Old Town turnaround for Takoma Park business district
Once plagued by vacancies, district welcomes five new shops this spring
The mood of many local business owners and shoppers matched the sunny spring weather last weekend as they flooded the sidewalks around Carroll and Laurel avenues in the heart of Old Town for the inaugural Old Takoma Art Hop event showcasing local artists and businesses.
And spring will also usher in a total of five new businesses two bike shops, a used CD store, a hardware store and a café in the Old Town and Takoma Junction business districts of Takoma Park within the next two months, according to business leaders and store owners.
During the fall and winter months, the district was plagued by a number of high-profile store closings, leading business leaders to fear more would follow. Now it is clear that the opposite has happened; with well-publicized events like the Art Hop helping to keep the district in the minds of business owners, a number of people have stepped forward to sign leases, according to Roz Grigsby, the executive director of the Old Takoma Business Association.
"That's not to say that the recession is over for us, I think it's going to take a long time for some of our businesses to recover from that, but I do think we're on an upward spiral now," she said. "The more you have storefronts occupied with vibrant businesses, the more you are able to draw people in to look at this area. ... It makes a significant difference."
Kim Reyes, who will open the Green Commuter electric bike and scooter shop at 7320 Carroll Ave. next month, also ran a face-painting booth for the Art Hop Sunday. As both an artist and business owner, Reyes was just as eager to meet her future customers as she was to showcase her artistic talents at the event, praising the business association for its ingenuity in promoting the district.
"It's a way of showcasing the natural talent in the Takoma Park community of artists," she said. "As the art is showing in the individual businesses, it draws people into businesses they may normally not have gone into before."
Longtime Takoma Park resident Gina Gaspin agreed, saying the art displays in the event encouraged her to enter a handful of stores she had never visited before. Meanwhile her husband, Joel Gaspin, was more excited about the new stores set to open, including the Old Takoma ACE Hardware store set to open nearby on Carroll in late April.
"This is so great because it's been kind of sad seeing all these stores closing up," he said. "We go out of our way to patronize these local shops, because we want them to stay in the area where we can walk to them easily."
Even for existing business owners, including Dilip Sheth, who owns the Artful Framing store at 7050 Carroll Ave., the expected wave of new neighbors has been invigorating.
"The fact that this hardware store, coupled with the CD-Game Exchange [opening up Carroll Avenue by April 1] will both I think be very helpful in the next few weeks; not to mention the reopening of the Savory Café space that has been vacant for so long," he said, referring to the Capital City Cheesecake café and restaurant that will open in the space at 7071 Carroll Ave. May 1.
While many businesses searched out Takoma Park for its convenient location, Sam Lock, who plans to open a CD-Game Exchange in the heart of old town April 1, was motivated by other factors. When Prince George's County laws became more restrictive on businesses that re-sell used items such as CDs and DVDs, Lock decided to close his College Park location and move it to Takoma Park.
Lock was undisturbed by his new location's closer proximity to his other exchange on Georgia Avenue in downtown Silver Spring, saying each store seemed to capture different markets, and Takoma Park's focus on reusable resources meshed well with his shop's mission.
"I just think it's obscene that people will pay $50 for a brand-new video game when they could buy a used one for a lot less," he said. "It's just very wasteful, and we can repair things, too; we've got a machine that can repair CDs and DVDs so you don't immediately think you have to throw them out."
Five new businesses plan to open in Old Town Takoma Park and the Takoma Junction along Carroll Avenue in the next two months. The tentative opening dates, locations and businesses are as follows:
-Capital City Cheesecake, 7071 Carroll Ave., expected opening May 1
-The Green Commuter, 7320 Carroll Ave., expected opening April 22.
-Old Takoma Ace Hardware, 7001 Carroll Ave., expected opening April 30.
-Takoma Bicycles, 7030 Carroll Ave., expected opening early April
-CD Game Exchange, 7042 Carroll Ave., expected opening April 1.