I had a chance to cut ribbons and shake some hands as the Kent Chamber of Commerce welcomed the Jabbours apparel store to downtown Kent on Monday.
I was a big fan of the former tenant in the space (Wild Earth Outfitters) and after a look at the Jabbours product line, I’m all in, all over again.
First rate, top shelf, trendy…what more could you ask for in a small locally owned shop?
I get cornered all of the time with “we need (fill in the name of your favorite store) in downtown Kent.”
99% of the time I couldn’t agree more but the City doesn’t operate any stores nor do we own or lease space to retail tenants — that’s up the developers and/or local folks with big dreams and investors.
Admittedly, we market the heck out of downtown Kent and we contribute money to organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, Kent Visitor’s Bureau, and Main Street Kent to support those local enterprising spirits that pursue their dreams and open shops in downtown Kent but at the end of the day, we have very little say in who or what goes where.
Which is why we’re grateful to the Ron Burbick’s and Mike Awad’s of Kent who lose sleep trying to come up with the next great business to open.
Fingers crossed, I’m hopeful that Jabbours is exactly that.
When you structure a big investment in your City’s future around a revitalized downtown that features retail and restaurant businesses, you’re pretty motivated to pay attention to the performance of those business sectors that you’re banking on to succeed.
The good news is “experiential,” customized, shopping and dining continues to thrive — which is what downtown Kent does best — and is expected to drive the industry in 2017. Two thumbs up for that prognostication.
For the first time ever, economists report that consumers spent more money eating out than on their home grocery bills. That’s a sea change moment, and hopefully it speaks well to the future of the City’s downtown eateries.
The bad news is restaurants and retail shops are notoriously unpredictable and unstable — and according to the latest numbers they’re also overbuilt — not just nationally, but in the Cleveland Akron Metro Area too.
As the retail supply and demand curve tries to catch up, retail bankruptcy filings have notched record highs and experts are predicting 25% of existing malls will close their doors in 2018 — and industry icons such as Sears, Macy’s and Kmart are closing stores right and left. That’s the kind of news that sends a shiver down the backs of City budget directors.
Thankfully, downtown Kent’s revitalization was designed to be an experience first; dining and shopping second. For the moment, that’s a winning formula for consumers but it’s a fickle business and we know there’s no room for complacency.
On the plus side, the tenant mix in downtown Kent was selected to lean more towards unique and distinct stores that reflect the character of Kent rather than off the shelf big box, homogenized stores that look the same in each of the 2,154 communities that they are located in.
Nothing wrong with big box, it’s just not Kent, and it’s a crowded market with plenty of boxes found within a 10 minute drive. I’m glad they’re close by but they’re not what we do best so we’re proud to showcase the Jabbours of the world instead.
Cities are naturally conservative animals which is why banking on retail and restaurants is so stress inducing.
On the plus side for my nerves, downtown Kent has some great stable, high performing corporate clients (thank you Davey Tree, Smithers Oasis and Ametek) to balance out the drama that is hardwired in the DNA of the retail world.