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Is Downtown Becoming a Ghost Town?

A number of shop owners on Lawrenceville, Ga's Square have closed after struggling to make a profit.

 

There are signs popping up all around downtown Lawrenceville, but not the kind of signs you want to see. These say “Space Available” and “Space for Lease.” Historic downtown is disappearing. “People are definitely talking about it and showing concern,” said Lynn Hinds of . “They want to know what’s going on, why everything is closing down.  I don’t have an answer for them.” Is it a sign of city decline? It depends on who you ask, but most of the business owners on the town square can agree on the one major factor that's missing-you. Yes, you. You are not shopping on the square.

Aristeacrats is one of the stores that recently left the square.. Jessica Burns closed up shop in Honest Alley Exchange at the end of June after two-and-a-half years and moving sales online. She is the first to tell you that it was her choice.  “Ultimately it was my decision,” Burns said. “My business plan was that hopefully by now I would have been able to afford employees and grow... it didn’t happen.” Burns opened the tea shop with high hopes in 2010 on the top floor of Honest Alley Exchange. Back then, she had more neighbors. Now, nearly that entire top row is empty. “I thought I had come in the middle of the progression (downtown), but it was kind of more like the beginning,” said Burns. In order to get to her store, the last stop on the top row, customers would have to walk past empty storefronts. Those that didn’t know Aristeacrats existed didn’t make it that far. “When people are walking and they see empty storefronts, they’re not going to keep walking. They're going to turn around and leave because they think nothing else is there,” said Burns.

The Little Shop Of Arts And Antiques on Crogan Street shut down March 31st. Owner decided to close to take care of family. Her mother recently lost her job. "I could not keep up shop expenses and those of her house in Florida," said Barth. "I didn't want her to worry." Barth started a Gwinnett County Writers Guild and book club. They still meet at  .

The empty storefronts may not be pretty, but not all think it's been bad for business. “It’s certainly not attractive,” said Katie Heaberlin of . She hasn't noticed a slowdown of customers, but thinks it may scare potential business owners away. “They might think it’s not a good place to start a business if they see all kinds of empty spaces.”  Some blame the economy for the slow progression downtown. Burns says that's not it. “The economy is a really easy thing to blame, but there are four Wal-Marts within five minutes of here and the mall is packed all the time,” Burns said. “People are spending. I think it’s more of a (lack of) small town community support.”

That lack of support is being blamed for the demise of The Singin' Bean karaoke and coffee shop. The music stopped at the end February after nine years. “I closed because I couldn’t make a profit on the square,” said owner, Cindy Pitts Gilbert.  “There’s just not enough sidewalk traffic and they keep opening restaurants with alcohol and we can’t compete.” The ‘Bean built a reputation as a family-friendly hangout spot. There was plenty of hanging out, just not enough buying. “My customers at night were strictly people who wanted to come and sing karaoke…people who didn’t want to drink and wanted to bring their families.” said Gilbert. The bulk of the business did not come from Lawrenceville customers. While she appreciated that parents loved the safe atmosphere for their children, she wasn't getting enough returns. “I would have to walk up to a table on more than one occasion and say ‘Guys, I need the table for someone who’s willing to pay’.  It was a shame that I would have to do that. I would have people get mad at me about it and I lost customers over it,” said Gilbert.

She believes Lawrenceville city leaders need to play a bigger role in developing downtown. "The merchants truly feel that the city does not have their back," said Gilbert. "It's every man for themselves on the square. Everyone is so worried about how to make a dollar that they're not even supporting each other. There's no sense of community." Burns has a similar feeling. "Even in the financially poorest communities, there's always some leader that brings the community together. In the richest communities, you have families involved in keeping that. We're kind of in the middle," Burns said. "We don't have a presence of anything down here. Our identity hasn't found its place."

Nakia Williams is doing all she can to be inviting to the community. She opened in November and is working to bring more business to Honest Alley Exchange. The store features consignment clothing, home goods and a beauty/barber shop. "I do think that we need a little bit more going on here," said Williams. "If business owners would come together and think of what we can do to keep our shoppers local, that would be great." Because Honest Alley Exchange is sort of tucked in a corner, businesses there don't often benefit from the foot traffic of festivals held on the square. Williams is trying to bring the customers in by hosting karaoke on Friday nights. Soon, she hopes to have a cafe inside her store so customers don't have to leave the Exchange to find food.

All agree Lawrenceville has great potential; it just needs a 'kick in the pants'. "I think Lawrenceville needs to take bigger risks. If we don't, we're giving up on the people that make our community," Burns said. "We have to take those risks and believe that in turn they will support us." Gilbert feels the ideas are there, they just aren't being implemented. "Every time Lawrenceville tries to make a change among the people, the city fights it," she said. "I've met with the mayor, given her ideas. I think the city of Lawrenceville wants to succeed, I just don't believe they have a true understanding of what it would take to make that happen."

Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson would not address specific concerns, but said there are plans in the works. "We're just looking at all possibilities to make our downtown better," she said. Recently, the city appointed as Director of Economic Development. Sherman could not be reached for comment. Her responsibilities include marketing Lawrenceville as a strong and viable location for doing business. In May, officials broke ground on the . It will be located between Jackson and South Clayton Streets, within two blocks of the historic courthouse square. The four million dollar project will add an amphitheater and playground. It's expected to be completed sometime next year. "For someone who's struggling to make it, it's tough to look that far out," said Burns. Gilbert is not so sure it will help. "How far away down the street is that park? There's no reason come shopping in downtown Lawrenceville. There’s nothing to bring you here to stay." she said. "There needs to be more shopping. You need more sidewalk traffic. That's what's hugely missing."

The bottom line is that without your support, they can't survive. "I think the community needs to understand that on a personal basis we’ve all opened our store for them, to serve them," said Burns. "They have to understand that in return they have to come and support their town, because it's a beautiful town." Williams is optimistic, "I think it’s just the beginning. If we can stick through this, we can make it through the rest," she said. "I love Lawrenceville and I would love it to succeed. Maybe somebody can benefit from my lack of ability to make it work," said Gilbert. She's now writing a book and putting her training and management skills into creating a self-help seminar. "Maybe something will change, maybe something will spark," Gilbert said.”We know what’s not working."

What do you think the City of Lawrenceville and Lawrenceville residents should do to help businesses boom? Tell us in the comment section below.

Rebecca July 03, 2012 at 11:39 PM
We are moving in the right direction, but we have a long way to go. The city has a very dirty image that we have to overcome. Friday night at McCrays, the singer joked quite frequently about how many bail bond stores he drove past on his way to Lawrenceville. I was at a social event in Loganville, and struck up a conversation with a person there. He drives from Suwanee to Lawrenceville every day for work, and he asked me why Lawrenceville doesn't get rid of the pink elephant. JGaston is right when he says we don't have an established identity, but we do have an unofficial identity as the home of the poor and of criminals. Too many pawn shops, title pawn shops, used car lots, furniture rental stores, bail bond businesses, excessive rental property, etc, leads to a reputation of being a home to poverty and crime. Sadly, those types of businesses do attract a clientele that is contradictory to the efforts to increase business in downtown. Any efforts we can make to clean up Lawrenceville and the surrounding area will benefit Lawrenceville. Now that the airport expansion is a dead issue, I believe we can continue our efforts to attract a variety of strong businesses to Lawrenceville. We have to also bring in better residents, and this will be very challenging. Businesses cannot survive unless there is a good supply of patrons nearby who are willing to support those businesses. Linda, thanks for those great updates on the positives!
Edgar July 04, 2012 at 01:22 AM
I never understood a mentality that expects government to save failing business plans. This mentality is not what made America great. As we sit posed on the eve of one of the most monumental events in history - a wonderful feat of treason to combat over-reaching government oppression. I am so thankful for the huge risk taken by bold-minded and forward-thinking individuals. We have devolved from this great experiment in individual freedom with limited necessary governmental intrusion. We now live in a time where government is looked to as the cure for all ills. A failing business is NOT a government problem unless the government has over-regulated or taxed to prevent the business from being profitable. Otherwise, the problem is a business plan issue. It is not the part of of government to market or promote businesses. Why are we looking for this?
Gay Shook July 04, 2012 at 02:04 AM
Well, Lawrenceville kicked the Briscoe Field enhancement to the curb. That initiative would have created a boom-town for Lawrenceville, but precious few had the vision to see it. Seems like you all got what you wanted when the commissioners voted to deny progress. So, there you have it. How's it working for you?
R++ One of the Famous Dacula Crew July 04, 2012 at 04:42 AM
Sorry Gay that particular airport "plan" wouldn't have helped the square one iota...
Cindy Pitts Gilbert July 04, 2012 at 01:43 PM
I truly appreciate the Lawrenceville Patch covering this story. The Singin' Bean was open for 9 years and we saw a pattern of empty store fronts during that time. It really is up to the residents even our local government and those who want to see a change being a part of the solution. I would like to ask any one reading or commenting on this article, Do you SHOP LOCAL? Spend your dollars like Eric suggested above. If you buy local, eat local, and get your entertainment locally by supporting the businesses you want to stay open then it will improve over time. We can't change the nations economy but we can start working as a community and supporting each other. I just truly love Lawrenceville and truly wish the downtown to become the dream it has always longed to be. The square is the center of the county. All roads lead to Lawrenceville literally. Take one of those roads to Lawrenceville and plan to spend an afternoon there. You won't be disappointed. Eat at a local restaurant. Shop for a gift at a local store and catch a play at the Aurora. both Lawrenceville residents and local government alike. Do it more than once in a while. Walmart and Starbucks don't need you as much as the square does. Don't be one of those people saying to yourself. I really liked that place wonder why they closed if you weren't there often they couldn't survive without you.
Barbara Barth July 04, 2012 at 02:17 PM
I closed my shop for a variety of reasons, mostly because I had incurred expenses for my mother and could not afford to keep a shop open, waiting for business to grow, while immediately covering bills for her. I had to make a choice and had a gracious new landlord that worked with me. That said, I started the Gwinnett County Writer's Guild, a book club, and a writer's critique guild. After my shop closed it was difficult to place the groups (which had been meeting in the back of my shop) elsewhere on the square. Niko's and Aristeacrats were a big help. Most places - except for restaurants which were too loud - closed in the evening before my groups met. I tried to secure a venue for a Writer's convention which would have brought attention to the square later this year and could not find one. This is not my first shop, I started in Old Town Lilburn. Both areas are lovely, but there is just not the foot traffic. The square in Lawrenceville is a wonderful place for dinner out and festivals on the courthouse and the Aurora Theater, but I personally feel most people don't go there to shop. Magnolias Antiques has diversified with ice cream and vintage candy and is a lovely antique shop and the new businesses, closer to the restaurants, hopefully are doing well. It is sad that small town America is not treasured as it should be and the masses like to shop the big discount stores.
Barbara Barth July 04, 2012 at 02:24 PM
A P.S. to my comment - Meg at Sparkle! jewelry does a wonderful job of keeping longer hours and promoting her shop and the square. And our critique group still meets on Wednesday nights at Niko's Wine Corner at 7PM. I miss my slice of pizza at Cosmos too.
Edgar July 04, 2012 at 02:34 PM
To those shop owners who have closed: I have visited every one of the stores. As was asked repeatedly in the article, I DO shop local when I can. I love small town Americana. I would rather spend my money in a small, locally-owned business (even if I pay a little bit more) than a big box. Unfortunately, many of the shops do not fit my particular wants or needs (e.g. I will not need a prom dress anytime soon). The shops are great; I do not believe they should ALL appeal to me. I do want downtown Lawrenceville to survive and thrive. I stand by my assertion, however, that the business owners should not look to the local government to market the businesses. The local government can and should market the entire city as a destination. It could even offer tax-incentives to make business location attractive. If the business does not make it - we cannot blame the local government. Why should city revenues, some of which are paid by a nurse, janitor, IT professional, lawyer, etc. be used in furtherance of a business. Business owners must take responsibility for their own business plan to include marketing. So much is spoken about "what is the city doing for my business" or "the LTTA is not marketing for my business". Not their jobs folks. To the amazing business owners and entrepreneurs who put it on the line - THANK YOU! You are what makes this country great. I wish you all much success and prosperity. I will visit your stores and trade with you when I can.
Cindy Pitts Gilbert July 04, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Edgar, Thank you for shopping local. you are an exception yet not the rule. Of course the government isn't the solution. Yet someone needs to have the squares back. Who markets for the Mall of Georgia. What reason do you have to go shopping anywhere. Why come to Lawrenceville? The merchants are all individuals trying to make it work all alone that's a lot of pressure. Linda Campbell always does a great job marketing for the whole of what Lawrenceville is, but is that her job. Perhaps the new Economic Developer can be reached for listening and really create new ideas to create a sense of community and growth.
jwc July 04, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Hmmm.... parking and access. Provincialism. Myopia. I've been here several decades and Lawrenceville is just another slow spot in the road. Want to attract people and their money? Think of those things that would attract YOU (hint: not religion, not bail bondsmen, not pawn shops, not finger sandwiches), then make it easy to arrive, park, and exit all while being there with your friends in relative safety. After getting that firmly in your head, visit current L'ville and listen to the firetrucks blasting by, negotiate the traffic which runs stupidly and snakelike. Try to park. See if you find anything there that you might actually enjoy. It ain't rocket surgery, yet for three decades I've seen that little burg struggle, mostly gleaning it's greatest notoriety as the place where Larry Flynt was shot. Get over the small time thinking and Lawrenceville might, no certainties, join the modern world. I'll hold my breath.
mark palatchi July 04, 2012 at 04:40 PM
I am hopeful that the new economic developer position will go a long way in helping grow new businesss in downtown lawrenceville. In my comments above I did not intend to be insensitive to individual situations. My comments were intended for prospective new businesses and those thinking about going into business. I too am frustrated being here 2 years and am wondering which direction the business climate is heading.
Brennan Washington July 04, 2012 at 05:56 PM
This was an interesting article. I'm glad someone brought up the Lawrenceville Farmers Market. At it's peak, the market brought some 750-1,000 people downtown on a Saturday morning. And the majority of these folks stayed downtown and spent money. In our surveys, most of the people who did stay reported that, on average, they spent some $50-$100 with downtown merchants. So I can attest that there was a real, palpable affect that came with the market.
Brennan Washington July 04, 2012 at 05:56 PM
LFM-Continued While there were several reasons that the market board decided to change locations, one of the most compelling was that the vendors of the market felt like the market was taken for granted. While the market brought in large numbers of people to the square on weekends, it was like pulling teeth to get local businesses to do events at the market. In the 7 plus years of the LFM, only one local restaurant has done any sort of menu sampling based upon local foods sold at the market. Contrast that, for example, with the Norcross Market where there is a local business that not only has embraced the local food movement but has actually developed a menu based upon items at the market and built a take out menu which they sell at the market as a vendor. They do VERY well and the market benefits from a lot of cross marketing opportunities. In all of the years of the market, there has only been one downtown business that has come to us and asked how they can work with the market for a mutual benefit. In my experiences working with markets, a strong collaborative relationship between the market and local businesses are the true foundations of the stronger markets.
Carolyn Wright July 04, 2012 at 07:05 PM
I have read all the comments and many make valid points. As co-owner of The LONA Gallery, located on the square for 2+ years, I have seen a number of businesses come and go. I certainly do not expect the city to market my business, I do that. The city does however have a vested interest in supporting business in general and creating an environment that is conducive to the building a strong vibrant community, a place where people want to live, raise families, do business and thrive. Those of us who start businesses in a small downtown area like Lawrenceville, have a particular challenge to overcome, competition with the malls. If you build it (the mall) they will come, it is this huge behemoth that draws people in. As downtown merchants our marketing reach is limited by the type of business we have and by our advertising budget. The city on the other hand has a much wider reach and can support, not a particular business, but the downtown area in general, which as an individual business owner I can only do in a limited way. A huge issue is lack of awareness. I have said to Mayor Jordan and many of my fellow business owners, that not a week goes by that someone does not come into LONA Gallery who has lived in Lawrenceville 5, 10 years or more, who doesn't know that there are shops and restaurants there, doesn't know about the Aurora Theatre, the Moonlight Concert Series and so on.
Carolyn Wright July 04, 2012 at 07:06 PM
When I promote my business to customers, I do all I can to promote other merchants and downtown Lawrenceville as well. I would like to see a longterm program/campaign designed to increase awareness about downtown Lawrenceville, which I'd be willing to particiate in. I echo the need to reduce rents to fill the empty shops. The more shops, the more business for all of us. As we create more awareness, downtown merchants must also be willing to be open when customers shop, i.e. late on Fridays, Saturdays and some hours on Sunday. Customers often complain to us in the evenings and Sunday that hardly anyone is open. We need a strong downtown merchants association that will work together to find solutions, we know what the problems are. No one goes into business with the intention of closing their doors. This occurs for a variety of reasons, but the percentage of business successes will definitely increase if we can partner together to create a downtown Lawrenceville that people know about, a downtown that potential customers want to come to and a downtown that delivers an awesome experience. It’s my responsibility, your responsibility and yes, our elected officials responsibility to create the kind of community that is strong and vibrant. If we don’t who will.
Ray Pakdaman July 04, 2012 at 09:23 PM
For almost 12 years, I have had two shops on Perry Street. During this time, one major problem has continued to exist. Some of the people who work in the restaurants and shops take the parking on the one-way streets. They park there all day. The parking lot behind Perry Street and the parking garage on Crogan have helped a little, but I hear almost daily that it's hard to find a parking spot. Unfortunately, most people do not know about the other parking lots and really only want to go to one shop for a few minutes. If they have to park and walk in inclement weather, they will not do it. Someone needs to monitor the parking on the one-way streets. When I first opened in Lawrenceville, before the "revitalization," business was great. Almost every shop was filled and active. Shoppers came from out of state to buy in Lawrenceville, because of the types of shops and the variety. This was before the restaurant "boom." People who come to shop, get hungry and will find a restuarant; but people who come to eat, rarely shop. From the beginning, I tried to promote city shopping. I went to each shop and tried to get them to advertize on a Welcome Center brochure. I had these printed and mailed them to all of the Welcome Centers in Georgia. When the Welcome Centers notified me that they needed more brochures, not enough merchants would participate. It has always been each merchant looks out for themselves and does not want to get involved with anyone else.
Cindy Pitts Gilbert July 05, 2012 at 12:11 PM
Brennan, I truly believe and shared with the Mayor in my version of the economic development plan that events like the famer's market should be shared with the merchants on the square. If Lawrenceville intermingled the farmers on the sidewalks on Saturday morning and let the merchants open their doors people could wander in and out of all the stores and purchase their wares, along with their fruits and veggies. Making events and downtown merchants a community event is a great way to help build a strong economy here in Lawrenceville, I miss the farmers market being on the square, I believe excluding a certain business because of who owns their building is also a problem that could be resolved by sharing the sidewalk in the summer with our wonderful farmers. Buy LOCAL
Cindy Pitts Gilbert July 05, 2012 at 12:12 PM
The Singin' Bean purchased veggies from the market all the time. We loved you guys
Cindy Pitts Gilbert July 05, 2012 at 12:14 PM
I to experienced this issue. You hit it right on Carolyn! I hope so much that your business is able to thrive and succeed in Lawrenceville. You offer such a unique shop and support local artists. That is true community involvement
Henry Block July 05, 2012 at 12:32 PM
Ms. Marcelle's article published in the latest issue of Patch misses several important points and is incomplete in its analysis of the state of Downtown Lawrenceville. As a property owner on the Historic Square (I am one of two managing partners of Honest Alley, LLC, owners of the Honest Alley Exchange, mentioned several times in the article) I find it odd and disconcerting that although owners of a few recently closed business owners were interviewed, not one property owner was. Also, conspicuously missing was any input from the many small business owners that have weathered the economic crisis of the past 5 plus years and have either held their own or succeeded in spite of the economy. Finally, there are several real estate professionals in the area that are, and have been, working very hard to find the right combinations to make this area work. Sadly, Ms. Marcelle did not see fit to speak with them. It is also not quite fair to label the Historic Square with a "Ghost Town" without applying the same attribute to the many shopping centers outside the downtown. I'm sure Ms. Marcelle has recently visited the huge center at Hwy 316 and Hwy 120 (Cross Creek) or the numerous empty strip centers along Old Norcross Road on Hwy 120. Retail sales have been crushed everywhere...and Lawrenceville has not been immune. ...CONTINUED...
Henry Block July 05, 2012 at 12:33 PM
...CONTINUED...As a result of the downturn in the economy, Downtown Lawrenceville has experienced problems typical of many retail-intensive city centers of its size nationwide and a few of its own. Many small businesses which rode the successes of the early part of the century found that they could not sustain their revenue streams once consumer spending and the real estate market collapsed. This lead to retail vacancies everywhere and loss of employment. Development stopped and many developers, including those in and around Lawrenceville, found that they could no longer support aggressive promotion of their projects and communities. As a promising consequence of all this many well-intentioned entrepreneurs, some recently unemployed, sought to take advantage of low rental rates to fulfill long-latent ambitions to own their own businesses. Many of these were good ideas, but bad business plans. And so, a few years later, some, not all, of these opportunistic start-ups become unsustainable, and closures result. This is difficult for those who tried, but not entirely unexpected. The more important story, and that which was missed by the author, is that which applauds the successes in Lawrenceville: McCray's, Sparkle, SoJe Emporium, LONA, Local Republic, Nikko's, the Aurora and more.
Henry Block July 05, 2012 at 12:34 PM
...CONTINUED...The article touches on, but leaves incomplete, the efforts by property owners and the people of Lawrenceville, and the positive response of the City Government. The "Lawn" project was acknowledged as was the hiring of a new Director of Economic Development, but what about the Heritage Trail, the new Crogan Street pedestrian crossing, the Visitors Center, and new progressive ordinances proposed. As a group heavily invested in the City, we share the sentiment that supporting local businesses is extraordinarily important. But let's not be self-defeating with incomplete local reporting. Potential new businesses read this stuff...and it is not accurate and not helpful. Henry Block Managing Partner Honest Alley Exchange
Lisa Carlan July 05, 2012 at 01:26 PM
I have eaten and purchased goods from downtown Lawrenceville for 30 yrs....back in the days when I worked for Bobby Sikes Sr and others. So the changes have been welcomed over time with newer places to dine and shop at. Parking has always been a big issue but a recent visit to Dominick's may have scared me so deeply it may have been my last visit to the area as a whole....sad to say. Consumers have to have a desire, need or connection to want to spend their money downtown or anywhere and the current finances today sure hurt. Dining has always been a draw to for me and mine which then gives attention to walking and shopping after in a lot of cases. Just my thoughts as a consumer....
Carolyn Wright July 05, 2012 at 01:27 PM
P.K. I look forward to the positive changes you mentioned, particularly the pedestrian walkway and the farmer's market returning to the square. Parking is challenging on the square, we need to slow the traffic on Crogan and Pike in the blocks immediately before, including and after the square. I have seen too many accidents and near accidents in the last two years, that probably would have been avoided if people didn't drive through so fast. Anything that improves access to parking will help. The closing of the parking lot behind the West Crogan street shops has had a negative impact on my business (LONA Gallery) and all the other businesses whose customers and suppliers depend on having access to it. I know this is a private property matter, but it shouldn't be. This area is vital to parking and delivery for businesses on this block and should not be held hostage every time ownership changes. I applaud returning the Lawrenceville Farmers Market to the square. During our first year on the square we opened early, threw our doors open and even set up a display on the sidewalk on market Saturdays and it definitely helped our business. I look forward to working with the "new" LTTA and new director of economic development, I hope that input from downtown merchants will be solicited and welcome.
Carolyn Wright July 05, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Phoenix Gardens owners Brennan & Gwendolyn Washington bring such value to Lawrenceville. The farmers market has fresh locally grown, organic, in season fruits, vegetables and more. I am so glad the market is coming back to the square. Several of my customers have commented that they preferred the market being on the square, they enjoyed being able to visit the shops after the farmers market. Cindy, I love your idea of intermingling the farmers on the sidewalks along the square and making Saturday market day a downtown community event!
Benae Brown July 05, 2012 at 02:38 PM
I am the owner of Nstyle Boutique located on 289 South Culver Street one street over from "the square". I have been here for 5 months and our street is still a part of downtown Lawrenceville and we do not feel a part of the downtown atmosphere. I relocated from the Sugarloaf area to be a part of a downtown environment and I have marketed and advertised on my end but we get no walk/drive by traffic and most people tell us they had no idea we are here. We carry a beautiful selection of ladies handbags, jewelry, clothing, and unique baby gifts and tutus. I moved here with such high hopes and excitement and I have my customers who followed me from my old location but it takes new customers to make a small business successful.
Ruth July 05, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Aurora Theatre is the best thing going in L'ville. We attend most shows and have dinner off the square. We attended the "ringing of the bells of 1812" on the square recently and went to the museums inside the courthouse. As for a decline in business, there are several factors. First of all, maybe the failed shopkeepers are to blame. Ms. Pitts Gilbert could have offered free iced tea to entice sales rather than turning off customers the way she did. An Athens restaurant gained my patronage that way. So, maybe a big part of the problem has to do with the shopkeepers who folded. Secondly, small businesses have historically had a 90% failure rate anyway in any economy. Thirdly, inclement weather and record heat keep me at home. Stop blaming the public and the government for the failure.
Ruth July 05, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Oh my. What happened regarding the parking?
Vanzetta Evans (Editor) July 09, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Henry, You do bring up some valid points. However this is just one story about one area of Lawrenceville. The Square was the focus of this story because it is the face of Lawrenceville when people come visit for one of the many festivals that take place at the Historic Courthouse. We have done stories on some of the long standing businesses on the Square-- like The LONA Gallery http://patch.com/A-kZwt, Sweets on the Square http://patch.com/A-d1Qq, the Signin' Bean http://patch.com/A-llp7 and more. We've also done stories on the construction of the Lawrenceville Lawn http://patch.com/A-tsqF and will continue to do more stories about the development of Downtown, places off the Square, new businesses, old businesses and more. Unfortunately we can't cover everything in one article. And Joy did interview people at older establishments like Magnolia's and Sweets on the Square for this article and they are quoted. Since you are a Managing Partner at Honest Alley, you could help us out greatly by letting us know about new businesses opening there or any events that may be going on. Thanks!
Annette Bertin June 26, 2013 at 02:57 PM
It is rather unfortunate that such a beautiful town is just not the right place for most businesses.As an individual who got caught up in what would have been the magical dream that turned into my worse financial nightmare,I feel justified in saying that a miracle is needed to turn that town into the desired shopping center that is was air marked to be.I cannot really put a finger on any one thing because nothing seemed to be right.They have tried just about every thing to bring shoppers to that area.NOT HAPPENING! In as much as I am still hurting years after from the experience my heart goes out to all the people who tried,I do know that they did try extremely hard and had so much invested.I pray that something can be done to revive that town.

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