The owner of Market Square is adapting its model to build a more thriving atmosphere for retailers.
In the past, the complex had a festival atmosphere and catered mostly to tourists, said David Ferguson, a contracted asset manager for Anthem.
“It became quite apparent that that kind of operation didn’t really work,” he said. Over time, Anthem converted the space to street-oriented retail, catering mostly to local residents.
The property managers have also been cutting back on the free public events, such as concerts.
“We found that they really weren’t doing anything for our tenants and if anything they were a nuisance,” Ferguson said. “They weren’t bringing people into the stores to spend money.”
Instead, they’ve hosted events that tie in with the retail tenants, such as a fashion show, camera-swap meet and sidewalk sale. A twice-monthly market has been a big hit, drawing in not just browsers but shoppers.
Another goal is to reconfigure the space to draw traffic inward.
“Overtime we found that the courtyard (retail units) were much more difficult to lease,” said Ferguson. “Where we had converted them to combine (the street-facing and courtyard-facing store), there tended to be more traffic drawn from the street and into the courtyard.”
It’s a strategy that leaves tenant Teri Hustins with mixed feelings.
“I love the idea,” said the owner of Oscar & Libby’s. It adds to the sense of meandering discovery already so appealing about Market Square, she explained.
But, two entrances are very hard to watch for shoplifting, she said.
Recently, long-time tenant Phege’s Fudge Factory decided to close shop, rather than expand to face both the street and the courtyard.
They’re not the only tenant on the way out. Dig This and Muffet and Louisa are also moving.
Hustins, however, has no plans to leave.
“I love Market Square,” she said. “I love the physical space … I love the history.”
The managers are very responsive, she said.
Hustins said she feels any event that draws families to the square will be a boon to the businesses.
“I just wish more locals would rediscover the coolness of Market Square and the businesses that get put in there in the future have to reflect that.”