Main Street was once a bustling downtown shopping district; a shopping mecca before the Parkade long before the mall was even a thought. All that came crashing down years later when progress and changing shopping habits moved into the mall. Now the focus has turned back to Main Street.
History of Main Street:
Main Street has always been a main artery of Manchester by attracting businesses to the town center. It was once home to departments stores like Woolworth, WT Grants, House and Hale, and local favorite Marlow's. As time went on these stores closed and then replaced. Woolworth was replaced by Peter's Furniture. WT Grants was transformed into The Manchester Mall; a collection of antiques and small businesses. House and Hale was turned into a professional building that is mostly small medical offices. Marlow's was divided into smaller storefronts. Main Street was the center of retail action before the mall.
The tides turned after the Parkade opened. WT Grants moved to the Parkade, the other small businesses followed. Woolworth liquidated, and the focus changed from a walk-able downtown to strip centers and malls. Now the tide has turned again, and Main Street is coming back.
Recent Retail Openings:
The focus has moved back to a walkable Main Street. Businesses are opening and expanding to the town center again.
The arrival of Accra Mall USA in the former Peter's Furniture building is a recent highlight. This filled a major vacancy on Main Street and has the potential to breathe much needed life into the town. Along with this new anchor tenant, smaller retail tenants are starting to filter in.
Dirk Heidemann Ballroom Dance opened in a vacant space on Main Street.
Eleganza Moda, which sells intimate apparel, opened last year.
The Grateful Head Shop opened on Oak Street, taking over a vacant storefront.
A tobacco shop called Smoke Zone recently opened in the former Goodale Jewelry.
Ruff Cuts Grooming opened in 2016 next door to Silk City Coffee. Ruff Cuts took over the former Minuteman Press; which combined operations into their Vernon location.
Current tenants have also contributed to the Main Street renaissance; they updated their facades, changed their names, and have been sprucing up their displays and sidewalks - making Main Street walkable once again.
Work_Space also re-branded early this year, along with updating their facade.
Coventry Farms has changed their name to the 'Market on Main' along with minor updates to their storefront.
Accra Mall USA refinished and repainted the art-deco style facade on the former Woolworth store.
Main Street has also seen an influx of restaurants in recent years.
Panda King opened a restaurant a couple years ago, when Dynamic Percussion moved their store onto Middle Turnpike West.
In 2013 Filomena's Pizza moved from East Center Street into a vacant storefront, expanding to add a bar in 2016.
The opening of The Bread Box Bakery, now Sol De Borinquen Bakery, opened in a vacant store in 2014.
The Lucky Taco, a Hartford food truck, opened a restaurant in The Brass Key in 2014.
21 Oak took over the former Sinnamon Shop, turning it into a vegan/plant-based restaurant; the owner recently expanded next door and opened a smoothie shop called Vitality.
The Bistro On Main opened in the former home of the Landmark Cafe. MACC bought the restaurant and turned it into an upscale bistro.
Silk City Coffee opened last year in a vacant optometrist office. They completely remodeled the space, revealing hidden details like a tin ceiling covered by a drop ceiling.
Teriyaki Box took over an Asian eatery next door to The Bread Box.
The Angry Egg opened in the former home of Sunny Side Up. The owners are restaurant veterans from Cavey's, another Manchester institution.
The Lucky Taco, which opened in 2014, are expanding their restaurant into a vacant upholstery shop next door. The newly expanded space will be a new bar and will feature outdoor seating when completed.
Found Company will also move to the area of Main Street from their former location at Evergreen Walk. Found is an upscale clothing store, they supply their products from artisans.
CVS will be constructing a location on Main Street as well, they will demolition the former Carter Chevy. The CVS will feature decoration reminiscent of the Cheney Mills.
Main Street would not recover without local business that have loyal to Main Street. Long time businesses like Silk City Antiques, Manchester Hardware, Harvest, Beller's Music, and many more. These business are the reason why Main Street has thrived and remain a destination for citizen through tough times. Loyalty is key in retail; these businesses are the key to this forthcoming renaissance.
Please let me know in the comment section or email me at Buckland.Business.Brief@gmail.com if I missed anything, if you see a closing, or if you see a new store opening on Main Street!
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Images from Manchester Economic Development; JLD Photos; Yelp; Go Dairy Free; Live Fit CT; Ruff Cuts
Jean-Luc has written articles for the past year about Manchester Business.