Publisher's Note — Elements of a downtown

By Jody Reese     jreese@hippopress.com

Downtowns, and ours in particular, are a bit like shopping malls. They need diversity and they need an anchor. We really don’t have either.

Though our downtown could use more foot traffic, it’s clear to me that many of the specialty businesses that make a downtown great, as well as a large anchor store, could thrive here.

The value of specialty businesses or boutiques and anchors is greater than the few jobs they would create and the additional tax income generated. These types of businesses attract people to the area, encourage a “creative economy” made up of software design firms, and still draw traditional white-collar employers, such as law and accounting firms. These, in turn, are the heavy-hitter employers that pump money into a local economy.

So what specialty businesses are needed?

A movie theater is key: Even a small art-house theater with one screen would be great. As it stands now, though, Regal Cinema essentially has veto power over distribution of movies in the Manchester area, meaning other theater companies are unable to open here.

A wine store: The state liquor stores are going to offer fewer and fewer wines made by small producers. This is a great opportunity for someone to open a wine store. Both Nashua and Concord have them.

A CD, DVD and vinyl store: New, used or both. They are great for browsing and, yes, people do still buy CDs. Keene has a great one that does a solid business, even offering old cassettes.

A video/DVD rental store: With the introduction of DVD rentals by mail, this business has gotten a little tough, but a good DVD store can still do very well in this Internet age. A staff that loves good movies is key.

An anchor store: Sure, an Old Navy would work, but so would LL Bean, Borders, Urban Outfitters or Pottery Barn. Another option for an anchor store would be a grocery store.

Free wireless access: As it stands now, the Chamber of Commerce offers free access for one hour. Although that’s great, free wireless all the time would be a perfect downtown service to offer.

An arcade: I know. But video games aren’t just for kids any more. Arcades are great places for yuppies to unwind. Perhaps this one could serve cold beer.

A dessert house: Many of the city’s better restaurants have great dessert menus, but a place devoted to desserts would attract a whole new crowd. Nashua supports Patisserie Bleu, a great dessert and pastry house, which also offers baking classes.

 
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