Saturday, March 1, 2008
What's Up Down Town; A Tally
When Gus & Paul's deli closed up late last year, there was a small uproar on the local forums, blogs, and news about the declining fortunes of an already struggling downtown Springfield. Then just recently there were three more businesses to leave downtown. Frigo's Gourmet Foods moved on after 20 years on Main St. Then it was L'uVa restaurant, about 4 years of business. Finally, and perhaps most telling, it was Rein's Deli. Rein's had taken over at the former Gus & Paul's location with a second store, and had to close it up after only three short months. What a dilemma. Debate has reignited about how and why this is happening. In order to cast a little light on the issue, I thought it might be a good idea to tally up what exactly is in downtown, specifically the Main St. area. What kind of stores and businesses does downtown have to offer? Me and the kid spent the afternoon taking a walk up and down Main St. We had time to kill. We went from the railroad underpass separating the North End, and walked south, to State St. and beyond. I made an attempt to photograph all the businesses along the way. (I left out pics of most of the non-consumer type businesses, like lawyers, accountants and such). Chris dutifully tried to record the number and types of businesses as I snapped pictures.
Take it from the bridge
Starting at the bridge, and attached to it, there is the Stone Wall tavern.
Then the famous Hippodrome. An old theater now transformed into a nightclub and concert venue. Many well known artists have performed here. The marquee has been hit by a truck, and remains to be repaired.
The first of many jewelry stores along Main St.
The Sitar restaurant, offering Indian cuisine.
The L'uVa restaurant, one of the three businesses that recently moved on.
Across the street is the location of the former Kennedy Fried Chicken, of notorious fame. The Mediterranean Grill is taking it's place and opening soon.
Next block up, after Hampden st. there is an urban clothing store and a few small shops.
The famous Student Prince and The Fort Dining Room.
Across the street from there, a pizza shop and some attorney and insurance offices.
Next block, there's the popular City Jake's cafe, with a tailor and clothing store next door.
The Asylum, a night club.
PCX - "Pocket Change Exchange".
Memories, a newly opened 'Rumba' bar.
Jewelry stores. There are a lot of Jewelry stores downtown.
Next up is the Federal Courthouse and recruiting center.
Followed by Tower Square. Tower Square is where Gus & Pauls, then Rein's Deli, came and went.
Here's a towering picture of the former Baybank tower, now the Mass Mutual tower...towering above tower square, in a towering fashion.
As does Monarch Place across the street.
Next door to Monarch Place there's a martial arts school and clothing store...
Middle Eastern Cuisine at the Cafe Lebanon next to that.
Beauty supply store. Beauty supply stores, hair and nail salons, barber shops and studios seem to be the other major Main St. business type, after jewelry stores.
Sportswear...and Sports pub next door.
A cafe at the end of that block.
We now arrived at Court Square, and took a look around...
Developers are looking into purchasing this beautiful old building along with others on the block.
Across the street, the brand new MassMutual Center.
Across the street from the convention center, we finally come to Frigo's Gourmet Foods. The restaurant that had to move, after 20 years in this location.
A pawn shop, a couple salons and a pizza/chicken joint finish out this section of Main St.
To give an idea of the cross-section of businesses downtown, here's Chris's final tally, on Main St. only, from the rail bridge to Winthrop St. in the South End:
Weekday businesses (Lawyers, Insurance, Accountants, ect.): 26
Empty Store Fronts: 24
Salons, (Hair, Beauty, Nail salons and Barber Shops): 11
Clothing Stores: 7
Package Stores: 1
(We did our best to make sure these numbers are accurate, as we scribbled them on the back of a Dunkin Donuts receipt.)
Smile, your on Candid Camera
Mayor Sarno is big on making downtown a safe place to be, as was Mayor Ryan. Sarno has recently created a 'Quality of life' task force, and has cameras set here and there, with more to come.
Obviously, safety is absolutely one of the keys to attracting visitors. And today anyway, it seems as though the police department's efforts are working. As Chris and I walked along, there wasn't a minute where we really felt unsafe. There were some 'urban' types that make you want to profile, but everyone we passed was courteous enough. It takes a certain degree of savvy to walk around any big city anyway. You have to keep your eyes open. If Springfield is hoping to create an atmosphere where you can let your guard down, there's a lot of work to do yet, and a reputation to build.
The South End
Across State St. there are many more stores, restaurants and services that line the sidewalk into the South End. Some of them have been there a long time, like Buckeye Bros. Smokeshop,which has been there for 19 years, and recently expanded with the addition of Harry's, a cafe doing great business.
The Viper's Nest Tattoo has been doing their thing here for 9 years. There's a nail and beauty salon right next door.
Along with the salons are a couple barber shops nearby. The traditional, like William's...
And the new, like Killa's.
Dave's Furniture has been there quite some time.
Samuel's is a classy drinking establishment. A Jeweler and ethnic gift shop occupy the same block.
The South end has a little bit of a different feel to it than the central section of downtown. You can tell it was (or still is) a tightly knit neighborhood. We ended our tally at Winthrop st., only because I felt we were starting to venture away from the actual 'downtown' area. But before I end this post, I have to mention some of the fine eateries that are found in the South End. These are just a few, and most reflect the strong Italian presence of the neighborhood.
The Red Rose.
La Fiorentina Pastry Shop.
Boston Sea Food.
And Mom & Rico's.
We stopped at Mom & Rico's to eat. This is a fantastic little Italian Deli/Eatery. They always have a great buffet going. And the main thing that makes this place so special? The incredibly friendly service. As soon as we walked in today, the owner handed me and Chris samples of salami and cheese over the counter. "The best your ever going to taste" he assured us. He may have been right. We loaded up our plates with great Italian food, and stuffed ourselves. The walls are covered with memoribilia and pictures of people -famous and not- that have enjoyed this place throughout the long years they've been in business. Truly a Springfield staple.
After our meal, I asked them how they were doing as far as business. In an ever optimistic way, Rico said they're hanging in there OK, and are awaiting the certain return of good times.