By Scott Levine
A report just issued by Iowa State University analyzing retail numbers from fiscal year 2012 in Clinton County shows those numbers dropped for the fourth consecutive year.
But in the last 10 months, the shopping climate in the city of Clinton has changed thanks to a revitalization happening in the area, especially downtown, Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Nathan Sondgeroth said.
The recent announcements of increased employment opportunities through RAIL.ONE at the Lincolnway Railport and Data Dimensions came after the decision by Cedar Rapids firm Frantz-Hobart to renovate the Wilson building, which will add more housing to downtown.
That decision also cemented Jude Golinvaux’s desire to open a lounge in downtown.
Golinvaux is expecting to close this week on a sale of a building at 224 Fifth Ave. South, the former Quinn’s Jewelry store. Because the Wilson building will house 28 market-rate apartment units, Golinvaux is banking on that development to increase traffic in downtown Clinton.
“I had looked at a few other buildings, but the Wilson building, with the upscale apartments and bringing in more retail, really made me go after this building,” Golinvaux said.
Golinvaux’s business will focus on wines, including Wide River Winery. Also, the lounge will feature craft beers, appetizers and desserts.
She’s hoping to be open by August.
“In my gut, I think it’s going to be a good downtown,” Golinvaux said. “It’s different than the past, of course. There’s not the bigger stores, but there’s little boutiques and little funky places. That’s what makes a downtown anymore.”
Golinvaux is surrounded by newer businesses in downtown. In the retail study, specialty stores registered below the expected range of total sales in Clinton County.
But some businesses have opened in downtown since the study completed in June 30, 2012, and others have helped create more traffic in the area.
The Painted Rooster opened its doors in August. It’s a specialty store that owner Erin George hopes will provide shoppers an opportunity to find items not normally found in this area.
“We are anxious to have as many shops and restaurants downtown,” George said. “It makes it more of a destination to walk around.”
Mainstays like Gifts Galore, Banner Home Furnishings and the Corner Deli and Ice Cream Shoppe have mixed with newer businesses like the Old Crow, Painted Rooster and 392 Caffe, creating an urban revitalization that Sondgeroth hopes will only get better when the Wilson building opens its doors.
“All along, the Wilson building has been a catalytic project,” Sondgeroth said. “It doesn’t cause the reaction but it does speed it up. The Wilson building is a symbol of growth and encourages other people to take that leap.”
For George and co-owner Emily Steenhard, the growth of downtown doesn’t mean competing with each other but to encourage shoppers to venture to other businesses within walking distance.
“We’re hoping that we’re filling something here with specialty stores,” George said. “We’ll send customers down the street, and we pride ourselves not to offer anything that someone else offers. It’s not about competing. We want to enhance downtown.”