Main Street is not the only place with an alarming number of retail vacancies.
“Space Available” signs fill storefronts all around town. The Fresh Market plaza is particularly scary. Nearly half the tenants have left.
But one spot thrives. It’s the shopping center on Post Road West opposite Whole Foods, near the Norwalk line.
Every square foot is rented.
Two of the stores have relocated from that ghost-like Fresh Market plaza.
Artemis and Simple Elegance are separate businesses. But they share a front door. And the owners share a belief that offering customers unique items and special service is a way to fight both the internet and the bigger boys.
Both women are delighted with their new location. They see plenty of traffic.
They love the energy that comes with being women-owned stores, in a plaza in which nearly all the other owners are females too.
Artemis and Simple Elegance (formerly LCR) were neighbors near Fresh Market. They looked out for each other there — helping out, for example, when one of the shops was particularly busy.
But now, in their shared space, they take collaboration to a new level. They show off each other’s merchandise — home and gift items for Simple Elegance, special hand-crafted pieces for Artemis — and finish each other’s sentences.
“Emotional support is so important to a small business,” says Artemis owner (and Westport native) Deb Kondub.
“We’re never alone,” Simple Elegance owner Nancy Joseph adds — referring both to Kondub’s store, and the others in the plaza. They include a waxing spa, hair salon, tennis shop, eyeglass place, boys and girls clothing store, and Pilates studio. The tennis spot is the only one owned by a male.
“Having all these women-owned stores gives this whole shopping center a special feel,” Joseph says.
“You can feel the excitement with all the stores. This place is so bright and airy. Customers really think of it as a destination. And they hug us!”
Being a small retailer is still tough. The internet is always a click away.
But, Kondub says, “returning something online is a hassle. And with what we sell, it’s important to see and touch and feel it before you buy.”
Joseph lets customers take items home, to see how they actually look there. Astonishingly, a few bring them back — and tell her, “I’ll buy it at Bloomingdale’s.”
That’s discouraging. Fortunately, Deb Kondub and Nancy Joseph have enough loyal customers to keep them smiling.
And no empty storefronts nearby to bring them down.