The Winchester Town Center has seen its share of changes over the past year. From the addition of and the to the closing of and opening of in that same location.
Even away from the center there has been some change. Retail boutiques – and – along Church Street have been opened less then a year.
But even with all the influx of new businesses around the center, a Winchester staple for the last 25 years – T Michaels – closed its doors for the final time last month.
“Unfortunately it wasn’t a surprise,” Cathy Alexander, Executive Director of the said. “We’ve known that it might close for the last six months or so. There was a glimmer of hope that they would be able to change locations or open up someplace else, but that didn’t work.”
T Michaels, in business since 1986, was the largest storefront in the center.
“Anytime a business goes out of business it’s certainly a challenge,” Thomas Howley, chair of the said. “It’s unfortunate whenever there’s a vacancy in the center. But it’s also an opportunity to proactively attract tenants, like the Black Horse Tavern, that will increase the vibrancy and strength of the center.”
And with the closing of along Mount Vernon Street, the positive momentum the center has seen over the last year has started to slow down.
“It’s not the message we like to send,” Alexander said. “But those closings are more a sign of the times.”
According to Alexander, Winchester has been fortunate to be able to retain as many businesses as it has throughout this current recession.
“For years I’ve felt that Winchester has been able to avoid this economic crisis,” Alexander said. “If you look at Lexington there have been empty storefronts for the past three or four years in their center. We need to count our blessings here in Winchester and remember to keep things in perspective.
“We’ve lost two shops (T Michaels and Mailboxes), which is tragic, but we’ve counterbalanced that with other businesses. We just have to face the fact that sometimes businesses just run their course.”
But what goes into one of the premier locations in the center still needs to be decided. According to Alexander, the realtor of that space, Kevin Foley, has received a lot of interest regarding the site. Alexander and Howley plan on remaing in contact with Foley throughout the process.
Foley did not return calls seeking comment.
As for Alexander and Howley, the potential new business opens a range of possibilities.
“Everybody has an opinion of what type of shop they’d like to see,” Alexander said. “I’ve heard a Home Goods or linens shop or the more restaurants the better. But I just want someone who understands Winchester, knows what they’re doing and understands the clientele.”
“I don’t think it would be good for the center to not have some type of retail activity,” Howley said. “I don’t think the center would benefit from having another bank or hair salon or office. I think we need to have more retail shops that have windows people can look into. We need to think about what that is.”