improvement District.
Next, hear from Lassen and Hennigs owner Chris Calfa, Heights Books owner Tracy Walsch, and Housing Works manager Jennifer Jinks.
Please send us your suggestions of other shopowners you’d like to see interviewed. And, follow the series at our Montague Street in Crisis page.
Montague Street in crisis: Montague Street BID speaks
BHB: What is happening on Montague Street right now?
Chelsea Mauldin, Executive Director of Montague Street BID: Montague Street is chugging along. It’s obviously a tough time for everybody in business, including our local small businesses, but I think that everyone’s is going to be able to weather this storm.
BHB: Where do you see the future of Montague Street?
Mauldin: I think that Montague Street will continue to do what it does so well now, which is serve a really diverse population of New Yorkers. In addition to the Brooklyn Heights residents, Montague Street serves as a really vital retail location for everybody who works in the office buildings downtown. There’s a lot of shopping that goes on on Montague Street during the day time that comes from people who are visiting our neighborhood, not to mention of course the tourists who are visiting the Promenade.
BHB: So you’re hopeful that the Montague Street will be just fine, despite all the current vacancies?
Mauldin: I think Montague Street will be fine. We have some vacancies which are occurring obviously because it’s a really tough economic climate out there, and I would absolutely say to anybody watching this who lives in the neighborhood that if you want to see our very special mom-and-pop stores survive, then the way to make sure they stay healthy is to go there and buy dinner tonight at Lassen and Hennings, and stop by and see Stella at James Weir Florals and buy some flowers. The way to keep our small businesses in business is to visit them.
We also have some vacancies that are happening now for the normal run of things that happen in any business climate. We had a fire on the street recently and we had a building sell, and therefore the business that had been in that building needed to move as a condition of sale. There are always going to be those changes that occur on any retail strip. I think though that Montague Street has so much going for it: we’re so well located, we have so many attractions near the street, and the foot traffic on Montague Street is terrific. That attracts all kinds of retail tenants, local tenants obviously but also national tenants and ideally we end up with a really healthy mix — a mix that serves people who live in the community but also a mix that serves all the people who visit our street during the day.