There’s a buzz in downtown Windsor.
Events such as the Windsor Farmers Market and the Summer Concert Series at Boardwalk Park, along with a lake that’s smack in the middle of town, are some of the reasons why people are frequenting the downtown area.
A Windsor downtown with no vacant storefronts is another reason.
For the first time in the 10 years that she’s been working for the Windsor Chamber of Commerce, chamber executive director Michal Connors said the buildings on Main Street from 2nd to 7th streets are all occupied.
“It’s great. It just makes the downtown more inviting and more welcoming,” Connors said. “Every other community you go to, you see so many places available, and we really just don’t have it. In a time when there’s a lot of negative in the economy out there, we’re looking very positive.”
Connie and Chuck Huddleson, who have owned The Little Wool Shoppe at 429 Main St. for the last eight years and live above their store, definitely see a change.
“At 10 or 10:30 at night, I hear laughter on the street,” Connie said. “I hear life on the street. People are having a good time and enjoying each other. The concerts and farmers market make it a more vibrant place.”
Connie Huddleson is closing The Little Wool Shoppe retail side of the business on Saturday. She will still work out of the building by running her online wholesale quilt business, Starry Pines Pattern Co., as well as offer private quilting classes and special events. She said there are people who live in Windsor who are missing out on the downtown experience.
“There are a lot of people who live in Windsor that don’t support Windsor,” Huddleson said. “This is a fine few blocks of Main Street here. We’ve got some fine restaurants right on this block.”
Dr. Brent Phinney, an eye doctor and owner of Windsor Eye Care & Vision Center, 515 Main St., is an original DDA board member since its inception two years ago. Phinney said it’s exciting to see what’s going on downtown.
Phinney purchased the building and spent 14½ months renovating it.
“Part of it was that once we got a few businesses to fill a few more storefronts, I think everybody got kind of excited,” Phinney said. “Once the DDA actually formed, I’d like to think that was part of the catalyst that started telling people that downtown is going to be a thriving place here pretty quick. Not only that, I think that with the state of the economy, the rents down here are very reasonable comparatively. So, I think it makes it attractive to locate downtown.”
Not seeing empty storefronts is special, Phinney said. He said a lot more people are walking around downtown, and activity is picking up.
“If you go to a lot of surrounding towns of similar size, they have a problem of filling storefronts,” Phinney said. “I know Johnstown, if you look down there, they have some empty ones. I think every small town has a lot of empty storefronts at this point. It’s very exciting for Windsor, and I think that just tells people that Windsor’s a very desirable place to be.”
Stacey Kerns looked at a lot of locations before deciding to open Bella Vie Spa, 400 E. Main St. Open for a month now, Kerns said business is booming. She said the friendly community spirit of Windsor was a draw.
“I like the historic value that it offers. I like the heartbeat of the little city, and I like the smaller community,” Kerns said. “I looked at a lot of spaces before I chose, and I just kept coming back to the downtown area because that’s where the heartbeat is. I want to be a part of that. I didn’t want to be in a strip-mall area because it’s just cold and it’s not as homey feeling as the downtown area is.”
Stacy Johnson, business development manager for the town of Windsor, said it’s fantastic when any vacant building can be filled.
“Obviously there’s a benefit to any municipality that doesn’t have a bunch of vacant storefronts right on their main strip through town,” Johnson said. It’s a benefit for tourism. It’s a benefit for the residents. It’s a benefit for attracting new companies.”
Dan Brunk, co-owner of House of Windsor General Store & Malt Shop, 430 Main St., said his sales have really increased over the last 18 months. Brunk said seeing people coming out of restaurants, going to get their hair done at a salon and sitting outside having ice cream naturally encourages the existing owners and new business owners to take a serious, heavy look at downtown.
Phinney said Windsor is still in need of other attractions that could increase the traffic even more.
“I think we’re actually trying to attract more retail and some more restaurant establishments downtown,” he added. “I think every downtown hopes to have that. I think there’s a lot of people currently looking at adding that to the mix, and we’d love to see that happen.”