By Christine LaRouere
Old Town Lansing Times staff writer
OLD TOWN LANSING — For Old Town Lansing, the expansion of current stores not only helps the economy, but ties stores and shop owners together.
Summer Schriner, owner of Grace Boutique, said her new space across the street from the temple would bring in better inventory and expand Old Town more east.
“We are going to have twice the space there so we will be able to expand a little bit in our size run, in the lines that we carry and spread out overall,” Schriner said. “I think this move will just make it easier on everyone.”
In regards to helping Old town overall, Schriner said her planning on moving to a bigger space will help out other store owners because Bradly’s Home and Garden will be moving into her old space.
“Bradly’s Home and Garden is moving next door, but they are cutting the whole back wall so my store and that space will be combined,” Schriner said. “My side will turn into an art gallery space of Craig Mitchell Smith’s pieces but they will be run as the same store.”
Lisa Cook, associate professor of economics in international relations at Michigan State University, said stores expanding and other stores moving into empty spaces, especially for small towns, is a great way to help the entire community.
“Most small businesses have only about 50 people, but they are a significant part of the U.S. economy,” Cook said. “Jobs are created by these businesses and those people in return purchase more goods and services.”
According to the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, small businesses attributed about 65 percent, or 9.8 million, of the 15 million net new jobs created between 1993 and 2009.
Cook also said that after her research on small businesses at the White House in Washington, D.C. in 2011 and 2012, she found that about 60 to 70 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, or GDP, come from small businesses consumers.
Even though business expansions would help Old Town economically, Schriner also said it would help the city evolve overall.
“I think it is really important for other stores to expand as well,” Schriner said. “The more success people have down here, the more anchored businesses we have which brings in more focus to the neighborhood.”
Closings and opening balance out
Troy Arient, store manager for Bradly’s Home and Garden, said moving from a 480 square feet space to a 2800 square feet space is allowing them to do a deal with artist Craig Mitchell Smith and show more lines of furniture and accessories.
“One space will be part Craig Mitchell’s glass gallery and once we have both spaces open, the back of the store will be a lifestyle integration of our furniture and accessories with his glass art in it,” Arient said. “We have even picked up 3 more furniture lines and 4 more accessory lines … There are just so many different flavors from around the world that we can now incorporate.”
Arient also said he knows times have been tough for galleries, but feels there is a good balance between regular shopping stores and art galleries.
“I know there have been some closings in Old Town,” Arient said. “It’s like everyone has a neighborhood feel here and we all know that things go good and bad, but Old Town is a community that is constantly evolving.”
In regards to the balance of expansions and closing Kathy Holcomb, owner of Absolute Gallery, said she is sad to see the galleries closing, but feels there is somewhat of a balance with other stores moving to bigger spaces.
“I have been here for 11 years and this year it has hurt to see so many of the stores close, but the expansions are going to help a lot,” Holcomb said. “There is somewhat of a balance but the ones you see expanding are more retail oriented and the ones that have closed have been more of the art galleries.”
Holcomb also said for the open spaces, she hopes they become filled with boutique retail rather than just office spaces.
“We hear about so many of the stores being looked at by people who want to use them as office space,” Holcomb said as she talks about the topic in an audio clip below. “I don’t see that as being helpful because it won’t be an attraction. When you go into quirky neighborhoods like Old Town, stores are what people want to see.”
In regards to galleries closing, Cook said it is almost ok and natural for them to close.
“You would expect a certain amount of closures to happen naturally,” Cook said. “A town doesn’t want a lot of turnover, but it provides stability and allows those dynamic businesses to open and expand.”
Louise Gradwohl, executive director of the Old Town Commercial Association, said for those businesses that are going to be moving in, OTCA doesn’t help them so much financially, but rather the organization helps them advertise and get on their feet.
“There is a retail workshop where a professional consultant will come in and show them how they should lay out their stores,” Gradwohl said. “We help with the public relations and marketing end such as ribbon cutting.”
One thing that does help keep Old Town unique is the fact that most stores keep the things they sell from other local merchants, Arient said.
“It is an old town mentality of ‘Let’s support the local artists and keep the money local if we can’,” Arient said. “It’s good for Old Town, good for Michigan and good for Lansing.”
Connect to Old Town through these other links:
Link to Storify: https://storify.com/larouerec/old-town-businesses-continue-to-grow
Link to Magisto: http://www.magisto.com/video/LwcfMQJWRjs9RBppYw
Contact Reporter Christine LaRouere: firstname.lastname@example.org, (734) 536- 5237