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The State of Downtown Grand Rapids Retail


GRDadof3

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A store we could use downtown. If you haven't been here lately (or ever) and seen their renovation and addition, it looks like a real factory conversion now. Nice.

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Can't believe someone stole the Merrells sign off of this. <_<

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I didn't realize these stores were a nationwide chain.

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Where is that store?

Just North of downtown Rockford. It's where Wolverine World Wide is based, and this is one of their old shoe-making factories. :thumbsup: I hate making the drive all the way there for Merrells (and I don't like the mall either).

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Another issue is, what if the biggest objection for people thinking of moving downtown is that there is not enough retail downtown?

I think this is a great point. I'm alarmed at how many condos are going downtown without a significant amount of retail to support the influx of residents. I just bought a place downtown, and move in this month. Even though I'll be able to walk to work, I will still have to jump in my car and drive out to a drug store, Target, or Meijer if I need to pick up a prescription or buy toiletries. Ideally, there would be a CVS or something within walking distance, and I could hit it up on my way home.

I know this has been stated previously, but it's hard to swallow paying a ton of money (for me) for a place downtown without the convenience of 'Living in the Heart of Everything' or something cheesy like that. I want to be able to shop around where I live! :)

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Sounds like you need to join our retail task force (it's more of a gang really). ;)

Joe

I think this is a great point. I'm alarmed at how many condos are going downtown without a significant amount of retail to support the influx of residents. I just bought a place downtown, and move in this month. Even though I'll be able to walk to work, I will still have to jump in my car and drive out to a drug store, Target, or Meijer if I need to pick up a prescription or buy toiletries. Ideally, there would be a CVS or something within walking distance, and I could hit it up on my way home.

I know this has been stated previously, but it's hard to swallow paying a ton of money (for me) for a place downtown without the convenience of 'Living in the Heart of Everything' or something cheesy like that. I want to be able to shop around where I live! :)

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Definitely keep me posted on the next meeting, provided that it's not too late to participate. Is the group working with or presenting its ideas to other groups like the Heartside Neighborhood Association or a city committee?

So far the only presentations we've done have been in this thread (which is somewhat like buying a billboard at "the junction" in terms of visibility).

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Definitely keep me posted on the next meeting, provided that it's not too late to participate. Is the group working with or presenting its ideas to other groups like the Heartside Neighborhood Association or a city committee?

Yes, that's on the agenda. We hope to meet with several downtown groups and offer up our ideas (and our time if they need it). We first wanted to inventory where retail stands today and where the holes are that need to be filled.

If you want Parhelion, send me your email and we can send you an invite. We are trying not to make it a general meetup so that we can be as productive as possible in a short period of time. :thumbsup:

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Some news from Chris on the River Bank Books:

"Rockford Construction, which owns the space, and Fifth Third Bank, which made the loans to open the store, are close to a deal with someone to buy the business. If a deal doesn't happen soon -- really soon -- the space likely will be liquidated."

It sounds like Rockford and 5/3 might have another book store in line to buy the building/books as it is today. Chris also makes some good points about visability of the store.

"Despite being able to enter off Monroe Center, the storefront on Fountain Street did not lend itself to "discovery" by passersby. It also seemed far too big for the market. The empty old Two Choppers spot at the much higher profile corner of Monroe Center and Ottawa, lovingly restored by the DeVos family, seems like more manageable space for a bookstore that conventioneers, ice skaters, shoe shoppers and art museum patrons might be more likely to find -- or just stop in as they're out for lunch"

The complete article can be read on his Mlive blog here:

http://www.mlive.com/grpress/knapescorner/

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Regarding River Bank Books' visibility, I completely agree. I moved here in August, work downtown and walk around at lunch, and had absolutely no idea that there was a bookstore downtown until December. I probably looked past a sign now and again without it registering. There were certainly no sandwich boards on the sidewalk or displays on Monroe Center to draw me in.

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Or maybe directional signage with the number of steps it takes to get to a business. ;) Maybe on the back of some big green signs that are just begging to be spray painted. :)

Allow me to remind y'all that we do have a DDA presence on here (and it's not moi).

During our last walkabout we discussed the idea of sponsorship. Sell someone an ad on the back of those bare-nekkid wayfinding signs.

[gosh, know anyone who can handle lining up sponsors??]

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I've been thinking the old City Market space would work pretty well as a hobby shop/toy store, like Ryder's that someone had suggested. It's got the huge County parking lot behind it that maybe they can use for remote-controlled car races, chopper flying, etc.. It's also not that far from the Children's Musuem.

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Until a few years ago, Chicago had The Great Ace, sort of an Ace Hardware superstore. In addition to the usual hardware store stuff, it had IKEAish furniture and other essentials -- all with an "urban" sensibility. It was appealing enough that I can see visitors to the city checking it out. What killed it was Target, Costco, etc. moving into the city. And of course Chicago has Crate & Barrel and many other retailers. Downtown GR and nearby neighborhoods don't have any of those types of businesses. I've always loved hardware stores and one of the appealing things about the neighborhood I live in (East Hills) is Rylee's.

Here's the URL for an article about The Great Ace closing:

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn41...208/ai_n9725460

Previously someone suggested a scooter/small car dealership. I sort of second that -- I think a scooter/moped business would do well.

And a small grocery store. Chicago has a number of smallish, slightly upscale grocers, like Treasure Island. Was City Market ahead of its time? Did it have the basics? The last city/town I lived in in Illnois was St. Charles. Before that, I lived in it's sister city of Geneva -- both in the heart of the town. I preferred St. Charles because partly because of the grocery store in the heart of town (an independent). In Geneva I was only a block from a hardware store, but I use grocers more frequently than hardware stores. Geneva was more boutiqu-ey (like Ada?). It was popular for visitors, but St. Charles was more "real".

I know GR doesn't have the population density of Chicago, but I'm familiar with it, so it's my frame of reference.

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BTW -- please keep me posted on the task force meetings. I'm sorry I didn't make the last one. I wound up going to the Freethought lecture that night -- it was a topic I was very interested in. Early on, some folk suggested that I wouldn't find enough to do in GR (compared to Chicagoland). I find I've too much to choose from -- often difficult choices.

:unsure:

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continuous retail : yellow/red

access to parking (no violation of retail) : green

Anchors: yellow (if the museum counts)

bright well landscaped area : reddish yellow (nothing open after 5 anyway)

ped safe : green

1/4mile long : yes

Thanks gvsusean! The one thing I would rate well is landscaping along Monroe Center, maybe as a yellow-green to green using your scale. It was one thing that we all commented on while doing our tour, are that the trees are really getting mature now and providing a nice canopy, and the benches and planters look top notch. The brick sidewalks are also looking great and are being kept clean.

But you're right, bright nighttime lighting with a "festive sparkle" are non-existent. The street-lighting is fine.

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The last city/town I lived in in Illnois was St. Charles. Before that, I lived in it's sister city of Geneva -- both in the heart of the town. I preferred St. Charles because partly because of the grocery store in the heart of town (an independent). In Geneva I was only a block from a hardware store, but I use grocers more frequently than hardware stores. Geneva was more boutiqu-ey (like Ada?). It was popular for visitors, but St. Charles was more "real".

I know GR doesn't have the population density of Chicago, but I'm familiar with it, so it's my frame of reference.

OT but, I used to love the Blue Goose (I'm assuming that's what you're talking about radicaljoy)! I haven't been inside there in probably 7-8 years or so but it was great to see it still up an running last time I was in St Charles.

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From yesterday's Press:

Sunshine sells ... while it lasts

Chuni Raniga, owner of downtown's Superior Watch, took advantage of the unexpected sunshine Friday and Saturday to move his displays of sunglasses onto Monroe Center NW. It paid off: Raniga said he sold dozens of pairs, costing $5 to $10, while the sun beat down on Festival-goers. "It wasn't even going to come out," he said, noting weather forecasts had called for rain. He conceded he doesn't have a backup plan for a soggy change in weather conditions. "I don't sell umbrellas."

Friday evening:

100_0059.jpg

Umbrellas here, safely locked up:

umbrellas.jpg

Edited by Veloise
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From yesterday's Press:

Sunshine sells ... while it lasts

Chuni Raniga, owner of downtown's Superior Watch, took advantage of the unexpected sunshine Friday and Saturday to move his displays of sunglasses onto Monroe Center NW. It paid off: Raniga said he sold dozens of pairs, costing $5 to $10, while the sun beat down on Festival-goers. "It wasn't even going to come out," he said, noting weather forecasts had called for rain. He conceded he doesn't have a backup plan for a soggy change in weather conditions. "I don't sell umbrellas."

Friday evening:

100_0059.jpg

Umbrellas here, safely locked up:

umbrellas.jpg

OMG! I've got it: Monroe Center, the ANTIDOTE to your shopping impulses!

Do you have trouble with spending impulsively? Do you avoid check-out lanes with impulse racks? Do you sweat when you see the words "30 - 40% off the already marked down prices!" Then we have the solution: Monroe Center in downtown Grand Rapids. Take a stroll along quiet tree-lined streets, with empty store displays and closed and locked doors. Need earmuffs? Fogettaboutit! Need an umbrella in the rain? Yeah right buddy! Groceries? Get in the car you fool. Saturday night and you just paid off your credit card balances? We can help you stay out of debt on Monroe Center...

Monroe Center: Endorsed by the Dave Ramsey Get Out of Debt Program

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OMG! I've got it: Monroe Center, the ANTIDOTE to your shopping impulses!

Do you have trouble with spending impulsively? Do you avoid check-out lanes with impulse racks? Do you sweat when you see the words "30 - 40% off the already marked down prices!" Then we have the solution: Monroe Center in downtown Grand Rapids. Take a stroll along quiet tree-lined streets, with empty store displays and closed and locked doors. Need earmuffs? Fogettaboutit! Need an umbrella in the rain? Yeah right buddy! Groceries? Get in the car you fool. Saturday night and you just paid off your credit card balances? We can help you stay out of debt on Monroe Center...

Monroe Center: Endorsed by the Dave Ramsey Get Out of Debt Program

To add to the fun, I wanted a snack for me and my kid on Saturday morning and went by Grand Central at 11:00am. CLOSED until noon. Makes sense for a normal Saturday, but like these other stores I'd make sure to be open when Festival is and have signs and all kinds of stuff trying to bring people in.

BTW, loved the MC sales pitch!

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From yesterday's Press:

Sunshine sells ... while it lasts

Chuni Raniga, owner of downtown's Superior Watch, took advantage of the unexpected sunshine Friday and Saturday to move his displays of sunglasses onto Monroe Center NW. It paid off: Raniga said he sold dozens of pairs, costing $5 to $10, while the sun beat down on Festival-goers. "It wasn't even going to come out," he said, noting weather forecasts had called for rain. He conceded he doesn't have a backup plan for a soggy change in weather conditions. "I don't sell umbrellas."

I dropped in on Chuni and we had a nice discussion yesterday. He was pleased to hear about the Press squib, which he hadn't seen.

He's been in business DT 30-some years (framed certificate on his counter). Primary biz is watch repair. He makes keys and says that everyone who gets a key also buys a greeting card (rack adjacent) because they'll browse as they wait. He also has a lot of jewelry, gold charms in showcases. Display of class rings. Watches.

The SOUVENIRS signage is new. Two weeks prior to GRAM opening he will merch out that front corner with stuff. Postcards? T-shirts? He asked for a supplier referral (I mentioned Penrod). He does have some Grand Vitesse magnets on a display.

souvenirs.jpg

He has a monthly parking pass, and we figured it costs him about $1.50/day to park. He said he could spend thousands of dollars in advertising, but Festival attracts thousands of people [edit: whoops!] (500,000 per the Press) and he figures this is free advertising. "I might get 100 more customers by being open. Some people come downtown once a year, and here's my chance." His shades were selling for about $10, so if he sells one pair he's pretty well paid for his effort that day. Besides the designer product, he has a rack of Spiderman kiddie glasses. "Daddy, pleeeeeze!!!"

Said he would have to find some very cheap umbrellas in order to add those. I related Jeff's earmuff story and could practically hear the gears turning as he considered that. He has gift wrap, gift bags, the greeting cards, and other wrapping stuff.

Chuni had a lot of Christmas cards (front window) and little Santas, all marked on clearance, and if I were driving that bus I'd load that stuff into storage, and add more interesting merch to attract the window shopper.

Edited by Veloise
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