Main Street is back – ‘Small-Town Feeling’ is attractive to shoppers

For a long time, neighborhood Main Streets have taken a back seat to megamalls.

No more.

Throughout the Bay Area and the rest of the nation, old-style neighborhood shopping districts are sprucing up and sprinkling national chains into their eclectic mix of independent merchants to keep bringing shoppers back.

By Michele Chandler

Mercury News

“Nationally, we are seeing a resurgence of Main Streets. It’s a phenomenon we think is poised to take off,” said Michael Beyard, senior resident fellow for retail at the Urban Land Institute research organization.

Why the turnaround? Residential communities near some of today’s Main Streets have become more upscale, with well-heeled residents looking for nearby places to shop and dine. The ambiance of a neighborhood downtown is laid back — people relax at outside tables at lunchtime, window shop on weekends or use a child’s wagon to tote their goods during the short walk home.

“I like the small-town feeling,” said talent manager T.J. Pinkham, who was in an independent pet shop, Purrsnickety and Bow Wowzer, in downtown Los Gatos to stock up on items for her family’s new puppy. “You’re not somebody who’s in the way, like in a big store.”

Solo and family merchants — who often live near their stores — say retail space in traditional downtown districts can be less expensive than comparable spots in shopping malls.

And there are other advantages, says Jerry Katz, who opened card and party supply store Time 2 Celebrate with his wife, Eileen, on Willow Glen’s Lincoln Avenue in October.

“We have more individuality here. People can see who you are,” he said. “In a mall, you are just another pane of glass as people walk by.”

Contact Michele Chandler at (408) 920-5731 or [email protected]

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