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(This is me, running like crazy from the camera & helping people. Scott says I unfortunately
look like I am at a bar having one too many martinis... )
She sent an e-mail and postcard to customers on her list giving them the heads up on the major sale that started Thursday, including the furniture and fixtures. Everything must go. “I like to tell customers to come get a piece of Radford history,” Price said with a smile.
by Tim W. Jackson
The old Radford Fitness Center building on Main Street has been vacant for nearly a decade.
The crowd in Radford’s Encore Artful Gifts was thick Thursday evening. Customers came in to take advantage of the great sales.
“Seasonal items are 75 percent off,” owner Stacey Price told customers as they came in the door, one after another, from the bitter cold. “Everything else in the store is 40 percent off,” she added. But you know this isn’t just any sale when Price called out her next line: “All furniture and fixtures are priced as marked.” Encore isn’t normally in the business of selling furniture or fixtures.
After six years of making a go of Encore, Price decided that Feb. 28 would be her last day of business.
But Price probably would have had a bigger smile on her face if her store had been that populated with customers on a regular basis for the past six years. Encore joins several Radford businesses to close in the past year, leaving more than a half-dozen storefronts empty on the small stretch of Main Street from Tyler Avenue to Third Avenue. More buildings stand vacant if you travel on either direction on Main Street, including the BB&T branch on the West End of town, which closed in December—just days after Pascal’s Kitchen abruptly closed at 1150 East Main Street.
Price said that Encore had a handful of challenges. “I consider this to be a destination store,” Price explained. “And for a destination store, it’s best to have a parking lot.” At the same time, Price said that a general lack of foot traffic in downtown Radford is a challenge for businesses. Plus the general economic situation is hurting businesses everywhere. “Radford, in particular, is a fiscally conservative town,” Price said.
Price’s advice to potential downtown businesses is to make sure they have the financial resources to weather an economic storm such as the one gripping the country. “You should have enough to pay all of your bills for a year,” Price said. “I didn’t have those financial resources.”
Other former Radford businesses have continued to survive elsewhere, including Vintage Cellar,
Bohemian Trading Company, Annie Kay’s and Imaginations, all of which still are open for business in their Blacksburg locations.
“We always seemed to come up just a little bit short in Radford,” said Keith Roberts, owner of Vintage Cellar. “We’re maintaining our success here in Blacksburg, though. We’ve found that in this economy, a lot of people are nesting. They’re not going out and spending the money. They’re entertaining at home, which is good for a store that sells wine and beer.”
Becky Haupt, executive director of Main Street Radford, said that each of the aforementioned stores that had two locations in the New River Valley had unique situations as to why they closed the Radford stores.
Encore owner Stacey Price stayed busy helping a full store of customers Thursday evening as major sales went into effect.
Haupt said that it’s sometimes hard to find the perfect entrepreneur for downtown Radford, someone who has the right mix of enthusiasm, expertise, and financial means.
Haupt added that her organization has an incentive program in place now that can help to pay things such as interior and exterior paint, signs, and awnings.
But even with incentives for potential business owners, will customers patronize a downtown business? “Sharkey’s has done extremely well,” Haupt said, offering an example of a new business that came to Radford and had that mix of enthusiasm, expertise, and financial means.
But not all Radford residents are particularly keen at shopping in downtown. Liz Koch said, “I very rarely ever shop downtown, and when I did the prices were so expensive I couldn’t afford it.”
Radford resident Eric Melniczek said, “I shop in Radford quite frequently. If you take 100 percent, I shop in Radford 25 percent of the time, Christiansburg 25 percent of the time, Blacksburg/Roanoke 15 percent of the time, and online 5 percent of the time. The remaining 30 percent is shopping that I do while out of town.”
Melniczek said that there are many factors that make it challenging for downtown businesses to survive. “Today, customers want to shop at shopping malls [or] shopping centers with chain stores,” he said. “It is sad to see more customers go to Subway than Screamer’s.”