Downtown vacancy rate at highest in decades

By: Olga Michail Email
By: Olga Michail Email

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- The city of Eau Claire says its vacancy rate for Downtown businesses is the highest it’s been in a decade.

This comes as Charly’s Market says it's closing its doors this month.
Eight businesses left Downtown in 2012.

Mike Schatz, the Economic Development Director for the city of Eau Claire told me today this year has been a tough one for the Downtown. Poor economy, plans for the Confluence Project and Downtown contraction scheduled for the spring of 2013 makes the future uncertain for many small businesses.

"Many factors came together last year to really make it hard for businesses in the Downtown. We are disappointed; we would like to see all the business make it, but we have enough experience where we know some will make it and some won't,” said Schatz.

Schatz said many Downtown businesses sell very specific products or services which makes it hard for some of them to meet the income level to be successful. That’s one of the reasons Charly's Market closed down.

"Whenever you deal with small business, you normally see a lot of coming and going of businesses; some make, some don't; new ones come in. It's just how the world works with small business,” said Schatz.

Crossroad Books was another business that didn't make it. After ten years in Downtown the store had to move last month. The owner said he loved the downtown location, but the traffic for the book business wasn't the best.

And the end to one store is the beginning for another.

"We've been growing, even though the economy is kind of tough we continued to grow,” said Chris Solberg, the owner of One Source Imaging, the store that took over Crossroad’s Downtown location early December.

One Source Imaging has been in the Downtown area for several years.
And it moved to a bigger venue because business is going well.

"Downtown always gave us good value, so rent keeps going up not matter where you are, but when we were looking around we found that in Downtown you get a lot of space for the value; a lot of space for the money," said Solberg.

"I think the future looks bright for Downtown, we just have to get through this slow period for the next year or so,” said Schatz.

Schatz also said many businesses close because some owners don't have much experience, so another part in keeping business Downtown would be educating new business owners and assist them in coming up with business plans that will help them stay afloat.

Still good news is, even though eight businesses closed down, 17 new ones have also opened this past year.


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