Downtown loses five businesses in less than a month

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BRATTLEBORO — After recent announcements and departures, downtown is going to be down five establishments.

"Do we get angry that we are losing five stores in less than one month downtown?" Downtown Brattleboro Alliance posted Monday morning on Facebook. "Do we point fingers? Do we express sadness? There is much we can do and we urge you to dig deep and look once more at our downtown. How can we all support our downtown community even more?"

DBA organizes events, helps secure grants and connects groups. Its mission is to promote the vitality of downtown.

Its post had been in response to Ruggles & Hunt's Aug. 1 announcement that it will be closing its doors. The store, which sells clothing and home goods, is having a "going out of business sale." Everything is between 20 and 70 percent off.

Vicki Gohl, owner, expects the process to take 60 to 90 days. She closed her other location in Walpole, N.H., in January.

"We're not making any money," she said. "It's pretty simple."

Gohl started the business 16 years ago and opened in Brattleboro in 2016.

"We had a meteoric first 20 months in town and then just as meteoric decline," she said. "It was really fabulous for a whole minute there and then after April of last year, it has been in steady decline."

Gohl said last year had the biggest increase in retail store closures in 20 years nationwide, and more retail stores closed in the beginning of this year than all of 2018 combined. She believes part of it has to do with people having less time to visit downtowns and go shopping.

Regarding Brattleboro specifically, Gohl pointed to difficulties around parking and a 1 percent local option tax adopted this year. She said people also find panhandling to be "unbearable."

"It's kind of a perfect compilation of reasons people don't want to come here anymore," she said. "So that's a death knell for any of us who are trying to run a business here."

Gohl also blamed President Trump's "guerilla mode of governing."

"No one knows what he's going to do next," she said. "When people don't feel comfortable or safe, they don't spend money."

Gohl expects to find herself doing "something totally different," she said, "because retail is not happening."

"This has been something that I have been contemplating for some time and strategizing," she said. "It's just going to take some time. A lot of people use us as a resource for clothing and I wanted people to know they had the opportunity to shop the spring and summer and some of the fall, too."

An "everything must go sale" will begin next week at A Candle In The Night at 181 Main St. The store sells home furnishings.

"We will be gone by Dec. 31," said Donna Simons, owner of A Candle In The Night and founding member of the downtown organization now known as the DBA. "Perhaps sooner."

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Simons said her family sold their space in the building and will vacate once their inventory is gone or Dec. 31, whichever comes first. They have run the business in downtown Brattleboro for 46 years, and in the same location for 42 years. They plan to stay in the area.

Simons' husband Larry retired eight years ago. They have been working behind the scenes to find a buyer for the space.

Mitchell Giddings Fine Arts is moving upstairs from the building's basement. Simons said she does not know the other buyer's plans for the remaining space.

Twin Flames Taqueria at 97 Main St is "closed until further notice," according to a Facebook post from July 18.

"We are currently searching for investors," Twin Flames owner James Casterline wrote, adding that the business was profitable but he had "mismanaged" money. "As most of you know, we didn't have an investor, we didn't get build out money and tried to do all of this on our own."

A credit card processing company offered a loan that was "super easy to get," Casterline said, adding that the interest rate was not "terrible but the payback rate was bad."

"We had to pay 15 percent back daily," he wrote.

Casterline said staff put their hearts and souls into the restaurant.

"I have let you all down when you all believed in me and will make this right as soon as I can," he wrote. "I am not giving up! I will fight to the end as we have since the beginning."

Windham Movement Apparel left 2 Elliot St. at the end of July and will be holding "pop-up" events to sell their clothing and items.

"Do you wonder about the benefits of a Mobile Boutique?" the store wrote on its Facbeook page on July 10. "My first priority is convenience. Busy busy families, individuals and studios/schools can't always find the time to make a huge drive a few towns over to get the right size leotard or pair of Feiyues."

The business had been downtown for about three years.

The owner of Walks With Wolves Creations, which moved from West Dover to 55 Elliot Street in downtown Brattleboro in December 2018, is now operating out of 15 Grove St. Suite 105. His business is now called Walks With Wolves Energy Healings and Spiritual Enlightment. Massages and essential oils are available. There is no retail space but artwork and jewelry can still be purchased privately from the owner.

Kate O'Connor, executive director of the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce, called for taking "a close look at what's happening right now."

"Retail is an important part of our economy in this town, especially retail downtown," she said. "So I don't think we should just say, 'Oh, it's a phase, let's just move through it.' I really think we need to think about what supporting retailers means to us in this community and make sure that we do it."

O'Connor said now is a good time to be "very mindful that we need a vibrant downtown."

"We need to at least maintain what we got," she said. "Because you look at a lot of the businesses downtown and they've been here for a really long time so we know there's staying power."

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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