Several storefronts stand empty in downtown Grass Valley, including the former home of Hedman Furniture, but a leading downtown advocate said interest remains high and other businesses continue to prosper.
Five empty storefronts dotted Mill Street as of last week, said Howard Levine, Grass Valley Downtown Association executive director.
Empty storefronts include 161 and 151 (formerly Hedman Furniture), 113, 114, 126 and 122.
New businesses already plan to fill them, Levine said.
Blackjack Men’s Clothing could open at 114 Mill Street by late July or early August. Myrtle and Marjoram, a wedding photography and portrait business, could open later this week, Levine said.
But a big challenge remains in filling the former Hedman Furniture site.
“It’s a major challenge, but an exciting challenge,” Levine said. “The possibilities for the future are just dynamic.”
A mall-like marketplace with numerous stores is one possible use for the former Hedman buildings, said Lock Richards, managing director for Sperry Van Ness/Highland Commercial.
“We’re pretty close on at least two tenants,” Richards said. But he declined to detail the nature of the businesses.
The stores will complement each other, Richards said, offering examples such as a wine business and a cheese shop within the planned marketplace. “These are the types of things that could happen.”
“I want to get this thing finished and completed as soon as possible,” Richards added.
Rents for possible shops in the former Hedman building run $1 to $1.50 per square foot, Richards said.
Other empty Mill Street storefronts typically range from $1.40 to $2 per square foot, Richards said.
Rents alone don’t chase downtown merchants, Levine said. Each business owner has a different story, he said.
Owners of Hedman Furniture, the Peterson family, decided to retire after 50 years, Levine said.
Rising rents pose a “double-edged sword,” Levine said.
“Without proper rent, people can’t afford to fix a building, and without reasonable and rational rent, business owners can’t run their business,” Levine said.
While the vacancies are troubling, Levine said, they reflect a slow economy.
And downtown Grass Valley has faced much tougher times, Levine said. Vacancies stood at 35 percent in 1986 and also rose to high levels in 2000 and 2001, he added.
To contact Staff Writer Greg Moberly, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4234.
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