Prior to and in the midst of the dust and debris of construction, five new businesses opened shop on Marion Street with hopes of future foot traffic and brisk business for their stores. With the restreeting project now near completion, Wednesday Journal caught up with them to see how business is going.
Moveable Gourmet, 118 N. Marion St.
Chef/co-owners Erik Ruminski and Carol Buckantz opened eight days before the construction started, and to date, business has been palatable. They offer an on-premise or in-home cooking school, catering and homemade and customized gourmet take out food items in earth-friendly packaging. Off-the-menu homemade fare includes pizzas, paninis and salads, plus fish and meat entrees.
"We have an open kitchen where anyone can come in and interact with us while we are cooking," says Ruminski. "Actually, so far we've had a lot of people who are having a party that day or night, and we customize off our menu to prepare their meals in their homes or have entrees ready-hot or cold-for them so they can take it with and throw the party themselves."
Since they opened, Buckantz says that some commuters drop by to pick up dinner after work, while others call the chefs ahead from the train and ask them to ready a salmon entrée, for example, for pick-up.
"We're excited to be on Marion Street because this town needs us," Buckantz says. "There is a Chipotle and Cosi's, but those are national chains. We are a small, independent food business and I think people really appreciate that."
Bottega M for her, 106 N. Marion St.
Formerly the co-owners of Spaulding's for Men and Women, Don and Rich Micheli have recently re-invested in Marion Street with the opening of Bottega M for her. The new store offers affordable lines-dresses for $98-but still carries high-end conservative favorites like Lafayette 148 and Zelda. Affordable homecoming and prom dresses are also in the new mix.
"Now mothers and daughters can shop together and we often end up dressing them head to toe," says Sanem D'Angelo, store manager and buyer. "One of the other features we carried over from Spaulding's is that we have an on-site seamstress, and all alterations are free, unless an item is on sale."
While doing business during the construction hasn't been easy, Micheli believes that there is always a price to be paid with positive change.
"We are almost near the end now, and I have seen everything and it is a beautiful plan, he says. "Now we need the community to support us for the holiday season. We have been through so much down here, and it has been so tough for everybody. We hope that people will put their money back where they live so this area can return to what it once was."
Vestio, 106 N. Marion St.
Housed adjacent to Bottega M, and owned by the former long-time Spaulding's for Men and Women buyer, Daniel DeMarte, is Vestio. It offers fine suits, sports coats, dress shirts and ties as well as modern sportswear. He also specializes in the made-to-measure and special order business.
"Some people are willing to wait anywhere from a week to six weeks for a product because they like their suits to be made from scratch," DeMarte says. "Many of my customers are individuals I started with 25 years ago, so there is a trust built up where if I think this is the right item for them, they will come in and buy it."
Having opened in April, business at Vestio has been OK but DeMarte expects foot traffic and the new parking spots on the street to be very positive for his store.
"I have an established customer base, otherwise no one could open a store in an area like mine and exist," DeMarte says. "I am hitting projections, and they were conservative. So far, it's been good."
Takara Uncommon Fashions, 123 N. Marion St.
Tamiya Beathea, store manager/partner with her mother Takara, opened shop in April before construction on Marion Street began. Formerly two separate boutiques on Harrison Street, Takara carries eclectic, one-of-a kind European designed clothing for women , including the fashion designer's popular plus size line.
Since we are a mother-daughter boutique, we have found that a lot of people want to come out and support us," Beathea says. "Our goal is to create your own style so you're not looking like the J-lo's or the Brittany Spears or the Gap or Old Navy."
Better known for its evening wear and after five clothing lines, Takara carries casual apparel and upscale casual wear for the day. Also there is funky, fabulous functional wear, and clothing and accessory items unavailable anywhere else...or at least that is their goal, she says.
"Mom has been in the business for 28 years and I'm a former professional fashion model, so I've been in the business since I was 12," Beathea says. "We have an edge that is pretty unique because we are established in the fashion business, which works well and is an effortless process for us. We love it."
Ten Thousand Villages, 121 N. Marion St.
With its grand opening on Sept. 7, Ten Thousand Villages is a not-for-profit organization that works with over 100 artisan groups from more than 30 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to sell fair trade jewelry, scarves, home decor, gifts, musical instruments and toys. Retail revenues enable its artisans to earn a fair wage to afford food, shelter and education.
"Our store is all volunteers, except for me and an assistant manager," says Clare Leavitt, store manager. "The construction has hurt our business, but I must say that considering what we have going on out our front door, it hasn't been too bad. People actually make an effort to get to Ten Thousand Villages. It's a destination."
Through Thanksgiving Leavitt will be conducting trainings for new store volunteers to augment the corps who have already stepped up.
"At this point, I might have to have people come in and just stock the floor, or have volunteers run and get boxes," she says. "We are a nonprofit store and don't have boxes for every item out there, so new volunteers may not be standing behind the register, but there will be plenty of other things for them to do."