What Downtown SGF Needs

(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.

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Comments 6

  1. Cody wrote:

    My latest rant has been that Springfield can’t call itself a city, because a real city would have a bookstore downtown. Also, +1 on the drugstore thing…went looking for cough drops this morning and had to ride over to the Wallgreens on National. Totally bogus.

    Posted 17 Apr 2014 at 2:26 pm
  2. Michael wrote:

    Is there a (non-cupcake) bakery downtown? I know there’s one up on C street. But, if I’m remembering correctly, Springfield could use a bakery and butcher shop downtown.

    I’m currently in Eau Claire, WI and we could use both of those here as well, but first we need to get more bodies down town. Springfield seemed to have plenty of bodies downtown.

    Posted 17 Apr 2014 at 4:11 pm
  3. Khal Spencer wrote:

    Editorial in the NY Times today somewhat on point.


    Posted 17 Apr 2014 at 4:27 pm
  4. Khal Spencer wrote:

    This may or not be relevant, but I think some stores still expect people to drive and so they are hesitant to build more brick and mortar stores within walking distance of populations if they are making plenty of money via people driving to existing outlets. We can’t beg a Trader Joe’s, Albertsons, or Whole Paycheck to locate in Los Alamos because most of the folks up here are willing to drive to Santa Fe, where there is a much bigger motorist based market. Not sure where the “tipping point” is in getting added retail to a location when such a situation exists.

    Posted 17 Apr 2014 at 5:21 pm
  5. Nate wrote:

    A new bookstore, BookMarx, owned by a former manager of the now defunct Book Castle (RIP), will be opening next month in the space formerly occupied by Good Girl Art. We’re a real city again, kind of.

    Posted 17 Apr 2014 at 6:05 pm
  6. Andy Cline wrote:

    Great news on the whole bookstore thing. And, yes, bakery and butcher. The Bistro could have handled those things, but their pricing was ridiculous. I can’t see any reason for them charging one penny more than a regular Price Cutter.

    Posted 18 Apr 2014 at 1:56 pm