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New shops add variety, fill critical vacancies

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — As the clock winds down on 2003, things in downtown Longmont have been winding up dramatically.

A flurry of activity in the past few weeks has brought new businesses to the central business district, and more are on the way.

“I’m not sure what triggered it, but it was really this last month-and-a-half that made people want to make decisions now,” said Mary Murphy-Bessler, executive director of the Longmont Downtown Development Authority.

More than a half-dozen new tenants have come or are coming into the downtown area, Murphy-Bessler said.

•370 Main St. will become the new home of Sandcastle Kids.

•400 Main St. is under contract to “a new retailer,” according to Murphy-Bessler.

•460 Main St., the former home of Daily Office Plus and the single-largest space in the downtown area, will become the new home of Guitars, etc. in early 2004.

•At 508 Main St., Pinocchio’s Italian restaurant opened earlier this month.

•512 Main St. is now the Inspire Salon, which sells Aveda skin-care products.

•516 Main St. will house another Italian restaurant, owned by a family that also owns a restaurant in Brighton.

•627 Main St. is the new home of Twin Peaks Travel & Scuba.

•636 Coffman St., the Roosevelt Place building, has rented out 1,800 square feet on the ground floor and 3,000 square feet on the second floor to unknown future tenants.

•449 Main St., the current home of Lexington Arms, will be taken over by a gaming store, according to building owner Chris Colelli. Colelli said he plans to liquidate his inventory, and the new tenant should taking over around March 1.

•380 Main St., the former home of the Galleria, still has its ground floor available for rent, but the upstairs has several new tenants, according to John Martinez, who owns the building with his wife, Brenda.

U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Fort Morgan, has announced that she will open a branch office in the building, and Martinez said he also has signed two mortgage brokers, a massage therapist and others.

The main floor of the building, with 8,500 square feet of space, could be divided into three separate units, he said.

“It’s surprising we haven’t had anybody take it so far,” Martinez said. “We have had a lot of people look at it in the past month.”

He said that as a building owner, he has to approach renting the space from a practical standpoint.

If someone were to offer to lease the space and put in something like a bar, for instance, he would listen, but that’s not his preferred use for the high-profile building on the southeast corner of Fourth Avenue and Main Street.

“I would really like to see a high-traffic anchor store in there — a family-type business,” Martinez said. “I think anything you can do downtown to promote downtown traffic helps everybody.”

Murphy-Bessler isn’t shy about saying who she would like to see in the building. Earlier this year, Willow River Cheese Importers announced plans to buy the Coal Creek Village Shopping Center from the city of Lafayette and convert it to the Willow River Market, a shopping center in which Cheese Importers would serve as the anchor for a host of other, similar, specialty-type stores.

Those plans are still on, according to Clara Natasha White, daughter of the founder of the longtime Longmont company. But she said they still want to maintain a retail presence in Longmont — perhaps even serving as a downtown — here’s that word again — anchor.

“That little downtown’s a gem,” White said last week from the offices of the store on South Terry Street. “Those buildings are so beautiful down there.

“Things are set in Lafayette. I know that we’re moving our wholesale business and our production facility (there).”

But she maintains that the company has no plans to leave Longmont completely, and once the store no longer has the need for the amount of space at the current location, a smaller, retail-oriented location would be a smart business move, she said.

“Downtown has a lot going on — there’s a lot of people and a lot of businesses down there,” White said. “I just think it needs a few more anchors down there to spice things up.”

There’s that word again.

White wouldn’t comment on the space for rent at 380 Main St., other than admitting to “liking the building” and saying she had not spoken to Martinez. And Martinez wouldn’t comment directly on Cheese Importers, or any specific business, for that matter.

But White did meet with Murphy-Bessler this past week, and they intend to sit down again after the first of the year.

Joining them was Ken Kanemoto of Prudential LTM Realtors, who acts as a broker for several downtown properties and has represented Lyman White, Clara’s father and the founder of Cheese Importers, in the past.

“We just talked about kind of what their goals are and what their hopes are, and the future of the company and whether we might be able to provide a space for them in the downtown market,” Murphy-Bessler said. “The next phase was to come back after the first of the year and then really look at some properties.”

Regardless of what happens with Cheese Importers, it has been a good year for downtown Longmont. Aside from the usual openings and closings, which happen to any shopping district over the course of a year, some of the new tenants should add a nice spice to the mix, and — at least as importantly — add to downtown’s retail mix.

After all, storefronts just keep going up on south Hover Street near the Diagonal Highway.

“A lot of these new businesses that are coming in are really going to be able to compliment the businesses that are already here,” said an excited Murphy-Bessler. “I’m trying to pinch myself, quite honestly. It’s been every day — every day for three weeks.”

Tony Kindelspire can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 291, or by e-mail at tkindelspire@times-call.com.