Businesses struggle to stay downtown - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Businesses struggle to stay downtown

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February 2, 2007

Albany -- Reviving downtown Albany as a major retail center isn't easy. It's been tough for many businesses to succeed. Now, more of them are either closing or relocating.

Former business owners say that downtown foot traffic isn't what it used to be since the Goodwill store moved. It attracted a lot of people downtown who would then stop at the other specialty stores to shop. Without those shoppers coming downtown, many businesses are struggling, and many have been forced to close.

Business owner Stephen Bradford is happy to have his store Biobuzz on Slappey Boulevard, after an attempt to co-own a specialty shop downtown failed.

"You would think it would be a prime place, but we found that without the traffic, the walking traffic that's needed down there. There's no customers to come in," said Stephen Bradford.

His Broad Avenue shop Ocean Gypsy closed for good back in October. Many other store owners shared his struggles. Skywater, Hubble's, Alley Cat, Popcorn in the Park, Georgia Fries, Jackson Street Antiques, and Amelia's Market, are all on the list of recent closures.

Chamber of Commerce President Tim Martin says these closures are because downtown is cycling through a slow time, but he expects the area to boom with business again one day.

"Downtown is not fully developed yet, and because it's not fully developed yet some of the synergies that are present in other locations around town aren't here yet," said Tim Martin.

Former downtown business owners say business began hurting after the Goodwill Store left its Broad Avenue location.

"When Goodwill was there, there was traffic, there was foot traffic, people walking around, people shopped at all the different shops when they come down to go to Goodwill," said Bradford.

His downtown venture only lasted six months, and he won't have his shop there again, unless he sees downtown attracting the people needed for a successful business.

The Chamber of Commerce president says developing downtown is ongoing, and he believes businesses will move back with much success. But for now the setbacks for these businesses outweigh the positives, forcing many to leave, turning our downtown into streets with empty buildings.

Some retailers say reviving downtown Albany as a cultural district may help bring business back downtown. Right now there are plans to expand the Civil Rights Museum and Thronateeska Heritage Center, and the Albany Museum of Art wants to make the Holman Mule Barn its new home.

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